Gianforte signs bill allowing payment to wolf hunters
This file photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife shows a gray wolf. (Gary Kramer/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via AP)
| April 23, 2021 4:00 PM
HELENA (AP) — Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill Friday allowing the use of private funds to reimburse wolf hunters or trappers for their expenses — reminiscent of bounties that widely exterminated the species in the last century.
Hunting and livestock groups, and their Republican allies in the legislature, contend not enough of the 1,200 wolves in Montana are being killed by hunters to limit their impact on big game outfitters or cattle and sheep producers.
The bill was sponsored by GOP state Sen. Bob Brown, who said there are too many wolves in his mountainous district in northwestern Montana.
The reimbursement program is similar to one in Idaho, where a private group pays its members up to $1,000 for costs incurred while scouting, hunting or trapping wolves.
Opponents argued there are tourists who come to Montana to see wolves and if too many are killed, they will return to protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Last week, Gianforte signed bills to allow the snaring of wolves, in addition to trapping; and another one to extend the wolf hunting season.
Lawmakers have also forwarded to the governor a bill to allow individuals to kill an unlimited number of wolves, hunt at night with artificial lights and night vision scopes and use bait to lure wolves into traps.
In Idaho, a bill that would allow the state to hire private contractors to reduce the wolf population from about 1,500 to 150 is quickly moving through the legislature. It allows the use of night-vision equipment to kill wolves as well as hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, among other changes.
Backers cite cattle and sheep deaths that cost ranchers hundreds of thousands of dollars, while opponents say the legislation threatens a 2002 wolf management plan involving the federal government.