By BRIAN GEHRING | Bismarck Tribune
It wasn’t that long ago when hunters — and wildlife managers in North Dakota — didn’t have to worry about mountain lions.
We didn’t have any, supposedly because of a lack of habitat, among other reasons. I guess the same could be said for pheasants at one time.
The appearance of mountain lions on the landscape here ultimately led to the Game and Fish Department splitting the state into two units after establishing a season on the cats.
It’s probably not a complicated issue for one agency to manage the mountain lion population, even with a split season within one unit and a longer season in another unit.
But a recent decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take the Great Lakes gray wolf off the endangered and protected list could cause at least some confusion.
It might not seem as big of an issue as it is in other Midwestern states, but it’s interesting none the less.
While there aren’t a whole lot of wolves wandering through the state, one was mistaken for a coyote and shot in the eastern part of the state a couple of years ago.
That’s the hitch: the delisting of the gray wolf only extends to U.S. Highway 83, basically covering the eastern half of the state.
West of that, however, the wolves still will be protected under federal law.
In other words, management of any wolves found east of Highway 83 would fall to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department while any found west of that would be under the authority of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Game and Fish Department furbearer biologist Stephanie Tucker said there are not enough wolves in the state to warrant a season and sightings are rare.
State law allows livestock producers to shoot and kill predators that threaten their herd when it comes to species managed by the state, but the same does not hold true for animals protected under federal law.
Control of wolves is becoming an increasingly hot issue in many western states.
Livestock producers there many years ago adopted the “SSS” method of dealing with predators that fall under federal protection: “Shoot, shovel and shut up.”
It may or may not become an issue in the coming years because at least for now there is no indications that wolves are moving into the state — either east river or west river.
Snagging season opening
The paddlefish snagging season opens Sunday and as a reminder, there are a couple of changes in the regulations.
Sundays are now included in the snag-and-release days along with Mondays and Tuesdays. On all other days. paddlefish must be tagged and harvested.
If you are out on the release days, you must have your tag with you but you cannot have a gaff hook with you.