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Kearns and Sons

Wolves: the hunt is on

By Michael Howell

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday, October 18 denied a request from a few conservation organizations for an emergency injunction to stop the wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho while their legal objection to the removal of the Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species List is being considered. Although refusing to grant an emergency injunction stopping the hunts immediately, the Court will still consider granting the injunction at a full hearing scheduled for November 8.

Wolves were first placed on the federal Endangered Species List in 1972. The wolf populations in Montana and Idaho were deemed recovered in 2009, and wolf hunting seasons were conducted in Montana and Idaho. But Wyoming’s failure to develop an acceptable wolf management plan threw the issue back into court.  In 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy re-listed the wolves in Montana and Idaho, which squashed the wolf hunts scheduled for 2010. However, in the spring of 2011, a law was attached as a rider to a Congressional spending bill that once again removed the wolves from the Endangered Species Act and also prohibited any judicial review of the new law.

Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Wild Earth Guardians, and Friends of the Clearwater have challenged the Congressional action in court, arguing that it violates the constitutional separation of powers. They are seeking an injunction to stop the hunts until that court challenge is decided.

FWP on wolves

The 2011 wolf hunting season began in Montana on October 22. As of Monday, October 24, eleven wolves had been killed by hunters in the state. In Idaho, where the wolf hunting season started at the end of August, 60 wolves have been killed.

The quota for wolf kills in Montana has been set at 220 and as of Monday, October 24, 12,300 licenses to hunt wolves have been issued. The licenses cost $19 for residents of the state and $350 for non-residents. In the first two days of the season, one wolf had been killed by a hunter in local wolf hunting district 210, where the quota has been set at 36 and none have yet been killed in wolf hunting districts 200 and 250, where the quotas have been set at 22 and 18 respectively.

At the end of 2010, FWP counted an estimated 566 wolves in the state, forming 108 packs with a total of 35 breeding pairs. FWP’s wolf management plan calls for maintaining a minimum of 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs. According to FWP wolf specialist Liz Bradley, there are about 14 packs in the Bitterroot Valley area totaling about 80 (counted) to 100 (estimated) individuals.

Hunters have 12 hours to report a wolf kill to FWP. The tally is updated constantly and published on the agency’s internet site (www.fwp.mt.gov). The agency will close each hunting district as the district’s quota is reached. In the 2009 hunt the statewide quota was set at 75 wolves across three Wolf Management Units. The season was closed a few weeks early when the number killed hit 72 to ensure the quota would not be exceeded.

According to Regional FWP spokesperson Mike Thompson, Montana’s approach to wolf management will be a rigorous, science-based effort to manage the total number of wolves that can be taken by hunters while maintaining a balance among all wildlife, their habitats and the people who live in Montana. That balance will include managing for a recovered wolf population while addressing livestock depredation and impacts to other wildlife.

Aside from the licensed hunting program, the law allows for wolves to be killed when found killing or threatening livestock, to protect a human life, or as authorized by FWP to resolve wolf/livestock conflict. In these cases the incident must be reported to FWP within 72 hours.

To report a dead wolf or possible illegal activity contact Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Missoula, (406) 329-3000 or 1-800-TIP-MONT.

Wolf Management Specialist Liz Bradley may be reached at 406-865-0017 or by e-mail at lbradley@mt.gov.

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