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Comments on 2011 Montana wolf hunt sought

Bill Brewster

The public in Montana has until 5 p.m. on June 20 to comment on the proposed 2011 wolf hunting season in Montana according to information provided by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission. The commission’s proposed hunting regulations are welcome news for both livestock producers and sportsmen who have been impacted by wolf predation across the state. Initial action on the upcoming season was approved during a recent commission meeting.

Under the plan, the state’s wildlife managers are proposing 14 wolf management units and an overall harvest quota of 220 wolves. For the 2010 harvest season, which was blocked by a federal court, the harvest quota was 186 wolves in 13 units.

Montana’s 2010 wolf hunting season was blocked by a federal court ruling in August 2010 that returned wolves to the federal endangered species list.

Turning wolf management over to the state again follows Congressional action which excludes delisting action from judicial review. Regulated public harvest of wolves was endorsed by the Governor’s Wolf Advisory Council in 2000 and is included in Montana’s wolf conservation and management plan.

“This season proposal is very similar to the season considered last year and it’s one that is properly balanced,” said Ken McDonald, the wildlife chief for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “We carved out smaller sized wolf management unites to allow for more widely distributed harvests.”

McDonald said the state’s wildlife units are generally situated in the western portion of Montana to target areas where impacts on elk and deer populations have occurred and where recurring livestock depredations are predicted. As part of the proposal, a new unit is going to be added in the Bitterroot Valley where wolves have contributed to a significant drop in the elk population.

The department is also proposing subquotas in three areas to limit harvest during early season backcountry hunts, including the area directly north of Yellowstone National Park. The wildlife managers also asked the commission to consider a wolf archery season to run Sept. 3 through Oct. 16 that coincides with Montana’s deer and elk archery seasons.

According to McDonald, the 220 quota is projected to reduce the wolf population to a minimum of 425 wolves, or by about 25 percent. The projections include anticipated reductions due to livestock depredation and mortalities from other causes like accidents and natural causes.

Final quotas and seasons are scheduled to be adopted by the commission on July 14.

Comments can be sent via the Web site at fwp.mt.gov by clicking “for hunters.” Comments can be mailed to FWP Wildlife Bureau, Attn: Public Comment, PO Box 200701, Helena, MT, 59620-0701.


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