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John Blodgett
The Western News

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation on Oct. 26 announced it had awarded Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks a $50,000 grant to assist with wolf management.

“The grant from RMEF goes towards two aspects of wolf management,” Neil Anderson, the region one wildlife program manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said via email. “One is to help in collaring packs that may be involved in livestock depredations. This helps USFS Wildlife Services locate packs and remove the wolves involved in the depredations.

The second part, Anderson wrote, is to improve the patch occupancy model — a joint effort by FWP and the University of Montana — that “will be used to provide FWP with a better, more cost efficient estimate of wolf numbers.”

“Both are valuable to Lincoln County, and the rest of the state, as it helps reduce livestock depredations and provides information on wolf populations to help maintain Montana’s hunting and trapping seasons,” he wrote.

“Montana’s wolf population is more than three times larger than federally required minimum mandates,” David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, states in a news release. “This funding will help FWP get a better grasp on wolf numbers as a benefit to wildlife managers tasked with seeking to balance predator and prey populations while doing so in a more cost effective manner.”

According to the news release, Montana’s 2016 report of “a minimum of 477 wolves,” down from 2015’s count of 536 wolves, “does not necessarily reflect a reduction in wolf numbers, but rather a reduction in counting effort.”

“Though the minimum count is down, we’ve long held that these minimum counts are useful only in ensuring Montana’s wolf population stays above the federally mandated minimum threshold,” Bob Inman, FWP carnivore and furbearer program chief, is quoted as saying in the news release. “The minimum count is not a population count or an index or estimate of the total number of wolves.”