MONTANA FISH, WILDLIFE AND PARKS

HELENA – State wildlife officials on March 4 released the results of the 2012-2013 wolf hunting and trapping seasons, which saw a substantial jump in harvest over last year.

The season ended with 225 wolves harvested, 36 percent more than last season. The harvest was also up significantly over the 2009-2010 season. Court challenges barred Montana’s hunting season in 2010-2011.

Jeff Hagener, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Helena, cited a growing effectiveness of hunters and trappers and more liberal harvest opportunities, as reasons for this year’s increase.

In all, hunters killed 128 wolves this season, and trappers took 97, with 84 taken between Sept. 1 and Nov. 25, 2012. The majority, however, were harvested after the general season by hunters and trappers exclusively seeking wolves. During Montana’s first wolf hunting season in 2009, the opportunistic harvest was almost 80 percent.

A total of 18,642 wolf-hunting licenses were purchased this season – 246 by nonresidents. Most successful wolf hunters were Montana residents, who harvested 222 wolves.

Even with this season’s hunting and trapping success – and an additional 104 depredating wolves removed from the population as a result of more than 70 control actions – the state’s wolf population remains robust, according to Hagener.

“Montana has made room for wolves,” Hagener said. We are long past the period of recovering wolves, and we are committed to managing for a recovered population.”

FWP manages with an eye to how wild resources affect each other, he said, and also addresses related issues like public tolerance.

Montana’s wolf advisory council, originally convened in 2006 to help develop Montana’s Wolf Management Plan, will reconvene following completion of FWP’s annual report.

New wolf management law adds management tools

FWP sought and received from the 2013 Montana Legislature additional tools to increase the wolf harvest in the future, Hagener said. The wolf management bill – sponsored by State Representatives Kelly Flynn, R-Townsend, and Ted Washburn, R-Bozeman – won bipartisan support and was signed into law on Feb. 13 by Gov. Steve Bullock.

The new law immediately allowed hunters to purchase up to three wolf licenses and lowered the price of a nonresident wolf license from $350 to $50. It also allows hunters to use a license 24 hours after purchase, instead of after a five-day wait; authorizes the use of electronic calls; and removes the requirement for wolf hunters to wear hunter-orange after the general deer and elk hunting seasons have ended.

The legislation allows FWP to close areas near national parks only if established wolf harvest quotas are reached. While signing the bill into law, Gov. Bullock asked FWP to ramp up educational efforts aimed at averting the harvest of collared and heavily studied wolves near national parks.

More than half of the total 2012-2013 wolf harvest, or about 51 percent, occurred on public lands. Top counties included Lincoln with 38, followed by Park with 24, and Missoula with 22. In all, the harvest was distributed across areas of Montana inhabited by wolves.