Montana's general wolf hunting season opens Sunday and runs through March 15. The archery season is underway now and closes Saturday. Trapping runs from Dec. 15 to Feb. 28. / AP File Photo/Dawn Villella
Montana's wolf hunting season opens Sunday and runs through March 15. Last year hunters and trappers took a total of 225 wolves in Montana. / AP File Photo
Montana’s wolf population• Montana wolf specialists counted 625 wolves, in 147 verified packs, and 37 breeding pairs in the state at the end of 2012. The count dropped about four percent from the previous year and marked the first time since 2004 that the minimum count declined.
• Last season the total hunting and trapping harvest was of 225 wolves. Hunters took 128 wolves and trappers 97.
• A total of 108 wolves were removed through agency control efforts in 2012 to prevent further livestock loss and by private citizens who caught wolves chasing or attacking livestock, up from 64 in 2011.
A history of wolf hunts in Montana• 2009: During Montana’s first regulated wolf hunt, hunters harvested 72 wolves during the fall hunting season. As hunters approached the overall harvest quota of 75 wolves, FWP closed the hunt about two weeks before the season was scheduled to end.
• 2010: The hunting season was blocked by a federal court ruling in August 2010 that returned wolves to the federal endangered species list. In April 2011, the U.S. Congress enacted a new federal law delisting wolves in Montana and Idaho, and in portions of Washington, Oregon and Utah.
• 2011-12: The wolf hunting season ended with a total harvest of 166 wolves, 75 percent of the overall quota of 220 wolves. The season was initially set to end Dec. 31, but was extended to Feb. 15.
• 2012-13: This was the first time wolf trapping was allowed in the state. There was no statewide quota.
2012 wolf season details• 128 wolves hunted, 97 trapped, 225 total
• 123 resident and three nonresident hunters harvested wolves
• 124 hunters took one wolf
• Two hunters took two wolves
• No hunter took three wolves
• 62 trappers took one wolf
• 13 trappers took two wolves
• Three trappers took three wolves
• One wolf was taken with archery equipment
• 18,889 wolf licenses were issued (18,642 resident and 247 nonresident)
• 2,414 trappers completed a wolf trapper education course
• 48 percent of wolves were harvested on federal land, 37 percent on private land and 3 percent on state land
• 117 females and 108 males were taken
• The largest harvested wolf weighed 120 pounds
Montana’s general rifle season for wolves opens Sunday and runs through March 15. This year’s season is about a month and a half longer than last year’s. The archery season for wolves opened Sept. 7 and goes through Saturday. Trapping will begin Dec. 15 and run through Feb. 28.
With a higher bag limit and longer season, George Pauley, wildlife management section supervisor for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, expects more wolves to be harvested this year than last year.
“The population is larger than we want it to be,” he said.
The minimum wolf count in Montana for 2012 was 625 wolves, according to FWP. The minimum wolf count is the number of wolves actually verified by FWP wolf specialists.
FWP does not have a set target for where they’d like the population to be, Pauley said.
Montana does not have a statewide hunting harvest or trapping quota this season, but each wolf harvest must be reported. Three wolf management units do have quotas. Two wolves can be taken in Wolf Management Unit 110 near Glacier National Park; and four wolves in WMU 313 and three wolves in WMU 316, which border Yellowstone National Park. Additionally, hunters and trappers are limited to taking only one wolf per person in WMUs 110, 313 and 316.
Last year, hunters took 128 wolves and trappers took 97, for a total of 225 wolves.
Of those, 20 wolves were taken along the Rocky Mountain Front from at least six different wolf packs, said Ty Smucker, wolf management specialist with FWP in Great Falls. The majority of those, 15, were taken through trapping.
“Folks seem to do fairly well for trapping along the Front,” Smucker said. “I was a little surprised with how many wolves were actually trapped.”