Montana Moves to Control Burgeoning Wolf Population with Expanded Hunting

Wolves from a game camera in Wisconsin, courtesy Dean Weingarten

U.S.A.-(AmmoLand.com)- On 20 August 2021, the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission voted to follow the intent of bill SB314, passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Greg Gianforte, on 30 April 2021.  SB314 was passed with the goal of reducing the wolf population while maintaining a minimum of 15 breeding pairs or 300 wolves in Montana. The 15 breeding pairs or 300 wolves are mandated to keep the wolf in Montana from being re-listed as an endangered species by the Federal government.

Re-listing would remove management of the wolf population from state control.  The bill passed 62 to 35 in the House, 29 to 20 in the Senate, and was signed by Montana Governor Greg Gianforte on 30 April 2021.  From ktvq.com:

After a public comment period that drew more than 26,000 comments, the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission at its August 20 meeting adopted several changes to the 2021/2022 wolf hunting and trapping regulations.

Changes include eliminating quotas, increasing the number of wolf trapping and hunting licenses allowed for individual hunters, extending wolf trapping seasons, and the allowance of snares for trapping wolves.

Here is a summation of the rule changes, from a transcript of the Commission adoption of Wolf Harvest rules for 2021-2022.

There is no quota for the number of wolves to be harvested. A review of the harvest by the Fish & Wildlife Commission is required when 450 wolves are reported as taken. Another review will be triggered whenever an additional 50 wolves are harvested.

Wolf trappers are allowed a total of 10 wolves for the season. Wolf hunters have to buy a license for each wolf taken, with a limit of 10 licenses per hunter. There are limitations on what type of snares can be used. Spring-powered snares are allowed on private land, but not on public land. Limitations on the snares used are designed to prevent the death of non-target species. Night hunting for wolves, with artificial lights and/or night vision devices, is allowed on private land.

When wolves are harvested, the harvest is required to be reported to the Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) within 24 hours. A review of the harvest will be triggered if a grizzly bear or lynx is captured in a snare or trap.

In most parts of Montana, the wolf season will start on the first Monday after Thanksgiving to March 15. FWP is given the authority to delay the season start in those districts designated as Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones, but the season cannot be delayed later than 15 December, when most bears are expected to be denned up and hibernating. Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones are a small part of the state.

From 2012 to 2019 the average annual wolf harvest in Montana was 242 wolves. In 2020, the harvest was 328 wolves. The wolf population in Montana has been estimated at 1200 wolves.

The foremost wolf expert in the field,  David Mech, suggested 50% of wolves over 5-10 months old need to be harvested each year to keep a stable population. Others suggested the number could be as low as 30%. From Wolf population dynamics (state of the art) p. 184:

Mech (1970, 63-64) suggested that over 50% of the wolves over 5-10 months old must be killed each year to control a wolf population, basing his estimate on Rausch’s (1967) age structure data on over 4,000 harvested Alaskan wolves. Because these wolves were killed in fall and winter, the 50% kill figure would have been in addition to natural mortality from birth to 5-10 months of age. Keith (1983) reevaluated the proposed 50% kill figure by assembling data from several field studies. He concluded that the figure should be less than 30%, including a precautionary hedge. However, the data he used (Keith 1983, table 8) included populations that may have been stationary when 41% were taken, and declining populations with a 58%-70% take. These data do not conflict with the 50% figure.

The Commission adopted the changes on a 3 to 2 vote. Elections have consequences. From mtpr.org:

Pat Byorth voted against the proposal. Byorth is the only commissioner who is a holdover appointee from former Gov. Steve Bullock; the rest of the commission was appointed by Gov. Greg Gianforte. Byorth said the new measures run at odds to long-established hunting ethics and fair chase in Montana.

If the commission is to follow the law, they need to reduce the wolf population. A harvest of 450 wolves would be a step in the right direction. To reach a harvest of 450 wolves, the commission loosened some of the many restrictions on wolf hunting and trapping.

Whether the removal of those restrictions will be enough to reach the minimum goal of 450 wolves harvested will become known in the 2021-22 wolf season.

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board reached a similar conclusion to the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission in 2021. The Wisconsin Board increased the wolf harvest goal to 300, in an attempt to reduce the burgeoning number of wolves in the state.

Grey wolves migrated from northern Alaska to most of what is now Canada, the lower 48 states, and South America about 10,000 to 13,000 years ago. The migration of man to the same area may have happened that late. There are persistent archeological indications man may have preceded the wolf by thousands of years.

As long as the grey wolf has existed in most of Alaska, Canada, the lower 48 states, and South America, they have been in competition with man for prey.  Before the grey wolf became established, the dire wolf, the sabre-toothed tiger, and the short-faced bear became extinct. Many think man was the cause of that extinction.


About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30-year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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swmft
swmft
2 months ago

coyotes are a problem too,they have been moving into urban areas in south florida and joggers ,pets whatever is fair food if they can kill it , problem becomes how do you safely hunt in an urban environment, they killed a woman in a park a few years ago and trappers have caught a few but they are learning to avoid trappers moving off public land, I have seen them attacking peacocks (they run wild here) the coyotes were driven out of the everglades by the anaconda invasion we have a lot to fix

Last edited 2 months ago by swmft
JimmyS
JimmyS (@jimmys)
2 months ago
Reply to  swmft

There are already few restrictions on the killing of coyotes, which have continually inhabited the land, and they have nearly no legal protections. The wolves, on the other hand, were artificially introduced (not re-introduced, as the strain that was introduced in the Western States in the ’90s is far larger and heartier than then population that lived here before, and was wiped out, for good reason). They have, until a handful of years ago, been allowed to spread utterly unmolested, and now the numbers are ridiculously high, given the lack of prey animals they tend to prefer. This wolf agenda… Read more »

gregs
gregs (@gregsodeman)
2 months ago
Reply to  JimmyS

historically, coyotes have been kept in check by the wolves, but with the decrease in wolves coyotes have proliferated and spread.

OlTrailDog
OlTrailDog (@oltraildog)
2 months ago
Reply to  gregs

Gregs is correct. Wolf presence mean fewer coyotes and more foxes, whereas in the absence of wolves there are more coyotes and less foxes. Definitely need to start hunting more wolves and grizzly bears too here in MT.

Grigori
Grigori (@grigori)
2 months ago

Reading this, I have the song “The Big Bad Wolf” by Duck Sauce going through my head, now. It is pretty warped but funny. If you decide to YouTube it, just know it is NSFW and you probably don’t want your kids or grandkids to watch it.

GeniusJoe
GeniusJoe (@geniusjoe)
2 months ago

Not a fan of this… but whatever, I’ll reserve judgment unless they are wiped out by this. But who decides when there’s too many Wolves?

Seems arbitrary.

Arny
Arny (@dmaxter)
2 months ago
Reply to  GeniusJoe

Or Marthas little puppy eaten by wolves when she lets him out to pee or see what the noise is at night. https://youtu.be/KwWi-gyeD44