Montana Wolf Quota Set at 220 Wolves


The following article is from The Associated Press:

By Matthew Brown

BILLINGS, Mont. — Hunters will be able to shoot as many as 220 gray wolves in Montana this fall under rules adopted Thursday by state wildlife commissioners.

The hunt is scheduled to begin in early August and is expected to reduce the predator’s Montana population by about 25 percent to 425 wolves.

A wolf hunt is also planned in Idaho, where officials have not proposed harvest targets or quotas across much of the state.

Wolves were taken off the endangered species list in an unprecedented move by Congress this spring in Montana, Idaho and parts of Utah, Washington and Oregon. Some hunters and livestock groups wanted a higher quota to reduce attacks on livestock and big game. Wildlife advocates argued the number should be lower so the population can keep expanding.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks wildlife bureau chief Ken McDonald said this year’s quota level would have drastic implications for the population if it was continued long-term. But he said the state will revisit the number next year and will adjust it as needed.

“If we continued at this level of harvest year after year it would probably be unsustainable, but what we are proposing is in this single year a harvest to start getting the management under control,” he said.

More than 700 public comments were submitted on this year’s wolf season. Many came from out of state or overseas, reflecting continued intense interest in an iconic predator once on the verge of extinction but now thriving and reviled by some elk hunters and ranchers.

Commission Chairman Bob Ream said he expected Thursday’s decision to draw criticism. However, he added that there was no chance of the population being decimated as some fear.

“We are making the best, science-based decision that we can,” said Ream, a biologist who used to research wolves. “Wolves are here to stay.”

Without a hunt, the Montana population was projected to increase to more than 600 animals.

That’s still possible given that environmentalists have filed two lawsuits challenging Congress’ move that stripped wolves of their endangered status.

Those cases are pending before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula. Molloy has reversed prior attempts to turn control over wolves to the states and allow hunting. He temporarily allowed hunts in Idaho and Montana two years ago. Only about 70 wolves were killed in Montana’s hunt.

In Idaho, Fish and Game Director Virgil Moore has declined to set a harvest target for the predators during the state’s seven-month season beginning at the end of August. He has said only that Idaho will manage wolves to keep their population above 150 animals and 15 breeding pairs.

If they fell below that point, Idaho could attract federal scrutiny for a possible re-listing under the Endangered Species Act. Montana falls under the same rules, but officials have said they have no intention of driving down the population to such a low level.

Source:  The Associated Press

Posted by Haylie Shipp


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