The following is from the Montana Wool Growers Association:
On Monday, the Montana Wool Growers Association, which represents Montana’s sheep producers, submitted its written comments on Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ (FWP) proposed 2011 Wolf hunting season. The proposed public comment period on the 2011 wolf hunting season closed the same day. The FWP Commission will hold a meeting in Helena in July to adopt the fall wolf hunting plan.
In its comments, the Wool Growers Association requested that the FWP Commission increase the proposed wolf harvest number above the 220 harvest proposed. The Wool Growers noted that even if the full amount of 220 wolves were killed by hunters this fall, FWP’s documents show that there would still be around 425 wolves remaining in the State at the start of 2012. The Wool Growers noted that 400 wolves is far beyond the 130 wolves called for in Montana’s wolf management plan and requested that the Department set a more aggressive wolf kill take number.
In addition to calling on the FWP Commission to increase the numbers of wolves harvested, the Association also asked that the number of wolves to be harvested in Southwest Montana be increased. As justification for increasing the number of wolves killed in the Big Hole, the Bitterroot, and in the Tobacco Root Mountain and Gravelly/Snowcrest areas of Madison and Beaverhead County, the Association noted that these areas have traditionally had the highest number of livestock-wolf interactions and wolf depredations. The Association called for FWP to target wolves in these areas for harvesting to prevent further losses to livestock producers living in those areas and to protect big game populations located there. The Wool Growers also requested that the Department allow wolf trapping to continue during the wolf hunting season, and to take proactive steps to encourage hunters to avoid killing collared wolves – a step the Association said would help save the State of Montana money by ensuring that FWP would not have to collar the same wolf packs a second or third time.
This is the official text of the letter:
June 20, 2011
To: Montana FWP
RE: MWGA comments on proposed 2011 Wolf Seasons & Quota Alternatives
To Whom It May Concern:
These comments are submitted to the Commission/Department on behalf of the Montana Wool Growers Association (MWGA). MWGA represents Montana’s sheep industry. As part of MWGA’s mission, MWGA supports proposals, such as wolf hunting proposals, that ensure proper management of Montana’s gray wolf population.
As much as or more than any other Montana industry, Montana’s sheep industry has a vested interest in proper management of this predator. This is because, as is well documented, Montana’s sheep industry bears through depredation losses and monies expended on wolf depredation prevention efforts the true financial cost of having wolves in Montana.
As an initial matter, MWGA supports generally FWP’s proposed 2011 Wolf Seasons & Quota Alternatives. As proposed, the elements of the wolf hunt conform to and meet the spirit of Montana’s wolf management plan. As was stated by MWGA’s representative during the Commission meeting of May 12, 2011, MWGA believes that wolves, like any other wildlife species, must be managed for the goals of controlling overall numbers and for benefitting all Montanans. MWGA feels that holding a wolf hunting season or seasons will meet those two aforementioned goals.
Further, it is no secret that Montana’s sheep industry believes that wolves should be classified under Montana law for what they truly are as a ‘predator’, and not as a big game species. The ‘predator’ classification would allow Montana’s livestock producers to properly protect their private property at all times of the year by allowing wolves to be killed without first obtaining government permission. However, MWGA’s membership also understands the political reality of wolf management both in Montana and on the national level; and applauds the Department and the Commission for doing what it can, through the wolf hunt mechanism, to protect Montana’s livestock and big game populations from the extensive harm being done presently by wolf reintroduction and the unchecked growth in wolf populations.
As also stated previously by MWGA’s representative, MWGA cautions the Commission and/or FWP not to view wolf hunting as the end-all, be-all of wolf management. Under the terms of the proposed wolf hunting season, wolf hunting will take place for a maximum of 3 to 4 months. Yet, as was discussed at the May 12, 2011 Commission meeting, because wolves are an alpha species, management of Montana’s gray wolf population must be a year-round job. If wolves are not actively managed during the non-hunting months, such passive management will invariably lead to higher livestock deprecations and to greater loss of public tolerance of the animals. In short, MWGA requests that the Commission and FWP not treat the wolf hunting season(s) as a substitute for Montana’s wolf management plan; but rather treat the wolf hunt as one part of a comprehensive plan to successfully manage Montana’s wolf population.
