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MT: Ravalli County Commissioners Adopt Large Predator Policy

By Kevin Maki

HAMILTON, Mont. — Ravalli County Commissioners have passed a controversial large predator control policy. They want a seat at the table with Fish Wildlife and Parks in managing wildlife.

Wolf policy is an especially hot button topic. While critics charge commissioners with overstepping their power, supporters say it’s necessary for the valley’s well being.

Commissioners say predation on elk herds and livestock has had ripple effects. The Montana State Constitution, they said, gives local government more than a right to protect its wildlife, people and economy.

“It’s to protect public health and safety,” said commissioner Suzy Foss, “our tax base. It’s an absolute duty of county commissioners to do that.”

Large predators would include wolves, lions and bears. To meet wolf hunting quotas, the county has proposed trapping,electronic calling, cheaper wolf tags, extended seasons and over the counter tag purchases, as well as multiple tags per individuals.

Charlos Heights area hunter Chuck Shepherd said he agrees with the policy. He lives in the south end of the valley, where there have been a lot of reported wolf predation cases.

“Two years ago I saw 100 elk,” said Shepherd,” and last year I saw five this past hunting season. I think it’s due to the wolves, I see wolf tracks up there all the time.”

But wolf advocate Bill LaCroix said he says the evidence to put a local policy into effect is based on politics and emotion, and not on science. “It’s up to FWP to make policy,” he said, ” not commissioners.”

LaCroix supports a wolf hunt to alleviate ranchers and sportsmens’ concerns. But he said, “commissioners are spending time and money on anecdotal policy that they don’t have any statutory say in.”

Fish Wildlife and Parks issued a prepared statement. It said, “Ravalli County’s input will be part of what FWP considers as it makes recommendations for large carnivore management.”