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REGIONAL ELK NUMBERS IN DECLINE

Megan

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The Montana Fish, Wildlife and
Parks Commission is considering
limiting elk hunting licenses in two
Madison Valley hunting districts to
address overharvest on public lands.
The proposal for hunting districts
360 and 362 is a response to elk
population declines.
The 2010 fall hunting season hit record
high harvests in these districts,
in part due to unusually severe winter
weather, which pushed elk down
to low hunting grounds a t the end
of the season, and also caused a dip
in elk numbers. In the past, a liberal
season package was designed to reduce
elk numbers in this area. FWP
says on its website “the designed
reduction may have been reached in
a shorter time than expected.”
Hunters have expressed concern
about overharvest of elk on public
land in these districts since 2009
and recently urged FWP to cut back
the number of antlerless elk licenses
there. Almost 25 local sportsmen,
landowners, ranchers and outfitters
attended a January 5 public meeting
in the Madison Valley, and they
supported the proposal. Similar
reductions in tags occurred last year
in select districts in the Gallatin.
On January 13 in Helena, the FWP
Commission considered a proposal
to move to 500 licenses, with
a proposed quota range of 100-
1000 in these areas. The limited
license offering would be valid
on private lands only, in order to
address landowners’ game damage
concerns and sportsmen’s concerns
of overharvest on public lands.
Public comment will run through
February 7. Final decision by the
FWP Commission will occur at a
February 10 meeting.
The Yellowstone elk numbers are
also in decline. According to the
national park’s website, the northern
Yellowstone elk population
has seen a significant drop in the
last 15 years. Wildlife biologists
cite increased predation, ongoing
drought, and hunting pressure as
causes for the significant population
drop.
An annual aerial survey done
during December 2010 recorded
4,635 elk in the herd, down 24
percent from the count of 6,070
in 2009. In 1995, the first year of
wolf restoration to the Park, the
annual survey counted 16,791
elk in this same herd Yellowstone
National Park.
fwp.mt.gov

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