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Montana wolf population rose 15 percent in 2011

2012-03-01T00:00:00Z Montana wolf population rose 15 percent in 2011The Associated Press The Associated Press
March 01, 2012 12:00 am  • 

The number of wolves in Montana increased by 15 percent to at least 653 animals despite the state’s efforts to reduce the population with an extended hunting season, state wildlife officials said Wednesday.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officials said 87 more wolves were counted at the end of 2011 than were in the state a year before. There were 130 verified packs and 39 breeding pairs counted, also increases from 2010 numbers.

FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim had told the IR Wednesday that Joe Maurier, the FWP director, decided not to release the draft report until shortly before the March 7 FWP Commission meeting.

Aasheim declined to comment further on the document request.

On Monday, the Independent Record formally requested the report but was denied. The newspaper made several additional unsuccessful requests on Wednesday.

Ranchers concerned about wolves attacking their livestock and hunters who blame wolves for a decline big game say that’s way too many predators and the population must be reduced.

FWP authorized a quota of 220 wolves in the first hunt since Congress passed legislation last year removing endangered species protections for the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains except for Wyoming. That state’s policy was considered harmful to the species’ survival.

FWP had aimed to reduce Montana’s wolf population to 425 animals with the hunting season. But only 165 wolves were killed, or 75 percent of the quota, despite the end of the hunting season being extended from the end of December to mid-February.

Also, fewer wolves were killed last year by wildlife officials responding to livestock predation complaints than in 2010, FWP said.

Montana still aims to reduce the number of wolves and will examine additional ways to do so, director Joe Maurier said in a statement.

Those options could include allowing hunters to kill more than one wolf, purchase more than one hunting license, or use electronic calls, he said. Officials could also allow trapping, increase the quota or extend the hunting season.

Some of the changes would require approval of the FWP commission, while others would need a change in state law.

“We’re committed to using our authority to responsibly manage Montana’s wolf population while addressing conflicts with livestock and other wildlife populations,” Maurier said. “We’re also committed to allowing hunters, who are showing a real interest in pursuing wolves, to become even more involved in Montana’s approach to wolf management.”

The recovery goal for wolves across the northern Rocky Mountains was set at a minimum of 30 breeding pairs and minimum of 300 individual wolves for at least three consecutive years, a mark achieved in 2002.

Montana’s wolf plan sets a minimum of 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves. Conservation groups have criticized Montana and Idaho’s wolf plans, saying both set the minimum too low for a sustainable, interconnected population.

Those groups filed lawsuits challenging the U.S. government’s removal of wolves from the endangered species list, and U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy had blocked removal of wolf protections until last May.

That’s when Congress passed legislation delisting the wolves and turning management of the animal over to Idaho and Montana.

Idaho hunters have shot 237 wolves and have trapped 97 more as of Wednesday, according to the Idaho Fish and Game website.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. LCHelena
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    LCHelena - March 02, 2012 6:09 am
    The pro wolf groups argued that the hunt would bring the wolf population to dangerously low levels. Well, the hunt happened and the wolf population increased substantially. It appears that the anti-hunting pro wolf groups were wrong YET again. More failed science and lies coming from the Wolf lovers.
  2. steeline
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    steeline - March 01, 2012 5:20 pm;; Check these sites out. Get some fact that are correct for a change.
  3. carnivore
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    carnivore - March 01, 2012 9:12 am
    Well, wadda ya know. We can kill wolves, and still have wolves. Who'da thought? I can tell you that anyone who has anything at all to do with animal husbandry would have known this. Do people think that ranchers keep every animal born on the ranch? Of course not. That is how they make theri money--shipping off a large percentage of the annual production every year. Animals reproduce, and do it very nicely. There is no reason not to have a sustainable season on a valuable game animal. The radical environmentalists are just wrong.

    However, the other side, which now appears to include FWP, is just as wrong. With an extremely liberal season, including extensions, wolves were just not killed at the rate required to reduce populations. Has anyone considered that the reason for that is that the population is just not yet dense enough to support effective harvest? In some respects, this is a lot like small game populations in the south, where I grew up. Biologically, these populations (which, for the most part, are unregulated in MT, i.e., rabbits) can be hunted without regard to season or limit, and because of the way they reproduce, they can almost immediately recover from from heavy harvest, since when the population is reduced to a certain density, people quit pursuing them. Wolves in MT have increased exponentially since their introduction, only recently stabilizing at--guess what?--the level that we currently have now. Of course, a top predator like a wolf, with a reproductive strategy that does not include huge litters and multiple annual litters, cannot be managed like rabbits, but there are some clues that anyone who is reasonable and has a little information can perceive.

    I would wish that people, particularly our state agencies, would remove themselves from the political debate, and focus on the biology. It is obvious to me that FWP is making an attempt to appease a clientelle, rather than to manage a game species. Certainly, manage wolves, include opportunities like trapping, and maintain quotas to protect from overharvest, but don't pretend that this is something that it is not. That doesn't serve the animal, nor the interests of the state, nor does it serve the reputation of Montana FWP. All that this type of argument does is sustain the potical frenzy that prevents reasonable management. Do we really want to look like a bunch of congresspoeple divided over an issue that is ideological? Don't we consider ourselves more reasonable than a bunch of Washington politicians? Come on, folks, the is Montana.
  4. Ralphie Boyo
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    Ralphie Boyo - March 01, 2012 8:39 am
    I spend a lot of time in the outdoors, but have yet to see a wolf, but I see LOTS of cows eating public grass. I say "Live and let live." Nature will balance it all out. Man has a way of messing up balance. Ask the Native Americans about that...

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