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FWP Commission declines to extend wolf season in Region 1

Daily Inter Lake | February 19, 2020 12:13 PM

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission voted Feb. 13 to maintain the wolf hunting and trapping seasons and bag limit in Region 1 per 2019 regulations, despite a proposal on the table to extend the seasons and double the harvest quota per hunter/trapper.

State wildlife managers had recommended the quota increase from five to 10 wolves and that the region’s season begin on Aug. 15 and end March 31 instead of from Sept. 15 to March 15. In a recent press release explaining the proposal, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Regional Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson said biologically, wolf populations are able to “sustain additional harvest opportunity.”

In addition to maintaining 2019 regulations in Region 1, which includes Flathead, Lincoln, Sanders and Lake counties, the commission also voted to reduce quotas in two hunting districts north of Yellowstone National Park from two wolves to one for the season.

The two proposals received nearly 1,000 comments online prior to Thursday’s meeting. During the session itself, dozens of people spoke during the public comment period, with some people coming from as far away as Arizona for the occasion.

Some spoke in favor of upping the harvest quotas, pointing mostly to how elk populations can suffer, should wolf populations get out of hand. Mark Lambrecht with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation was one individual who offered support for both proposals, saying wolves “require management according to biological and social capacities.”

But even avid hunters seemed somewhat divided on the proposals. One man from Missoula, a self-described “conservation-minded sportsman,” said the proposal didn’t seem ethical.

Those who were against the proposals mostly highlighted ways in which wolves contribute significantly to local economies and to Montana’s history and culture. Several said they would actually prefer to see the quotas at zero.

“They are valued intrinsically as wildlife,” said one woman with the Bear Creek Council in Gardiner. “Montana’s economy depends on wildlife watching.”

Even avid hunters at the meeting seemed somewhat divided on the issue.

The commission brought up similar talking points during their own discussions. One member also voiced concerns related to the timeline of the proposal for Region 1, saying it came in late and because a decision on regulations in that area would “have implications for wolf management in other regions,” he thought the proposal should be allotted more time for consideration.

At the end of the evening, Commissioner Richard Stuker’s motion to drop the quota in the two Yellowstone districts and to keep hunting in Region 1 to the 2019 regulations passed unanimously. The five-member commission typically meets on a monthly basis and sets fish and wildlife regulations, approves property acquisitions and more.