FWP initially approves 2012-2013 Wolf Hunt

FWP Commissioners Dan Vermillion and Ron Moody (foreground) listen to public comment during wolf season discussion Thursday

Montana Wildlife Officials have given initial approval to rules for the 2012-2013 Wolf Hunting season. Next year’s hunting plan drops many restrictions, seeking a higher number of wolf kills. The plan removes a quota on the animals and allows multiple wolf tags for individuals.

The plan’s inclusion of wolf trapping generated the most discussion.

 The 5-member Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission sets state hunting rules and regulations. The public packed into the meeting on next year’s wolf season so tightly commission chair Bob Ream worried about being over-capacity.

“We’ve been holding meetings out here at this wild center for months now, but we’ve never had so many people,” Ream said.

Hunters killed 166 wolves during last year’s hunting season, coming short of the state’s quota of 220. The wolf population ended up rising last year about 15 percent. FWP predicts between 600 and 650 wolves are living in the state now. The department would like to see that number closer to 425. That’s why next year’s proposed season pulls out a lot of stops, extends the season, increases the take limit, allows calls, allows trapping.

FWP Wildlife Bureau Coordinator Quentin Kujala looks at the wolf’s high reproduction rate and says this more liberalized season should not endanger the wolf population too much.

“We can apply a simpler season, an easier season for the hunter and trapper to engage without risk of overruns,” Kujala said.

A lot of the reason hunters weren’t able to kill more wolves is they found out wolves are pretty difficult to hunt. Keith Kubista spoke on behalf of the organization Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. He says more even more needs to be done. He advocates not only the use of trapping, but snaring too. Getting down to 425 wolves without that, he says, is unrealistic.

“It’s unachievable,” Kubista said, “we’ve got to get this population of wolves down and we need every tool that is attainable to use that realistically benefits the harvest of those.”

The vast public comment came from a wide variety of viewpoints, many were very unhappy with the trapping idea. Kim Beam describes herself as a wildlife and wolf advocate. She does not feel the idea of using electronic calls or trapping falls within the boundaries of ethical hunting.

“Trapping is barbaric, it’s unethical and there is no fair chase in this brutal means of killing,” she said.

Comment also strayed from the specific details of this year’s wolf plan to a general rebuke of Fish Wildlife and Parks policies from way out on one end of the spectrum to way out on the other.

“The fact that such hearings take place is a clear demonstration of the complete arrogance of a species that has succeeded at little more than violently destroying their own home planet,” said one woman, while another man said “all wolves and their offspring should be removed from Montana.”

Wildlife Biologist Kurt Alt used to work for FWP. He’s retired from the department now and spends a great deal of his time working with European wildlife biologists in Germany. He says Europe is watching Montana’s wolf debate and the biologists he works with think FWP is doing a great job managing this very difficult issue. He says sound science prepared by the department is covered up by misinformation.

“Your voice is lost with the rhetoric on either side of the extremes and I urge the commission and the department to find a way in this day and age of communication to get your voice out there because they don’t hear you,” Alt said.

Right now the FWP Commission will be waiting to hear from the public on their proposed plan. Public comment ends June 25th. The commission will take the final vote on the wolf season during their July 12th meeting.

See more details on the plan here and here.

You can leave comments for the FWP Commission at (406) 444-7826 or send an email to  fwpcomm@mt.gov