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What is impact of ‘anti’s’ on wolf management?

| February 27, 2020 2:00 AM

Wolves, wolves and wolves.

Wolf management has grabbed a lot of news media coverage during the last couple of weeks.

The other day I was reading a 20-year old Elk Foundation magazine. Guess what was the major elk management topic in that publication?

Yep, you guessed it-wolves. Some things never change!

The recent news coverage about wolves was due to the recent Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission’s rejections of expanded wolf hunting and trapping seasons in Northwest Montana.

Not only did they reject expanded wolf hunting in Northwest Montana, they cut back on wolf harvest quotas near Yellowstone Park.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks conducted several recent public meetings in Northwest Montana regarding hunting seasons for 2020 and 2021. They heard loud and clear from citizens, mostly hunters, that deer and elk numbers were declining, with many hunters recommending expanded wolf hunting and trapping seasons to reduce the wolf kill of deer and elk.

To their credit, local FWP officials recommended modest increases in the length of wolf seasons and bag limits.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect even those modest increases in wolf harvests recommendations were not enthusiastically supported by the politically correct non-hunting folks at FWP headquarters in Helena.

The science of wolf management indicated that the current abundant wolf numbers could easily support greater wolf harvests without jeopardizing a healthy wolf population.

But, the FWP Commission, political appointees serving at the pleasure of the Governor, disregarded this scientifically supported wolf management change and made a political decision to placate very vocal anti-hunters.

Saying it another way, this was a political decision, not a biological decision.

That’s why I laugh to myself whenever I hear wildlife biologists and fishery biologists take the position that all wildlife decisions should be “science based.”

That is pure baloney.

Here are a couple of examples. The recent Montana proposal was to expand the general wolf hunting season by only six weeks, from the current September 15 to March 15 season, to an August 15 to March 31 season.

Our neighbor to the west, Idaho, has most of their state open with a wolf hunting season from July 1 to June 30. That’s year round!

Idaho also allows wolf trapping using snares, which are prohibited in Montana.

Our neighbor to the south, Wyoming, has a year-round wolf hunting and trapping season for 85% of the state.

In Wyoming you don’t even need a hunting license to kill a wolf. In Wyoming you can also trap wolves with snares, which tend to be more effective than steel leg-hold traps legal in Montana.

As far as I know, there still is no shortage of wolves in Idaho or Wyoming.

I suspect that much of the pro-wolf protection lobby is very anti-hunting.

Legal hunting for traditional game species such as deer and elk is being challenged in many corners of our country.

One way to eliminate traditional deer and elk hunting is to reduce game herds through high populations of large predators such as wolves.

Many years ago, my family and I participated in many late season elk hunts during December and January in the Gallatin and Gardner areas north of Yellowstone Park.

Yellowstone elk generally stayed in the park until after the normal elk season in Montana. Then, when deep snows in the park forced elk out of the park, the late season hunts kept the elk herds in check.

The Northern Yellowstone elk herd plunged from 20,000 animals to around 4,000 elk today, thanks to the introduction of wolves.

So, wolf killing of elk cut back on lots of Montana elk hunting opportunities, exactly what the environmental community wanted and got.