FWP hears from county commissioners unhappy about wolf hunt

FWP Commissioners considering new wolf hunting restrictions Wednesday

County Commissioners from around Montana tell wildlife management officials more needs to be done to bring down the state’s rising wolf population.

They say wolves continue depleting elk populations and hurting livestock in their regions.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commissioners are looking to widen the scope of the state’s wolf hunt.

“We are going to be much more aggressive in our proposals this next season,” said FWP Director Joe Maurier during a packed FWP Commission meeting on Wednesday.

County Commissioners were filling the chairs of the commission room. There were others present via satellite links to other cities and towns. And every one who got up to speak wants more wolves killed.

“One thing we’re happy about is we got the first wolf in the wolf hunt and there was celebration in downtown Columbus on that one,” said Stillwater County Commissioner Maureen Davey. She was not happy about much else. “We’re disappointed the maximum quota was not met. We really counted on that and we hope that that will happen next year.”

Hunters killed 166 wolves this year out of the quota of 220, even with an extended season. Fish Wildlife and Parks had hoped to cut the wolf population 25 percent this year. Instead, latest figures show the population actually rose 15 percent. Some counties like Ravalli County are talking about offering bounties for wolf kills. That is legal as long as the animals are killed legally.

Jefferson County Commissioner Leonard Wortman joined several commissioners in calling FWP’s wolf numbers into question.

“I think a lot of people think there’s a lot more wolves out there that haven’t been counted,” he said.

Fish Wildlife and Parks Commissioner Ron Moody agrees maybe that is something the department should look into.

“We need to do our best to accurately count wolves. You can’t manage what you can’t measure and this is a chronic problem with the predator species because predators are by their job title elusive and scarce animals to run down and count,” Moody said.

FWP officials are mulling over ways to increase wolf kills next season. Wildlife Chief Ken McDonald mentions a general season that lasts through February with no quotas.

“In terms of other tools, trapping comes up we’re looking at trapping,” McDonald said.

Also allowing hunters to take more than one wolf or use electronic calls. A lot of those changes would need to be approved by the 2013 Legislature. The FWP Commission will consider formal proposals on these ideas in May.

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