THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
HAMILTON, Mont. — Ravalli County commissioners have approved a plan intended to lead to the killing of more wolves, cougars and bears as part of a policy they say is needed to protect elk herds and improve the local economy.
Commissioners on Tuesday approved a six-week period starting Friday to gather more information. Commissioners said that over the last few months they have already gathered information showing the negative impacts wolves have on Bitterroot elk herds.
“We’re looking for more aggressive hunts that would result in tighter population control,” said Commissioner Matt Kanenwisher, who wants higher quotas and trapping. (Trapping) is a prime target for something we’d advocate for.”
The Ravalli Republic reports (http://bit.ly/pEiSwt) that commissioners want to contact other groups who might back a position paper on large predator control. Those possible groups include the Safari Club International, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association.
Commissioners also want to get suggestions from groups to help create what is being called a “living with wolves” policy.
Commissioners approved three public meetings concerning the plan, set for Dec. 5, Jan. 3 and Jan. 16. Commissioners plan to discuss preliminary drafts of a policy in the first two meetings, and in the last meeting adopt a final draft to be submitted to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
“It’s well laid out, well thought out,” said Commissioner Suzy Foss.
Commissioner Greg Chilcott said the county hopes to work with neighboring counties to influence state policies.
“The more inclusion we have with other jurisdictions, the more depth of results we have,” Chilcott said.
State officials have said they intend to maintain viable wolf populations but want the predator’s numbers reduced to curb attacks on livestock and big game herds.
Montana has a quota of 220 wolves for a hunting season that runs through Dec. 31. State officials have pledged to shut down the hunt as soon as that figure is reached.
Hunted to near-extermination across the lower 48 states last century, wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies in the mid-1990s. An estimated 1,300 of the animals roamed Idaho and Montana at the end of last year.