By AARON BOLTON
State wildlife managers in Montana’s northwest corner want to change wolf hunting regulations. Under a new proposal from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1, general hunting and trapping seasons for wolves would lengthen and the individual kill limit would double.
The proposal extends the general wolf hunting season by a month and a half. Wolf trapping would be 15 days longer, and the individual harvest limit would move from five to 10 wolves. Region 1 is also asking the commission to extend public comment on this proposal through March 16.
FWP’s various regions usually submit proposals on hunting season dates and regulations every December. FWP Region 1 spokesperson Dillon Tabish said public meetings on the proposals it originally submitted last year received immense interest in extending the seasons.
“And biologically, we have the wolf population here in northwest Montana to sustain additional harvest opportunity, and we wanted to be responsive to our public input and those who participated in that public process,” Tabish said.
There is opposition, though. Some environmental groups are specifically concerned about the impacts extended trapping will have on other species, such as grizzly bears who leave their dens early.
Marc Cooke with the Stevensville advocacy group Wolves of the Rockies has a harsher view.
“I understand what’s going on: Montana doesn’t want wolves,” he said. “They can’t manage wolves properly, and they just want to hammer that number to the lowest possible denominator without triggering a review by the endangered species act.”
FWP estimates there are currently 800 wolves statewide, with the highest density in Region 1. Cooke takes issue with how that estimate is made. Wolf populations in the state peaked in 2013 with about 1,100.
The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission is set to meet on Feb. 13.