Update on wolf huntingLast year Montana hunters took 166 wolves of a 220-wolf quota, and still wolf populations are increasing in the state. There is a combined total of about 1,800 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming … a lot of wolves.
By: Bernie Kuntz, The Jamestown Sun
Last year Montana hunters took 166 wolves of a 220-wolf quota, and still wolf populations are increasing in the state. There is a combined total of about 1,800 wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming … a lot of wolves.
So last month the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission passed a tentative rule that would more than double the quota, and permit the use of electronic calls and trapping. (Final resolution on this proposal won’t become official until late summer.)
The notion of increasing the wolf take has some preservationists apoplectic, but there has been very little opposition from the general public. Interestingly, it is the county governments who are now trying to get into wolf management. County commissioners in Jefferson and Madison counties are offering a bounty for any legally-killed wolf! In western Montana Ravalli County Commissioners adopted a policy calling for increased quotas, longer seasons, less expensive wolf tags, and allowing the use of traps, snares and electronic calls.
It is the first time I’ve witnessed county governments trying to insert themselves into wildlife management normally handled by the state’s wildlife agency, but wolves cause irrational behavior on the part of otherwise normal people.
Wolves also are making news in Minnesota. According to a story in the Brainerd Dispatch, the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources is taking public comment on a proposed two-part wolf season, the first coinciding with the deer season which will begin Nov. 3. The second season — which also will be open to trapping — would take place from late November to mid-January, unless a quota of 400 wolves is reached at an earlier date.
This would be Minnesota’s first wolf hunting season in history. Prior to 1974, when wolves in the Lower 48 were placed on the Endangered Species List, wolves were an unprotected species. And unlike most other Great Lakes states and western states, wolves never were obliterated from the landscape in Minnesota. Current estimates place Minnesota’s wolf population at about 3,000 animals. Resident wolf licenses are proposed to sell for $30; non-resident tags would be $250.
Wolves are exceedingly wary and difficult to hunt, so in spite of thousands of licenses sold, I suspect Minnesota will have difficulty meeting the quota of 400. (In Montana, many hunters buy a tag just in case they stumble upon a wolf, and out of some 18,000 wolf tag holders, fewer than 200 wolves were killed. Most hunters never see a wolf, let alone shoot one.)
I have made many hunting trips into wolf country in western Canada and Alaska, yet have seen only one wolf during all those adventures — that was a black wolf, running like the devil was after him at long range high above the Peace River in British Columbia many years ago. I have heard them howl in Alaska, seen their tracks in the mud 25 yards from my tent in the Yukon, but never was able to lay eyes on any others, outside of a park, except that one. (I have seen a number of wolves in Yellowstone National Park, including a black fellow last year standing 30 yards from the edge of the road.)
Shooting a wolf is not an easy task, but at least states are now establishing hunting seasons that we hope will contain wolf populations and provide recreation at the same time. I honestly did not believe I’d ever live to see the day!
Bernie Kuntz, a Jamestown native, has been an Outdoors columnist for the Sun since 1974