By EVE BYRON Independent Record
Antelope, deer, elk, mountain lions and legislative proposals are among the topics to be discussed Thursday at the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission meeting.
Changes proposed for mountain lions — which involve mainly increasing the number of female lions that can be taken as part of an effort to reduce the population — received more than 100 written comments recently, with the vast majority in favor of higher quotas. FWP officials have said that lion populations are strong, which has led to increased lion sightings and conflicts, and the proposed changes will help reduce their numbers.
The proposal coming before the commission would increase the number of lions that can be taken to 517, which is about 50 to 100 more than in the past few years. Only Commissioner Ron Moody voted against the tentative proposal at the April meeting, wanting more of an incremental increase rather than what he sees in some areas as a “dramatic” kill of female mountain lions. He also questioned whether the best possible science was being used in making that decision.
Unless changes are made to the tentative proposals the five-member commission adopted two months ago, no public comments will be taken on the mountain lion quotas at the meeting.
Most of the changes proposed for elk, deer and antelope quotas are a continuation of ongoing discussions about their populations. The 2010-2011 harsh winter, combined with diseases and predators, significantly dropped their numbers in certain areas, prompting wildlife managers to recommend reduced quotas for hunters, including some dramatic decreases in certain regions.
“Antelope numbers are way off, so we are cutting permits in Region 7 pretty drastically,” said Ron Aasheim, FWP spokesman. Those changes include dropping the number of either-sex antelope licenses in Hunting District 700 from 6,500 to 3,000 and lowering doe/fawn licenses from 500 to 100 in HD 700-10. Those are outside the two-year biennial range, so FWP will take public comment through July 9, with final adoptions at the July 12 commission meeting in Helena.
Mule deer and white-tailed deer B licenses generally are slated to decrease in most areas, as are elk B licenses, but most of those are within the biennial quota range so public comment won’t be taken at the meeting. However, a proposal to decrease mule deer B licenses from 500 to 100 in HD 797, as well as an increase in B tags for white-tailed deer from 50 to 100 in HD 311 will have a public comment through July 9.
The commission also is slated to look at proposed concepts that will be taken to the 2013 Montana Legislature. The most controversial topic involves the upcoming wolf hunt. FWP wants legislation passed that will allow electronic calls to hunt wolves, give the commission the authority to issue more than one wolf license, and decrease the price of nonresident wolf licenses.
Other agenda items include the 2012 moose, sheep, goat, deer and elk license auction annual rules; an acquisition at Travelers’ Rest State Park, a special mountain lion license allocation adjustment, a trumpeter swan release in the Madison Valley, the 2012-13 bison and furbearer quotas and seasons, and a haying lease to enhance habitat at Ninepipes Wildlife Management Area in Lake County.
In addition, FWP will ask for endorsement of the planning for a fisheries conservation area in northwest Montana.
Thursday’s meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. at the Montana Wild Education Center in Helena. It is expected to wrap up at noon with an opportunity for the public to comment on items not on the agenda.
For a full agenda, go online to www.fwp.mt.gov/doingBusiness/insideFwp/commission/meetings/agenda.html?meetingId=26638013.
The FWP website will offer live, streamed audio of the meeting, or the public may view a live television feed of the meeting at FWP regional offices.