First wolf hunt kill recorded

First wolf hunt kill recorded

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Montana's first official kill of its first-ever wolf hunting season was registered Wednesday.

According to state officials, Perry Zumwalt of Roberts, Mont., shot a gray wolf in hunting district 316 on Tuesday in Park County north of Yellowstone National Park, the day Montana's wolf hunting season opened in four backcountry districts.

Most of the rest of the state will open for wolf hunts on Oct. 25 in conjunction with the regular big-game season.

Zumwalt couldn't be reached for comment, and FWP has little other information about the incident at this time, according to Ron Aasheim, Fish, Wildlife and Parks community education administrator.

"All we get from the first call center report is the fact that a wolf was taken," he said, adding that the full report will include items such as what kind of weapon was used, whether the person was hunting specifically for wolves, whether an outfitter was used and the sex of the animal.

About 8,800 wolf hunting licenses have been sold in Montana, at a cost of $19 for residents and $350 for nonresidents. That's a small percentage of the estimated 200,000 people who are issued hunting permits each year in the state. Montana's quota is 75 wolves.

Idaho's wolf hunting season began on a limited basis on Sept. 1, with the overall season set to start Oct. 1. So far, only four wolves have been shot in Idaho, which set a quota of 220.

Upon harvesting a wolf in Montana, hunters must call 1-877-FWP-WILD (1-877-397-9453) within 12 hours to file a report. When a wolf management unit reaches its quota, FWP will close the season there upon 24-hour's notice.

People curious about the status of Montana's wolf hunt can go online to a new Web site, http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/planahunt/wolfStatus.html, to check out how many wolves are killed by hunters each day.

FWP unveiled the Web site this week, and it will be updated every day at 1:30 p.m. It shows the quotas for three hunting units and one sub-unit; how many wolves have been taken in each unit; and how many more wolves may be shot.

Idaho has a similar Web site at http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/cms/hunt/wolf/quota.cfm.

"We thought there's enough interest to do this, and it's another way for the public to check - both hunters and nonhunters - to see what's going on," Aasheim said.

In other wolf news, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy issued a ruling this week that shot down an attempt by 13 conservation groups to expedite schedules for arguments surrounding whether wolves' status under the Endangered Species Act

The groups filed a motion asking the judge to speed up the legal process on Monday, saying that they remain concerned about the effect on wolves from the hunts, whose season could continue in Idaho until March 31, 2010 and in Montana until Dec. 31, 2009, if the quota isn't reached by the end of the regular big-game hunting season.

They wrote that rather than seek an appellate review of Molloy's Sept. 9 decision to not stop the wolf hunts, they want the judge to move quickly in ruling on the merits of the entire claim, and have all legal papers filed by Dec. 7.

However, Molloy noted that while he's cognizant of the serious issues and implications at play in this case, he wants to stick to the original schedule that calls for all legal briefs to be filed by Jan. 28, 2010.

"… due to the complex issues, size of the record and importance of the issues involved, the court feels it is important that all involved in the case not be rushed," Molloy wrote.

Montana is home to about 500 wolves, with at least another 850 in Idaho and about 300 in Wyoming. That's well beyond initial levels set by the federal government for healthy wolf populations.

Those who oppose delisting say more wolves are needed across the landscape in order to ensure genetic diversity. In addition, they say the Endangered Species Act doesn't allow for delisting in some states but not an adjacent one. Many in those groups add that while they don't oppose hunting, it's just too soon.

State and federal officials, however, say wolves have exceeded recovery levels, and that the main reason they remain listed in Wyoming is the state's insistence on labeling wolves as predators that can be shot on sight except in areas around Yellowstone National Park.

They add that wolf numbers are continuing to grow, and fear that if the wolf population continues to rise unchecked, they'll turn more often to livestock for a food source and also kill too many deer and elk.

Reporter Eve Byron: eve.byron@helenair.com or 447-4076

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