By MATTHEW BROWN
| The Associated Press
Billings, Mont. • A proposal to relax the rules on gray wolf hunting and trapping in Montana got a cool reception from Yellowstone National Park administrators who said Monday the move appears to be aimed at substantially reducing the population of the animals in the park.
Wolves regularly cross from the hunting-free safe haven of Yellowstone into Montana, where wildlife officials want to drive down pack numbers in response to complaints from ranchers and big-game hunters about the wolf.
Montana wildlife commissioners are scheduled on Wednesday to take final action on proposals to lengthen the wolf season, increase the bag limit and set quotas around the park.
Park administrators complained Monday that some of the changes would make it too easy to target wolves that live primarily in Yellowstone.
The move to loosen hunting and trapping rules was driven in part by the Montana Legislature.
Lawmakers last session passed a measure increasing the number of wolves that could be taken by individual hunters and trappers and prohibiting the formation of a no-hunting buffer zone around Yellowstone.
In response to the concerns raised by Yellowstone, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said Monday that the agency is recommending revisions to the original wolf-hunting proposal tentatively adopted in May.
The changes include a bag limit of just one wolf per person in areas adjacent to the park and increasing the area where those quotas will apply.
Yellowstone’s chief scientist Dave Hallac said he appreciated the changes but added that it was unclear whether the commissioners will accept the agency’s recommendations.
"The park is not anti-hunting," Hallac said. "What we’re trying to do is balance the conservation of wolves in Yellowstone, which are not exploited population right now, with some level of reasonable harvest."