With the above points being made, MWGA believes the wolf hunting plan can be strengthened as follows:
- MWGA recommends that the proposed take number of 220 wolves be increased. As the Commission is well aware, Montana’s wolf population and pack numbers are well-above the numbers called for in Montana’s wolf management plan (150/15). MWGA understands that adopting a wolf take number above 220 will be difficult politically; but, because wolf numbers are presently too high, MWGA believes that the Commission and the Department can use the upcoming hunting season as a tool to aggressively reduce the overall wolf population. As stated in the Commission’s documents, even if the full number of 220 wolves are harvested, there could still be a minimum of as many as 425 wolves in Montana at the beginning of 2012 – this is a number for exceeding the 150 number called for in the Wolf Management Plan. Because of the species ability to reproduce quickly and because it has a wide range of habit, the gray wolf is not truly an endangered or threatened species. Consequently, there is room for an aggressive wolf harvest this year. Once wolf numbers are brought into line where such numbers are supposed to be under Montana’s wolf management plan, the Department has the flexibility to reduce take numbers in future wolf hunting seasons to ensure the health and survival of the species.
- MWGA recommends that the mandatory time reporting requirement of a successful wolf kill be extended from 12 hours to 24 hours. This will give the successful hunter adequate time to get out of the field, to gather or secure his or her gear, and to travel to a place where he or she can report the successful hunt.
- MWGA recommends that trapping of wolves continue during the proposed wolf hunting season. MWGA reminds the Commission that trapping of wolves is a necessary component of Montana’s wolf management plan in that it is an effective tool to capture, collar, and kill depredating wolves. MWGA strongly recommends that trapping, particularly government trapping, of wolves be allowed during the hunting season in order to respond properly to depredating wolves and wolf packs.
- MWGA supports the provision of the plan that allows the season structure and quota numbers to be adjusted annually. This adaptive management approach should help the Department to manage the wolf population in a manner that mitigates the harm to two of Montana’s most important resources – livestock and big game animals.
- MWGA supports increasing proposed harvest numbers in the following areas: WMU 320 and WMU 310. MWGA does not understand why the proposed quota for WMU 320 is being reduced from a quota of 8 to 6. As the Department’s data shows, wolf-livestock conflicts are high in the areas encompassed by WMU 320 and 310 and wolf populations need to be reduced or eliminated in these areas. Consequently, it makes sense both in terms of carrying out the wolf management plan and in terms of ensuring that the 220 take is met to authorize greater quota numbers in these areas, as well as other areas where wolves are known to actively depredate livestock.
- Given the destruction being done on wildlife by wolves in the Bitterroot and Big Hole areas, MWGA supports the high take number proposed for MWU 210 and MWU 250. However, again, MWGA believes that the take number for WMU 250 should be increased above the proposed 18 take number.
- MWGA is concerned that the number of wolves proposed for take in Northwest Montana (123) as opposed to the number proposed for Southwest Montana (43) is wildly disproportionate. As was communicated at the Commission hearing of May 12, 2011, there is broad support both in the hunting and agriculture community to allow grater take of wolves in areas where there are presently high wolf-livestock interactions. The Commission can strengthen the wolf hunting plan by targeting wolves for take that live in areas proximate to existing livestock operations.
- MWGA’s membership also suggests that to the extent possible, that the Department take what steps it can to encourage hunters not to kill collared wolves. As the Department and the Commission are well aware, collared wolves are critical to the ability of State personnel and livestock operations to know the whereabouts of, and to respond to, wolf populations. Further, killing collared wolves adds to the expense of administering Montana’s wolf management plan by forcing the Department to engage a second time in collaring packs that have been previously collared.
On behalf of MWGA’s membership, we appreciate the opportunity to comment upon the 2011 Wolf Seasons & Quota Alternatives. If the Department or the Commission have questions for or want to express concerns to WMGA, or if the Department/Commission need clarification of the comments made herein, please don’t hesitate to contact the Association.
James E. Brown
Director of Public Affairs
Source: MT Wool Growers Association
Posted by Haylie Shipp