Friday, June 17, 2011

MT Wolf Hunt Comments Needed!

This is from Defenders of Wildlife. 
Montana wolves once again need your support.  As you may have heard, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) is proposing a general rifle hunting season for wolves, set to begin Oct. 22 and running through Dec. 31, 2011. They are also proposing an archery and backcountry season beginning in September.  The proposed plan includes a statewide quota of 220 wolves divided across 14 Wolf Management Units (the 2010 year-end minimum count for wolves in Montana was 566).  According to FWP’s models, this represents a 40% harvest rate of the predicted pre-hunt population and will result in a population reduction of up to 25% by year end 2011.  FWP is accepting comments regarding this proposed hunt until 5:00 PM on Monday, June 20.  This doesn’t give us much time! 

We have included some talking points below.  Feel free to use these as a starting point when submitting your comments.

General talking points for wolves in the Northern Rockies:
  • The return of the gray wolf to the Northern Rockies is a remarkable achievement in wildlife restoration and an Endangered Species Act success story. Wolves have a long history in the West and are part of our unique wildlife heritage. 
  • As a Montana resident who support wolf conservation efforts, it’s important that the state manage wolves as native wildlife and appreciate the important ecological role they play, instead of treating them like pests and actively reducing their numbers to minimum levels.
  • Hunting quotas should be as conservative as possible, and based upon professional wildlife management standards.
  • According to a University of Montana study, people who visit the Yellowstone region hoping to glimpse a wolf spend around $35 million annually in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.  This is an important economic resource for our state.
  • Elk & Wolves:  Contrary to popular misconception, most elk herds in the Northern Rockies are thriving. Elk numbers in the region have increased 18% since wolf reintroduction and 60 percent statewide in Montana, according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Today, there are nearly 400,000 elk in the Northern Rockies and about 1,700 wolves. FWP needs to work harder to dispel myths and misinformation regarding wolves and their relationship with elk and other wildlife.
  • Livestock & Wolves:  Livestock lost to wolves represent less than 1% of total livestock losses in Montana and the Northern Rockies. Disease, coyotes, domestic dogs, and severe weather kill many times more cattle and sheep than wolves do.
The favorable aspects of the plan:
  • It’s good that no trapping is allowed under the current plan.
  • The required 5-day waiting period after purchase of a wolf license is a good idea.  It will help discourage some poachers.
  • The plan includes a mandatory 12-hour reporting after killing a wolf, and carcass inspection within 10 days. 
The things we’d like to see changed in the proposed plan:
  • The proposed 220 wolf statewide quota is too high.  It is a huge jump up from the 75 wolves allowed in the 2009 hunting season, and represents an attempt to seriously reduce wolf numbers in the state without adequate cause.
  • Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks already authorizes the killing of a lot of wolves in Montana (141 wolves in 2010, for example) in response to livestock depredation. This is currently in addition to wolves killed by public hunting. This harvest quota should be reduced to reflect this already substantial loss of wolves blamed for livestock losses.
  • The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks commission needs to lower the hunting quota and focus on wolf conservation as the top objective as directed by the state’s wolf management plan instead of dramatically reducing the wolf population.  The state should err on the side of caution during the first years of state management and maintain a healthy, robust wolf population.
Please see the link below for more information and to submit comments:  

Again, comments are due by 5:00 PM on Monday, June 20.

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