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FWP Commission approves wolf hunt season and quotas

Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission has approved a wolf hunting season for 2011 that creates 14 wolf management units and an overall harvest quota of 220 wolves.

“The approved hunting season is very similar to the one considered last year,” said Ken McDonald, FWP’s chief of wildlife. “It’s based on wildlife science and we believe it’s properly balanced. Our management objective is very clear: we must maintain a viable and connected wolf population as we aim to reduce impacts on Montana’s wildlife and livestock. With the ability to manage wolves as we do all other wildlife in Montana we’re confident we can meet those expectations.”
For the upcoming seasons, hunters will have the opportunity to hunt for 220 wolves in 14 WMUs that are generally situated in the western portion of Montana. A new WMU in the Bitterroot Valley was added to an area where wolves appear to be contributing to a significant drop in the elk population.
Commissioners had approved a harvest quota of 186 wolves across 13 wolf management units for the 2010 season, which was blocked by a federal court. Montana’s first and only regulated wolf hunt took place in 2009 when 72 wolves were taken by hunters, three fewer than the established quota.
“We learned from the 2009 hunt that there was a need to be more surgical in directing the wolf harvest toward areas where elk, deer and livestock depredations are an issue,” McDonald explained. “So we made adjustments and developed smaller-sized wolf management units each with their own quota.”
In addition, the commission approved specific quotas or subquotas in three areas aimed at limiting harvest during early-season backcountry hunts, including the area directly north of Yellowstone National Park. A motion to add two areas directly north of Yellowstone National Park to the three-wolf subquota for WMU 390 was also approved by the commission. The areas encompass deer and elk hunting districts 313 and 316. Also approved was a wolf archery season, which will run Sept. 3 through Oct. 16. Those dates coincide with Montana’s deer and elk archery seasons.
McDonald said a harvest quota of 220 is projected to reduce the wolf population to a minimum of 425 wolves, or by about 25 percent. These projections include anticipated reductions due to livestock depredation and mortalities from other events, like accidents and natural causes.
“As wildlife managers, we have an exceptional Montana-based wolf conservation and management plan to guide us and we’re continuing to learn from practical experience,” McDonald said. “We’ll learn more this season and we’ll apply what we learn to ensure that Montana maintains a balance among all wildlife, their habitats and the people who live, work, and recreate here.”
Wildlife officials documented that a minimum of 566 wolves, in 108 verified packs, and 35 breeding pairs inhabited the state at the end of 2010.
The congressional measure passed this spring that removed gray wolves from the list of endangered species in Montana, Idaho, and parts Oregon, Washington and Utah was challenged in federal district court in Missoula in May. A final court ruling hasn’t been issued.
To learn more about Montana’s wolf population, visit FWP online at fwp.mt.gov. Click “Montana Wolves”.

2011 Wolf Season Basics
· Wolf Management Units & Quotas—Northwestern and central Montana have nine WMUs with a total quota of 123 wolves; western Montana has two WMUs with a total quota of 54 wolves; and there are three WMUs in the southwestern portion of the state with a total quota of 43 wolves. Two of Montana’s 14 WMUs—WMU 400 and 390 respectively—stretch across the northeastern and southeastern portions of the state to the North Dakota border.
· Wolf Hunting Season Dates—Wolf hunting seasons correspond to Montana’s early backcountry big game hunting season, which runs Sept. 3—14 for archery and Sept. 15—Nov. 27 for rifle hunting; and the big game archery and general rifle seasons set for Sept. 3—Oct. 16 and Oct. 22—Nov. 27 respectively. The wolf hunting season in some areas could run through Dec. 31 if quotas are not reached. Hunting licenses cost $19 for residents and $350 for nonresidents. License sales should begin in August.

Montana Wolf Season Background
· In 2009, during Montana’s first ever regulated wolf hunt, hunters harvested 72 wolves during the fall hunting season. As hunters approached the overall harvest quota of 75 wolves, FWP closed the hunt about two weeks before the season was scheduled to end to ensure the quota would not be exceeded.
· Montana’s 2010 hunting season was blocked by a federal court ruling in August 2010 that returned wolves to the federal endangered species list.
· On April 15 the U.S. Congress enacted a new federal law that provided for the delisting of wolves in Montana and Idaho—and in portions of Washington, Oregon and Utah.
The law authorizes Montana to manage wolves under the state’s federally approved Gray Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.

Federal Wolf Recovery Goal for the Northern Rockies & Current Population
· The recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains was set at a minimum of 30 breeding pairs—successfully reproducing wolf packs—and a minimum of 300 individual wolves for at least three consecutive years.
· This goal was achieved in 2002, and the wolf population has increased every year since. The northern Rockies’ “metapopulation” is comprised of wolf populations in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.
· Today, about 1,650 wolves in 244 packs and about 111 breeding pairs, live in the region, where wolves can travel about freely to join existing packs or form new packs. This, combined with wolf populations in Canada and Alaska, assures genetic diversity.

Montana’s Wolf Population
· Montana wildlife officials documented that a minimum of 566 wolves, in 108 verified packs, and 35 breeding pairs inhabited the state at the end of 2010.
· Delisting allows Montana to manage wolves in a manner similar to how bears, mountain lions and other wildlife species are managed, guided completely by state management plans and laws.
· To learn more about Montana’s wolf population, visit FWP online at fwp.mt.gov. Click “Montana Wolves”.

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