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Montana FPW working to revive wolf population

By Wayne Daniels

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POSTED July 13, 2010 1:58 a.m.
On June 2, I attended a meeting in Great Falls, Mont. at the Region 4 office of Montana Fish, Parks and Wildlife.

The meeting was hosted by Graham Taylor, regional wildlife manager for the Fish and Wildlife Division.

Mr. Taylor said Montana’s wolf conservation and management plan is based on the work of the wolf advisory council’s diverse working group.

Its balanced approach ensures the long-term success of wolf recovery in a landscape where people live, work and recreate.

The plan that Montana has adopted covers three key areas: First, recognize that wolves are a native species and part of Montana’s wildlife heritage; second, allow wolves to find their place on the landscape similar to other wildlife; and last, manage the population in concert with available habitat and pray species, livestock conflict and human safety.

During the meeting, Mr. Taylor gave out some handouts showing that as of December 31, 2009 there were 524 wolves in 101 verified packs, 37 of which qualified as a breeding pair.

According to Taylor, that number was derived from an actual physical aerial count and represents a 4-percent increase from last year compared to 18 percent the previous year. Mr. Taylor did admit that the number was anywhere from 10 to 30 percent low.

During the meeting, Bob Barker, who attended the meeting with me questioned Mr. Taylor on the total number of wolves killed in Montana last year.

He said that last year there were 255 documented wolf mortalities in Montana — 145 were livestock related, 68 legal harvests, eight car/train strikes, 16 illegal, one incidental and agency-related, two natural, two electrocuted, one self defense and 12 unknown.

In answering questions about the 2010 season, Mr. Taylor stated that in 2009 the quota was set at 75 wolves in three hunt districts. This year, FWP is looking at a quota of 186 split up between 14 hunt districts an but could go as high at 216.

They are also looking at a special early archery-only season in all of the districts with the total number taken to not exceed 20 percent of the total quota set for the year.

But this planning could be for naught.

On June 15, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy heard arguments in Missoula on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ April 2009 decision that designated northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves a distinct population segment, took the wolves off the endangered species list and turned the management over to Montana and Idaho wildlife officials.

The same decision left federal protection in place in Wyoming where state law declares almost 90 percent of the state a “predator zone” where wolves can be shot on sight.

The key argument by defenders of wildlife and other plaintiffs is that removing federal protection in one state and leaving it intact in another is a violation of the law.

The Fish and Wildlife Service says it considered all relevant factors in making the decision, and it has the discretion to limit endangered species protections to just that portion of the specie range where it is endangered.

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