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Montana hunters, trappers kill at least 223 wolves

2013-03-01T00:00:00Z Montana hunters, trappers kill at least 223 wolvesThe Associated Press The Associated Press
March 01, 2013 12:00 am  • 

BILLINGS — With at least 223 gray wolves killed by hunters and trappers as Montana’s wolf season closed Thursday, Gov. Steve Bullock and wildlife officials said they now have the right management rules in place to reduce the predator’s numbers but maintain a viable population.

Montana’s wolf harvest numbers are up roughly 25 percent from last winter. That’s on top of 104 wolves that were killed by government wildlife agents and ranchers last year due to livestock attacks or other conflicts.

Yet because the animals breed prolifically, Fish, Wildlife and Parks Director Jeff Hagener said he expects at most a modest drop in the population from last year’s estimate of about 650 wolves.

About 400-500 animals statewide would maintain a sustainable population, he said, but that’s just a rough guideline and not a definitive goal.

Next season could see a sharper population drop, after Bullock on Feb. 13 signed a law that loosened hunting and trapping rules. That came in the wake of pressure from livestock owners and hunters who have pushed for the state to be more aggressive against the animals since wolves lost their endangered species protections two years ago.

Bullock said in an interview this week that the new law gives the state the leeway it needs to effectively manage the animals. It lets hunters take up to three wolves, eliminates no-kill zones around Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, reduces non-resident hunting fees and allows for electronic calls to lure the animals.

“I think that the bill I signed strikes a reasonable balance, and is an opportunity for us to be able to manage them, but manage them in a way that we don’t get the right to manage taken away from us,” Bullock said.

Wildlife advocates have warned that allowing too many wolves to be killed could again put the gray wolf’s future in peril in Montana, following a two-decade restoration effort that brought the species back from widespread extermination across the Northern Rockies.

In Idaho, where the 2012-2013 wolf season runs through June, hunters and trappers so far have killed at least 245 of the animals.

Hunters in Wyoming killed 43 wolves out of a 52-animal quota during a season that ended Dec. 31. The state took over wolf management just last year after overcoming concerns from federal officials that the state’s management policies would not protect the animals.

Federal officials are monitoring wolves in the three states for five years to determine if endangered species protections should be reinstated. That could also happen if wildlife advocates successfully petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to intervene.

Bullock and Hagener said that even with the more liberal hunting and trapping rules now in place, Montana wildlife commissioners can step in and rein in wolf killing if needed.

That could include re-imposing quotas in some areas, which were lifted across most of the state last year. Hagener said such limits would make the most sense in areas with relatively few livestock conflicts, such as along the Rocky Mountain Front.

By contrast, more aggressive policies are suited to areas where wolves continue to cause problems even after entire packs have been removed by wildlife control agents, such as around Avon, Phillipsburg and the southern Bitterroot Valley, Hagener said.

“We have some areas where we probably have an overabundance, and other areas where there’s more of a stable number,” he said.

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

(2) Comments

  1. steeline
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    steeline - March 02, 2013 10:24 am
    In order to achieve a method of controling and maintaining the wolf population the season has to be open year around. Unlike an elk or deer wolves have multiple births and can multiply faster than their food sources. You can shoot a coyote year around and there are plenty of them on the landscape. The same result will be experienced with the wolf. The wolf will never be totally killed off by hunting or trapping.
  2. steeline
    Report Abuse
    steeline - March 01, 2013 2:06 pm
    Removing at least 223 wolves from the environment has saved millions of dollars in lost hunting revenues and losses due to wolf depradation on private stock. Continued wolf reduction management plans is cost effective. If you assign a modest value of an elk at $1,500 dollars and the value of a domestic cow at $1,200 you can at least get an idea of what benefit there is in reducing the over population of wolves. If each wolf ate 1 elk per month ,for a year, which is a reasoable number of elk they can eat, that is at least four million, ($4,000,000) dollars worth the elk each year they had eaten or $18,000 for each wolf. This don't include the deer, birds varmits and private animals they kill and eat. It cost a lot of money to provide food for the wolf to eat. The losses to the economy the 223 dead wolves caused would have been a benefit to the economy had they not have existed in the first place. With the remaining wolf population running around and eating off the land, do the math and see just how much it is costing to have the wolves, in out of control numbers. 600 wolves at least $10,800,000 per year. There are probably at least more wolves than 600 roaming the country. This don't address the social costs.

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