FWP Commission to Consider Wolf Quotas

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission is scheduled to meet Thursday to set a tentative quota for Montana’s 2009 wolf hunting season.

The options range from 26 to 207, based on the size of wolf population that would be maintained in the state.

Montana has at least 500 wolves in 84 known packs. Federal rules require the state to maintain a minimum of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs.

The FWP had tentatively adopted a quota of 75 wolves for the 2008 hunting season, but those were never given final approval after environmental and conservation groups filed a lawsuit, arguing wolves were prematurely removed from federal protection.

A federal judge sided with the groups, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service withdrew its delisting plan.

The Obama Administration recently removed gray wolves in Idaho and Montana from the list of animals protected under the Endangered Species Act, while leaving Wyoming wolves protected. The organizations that filed the previous lawsuit have notified the government they again plan to sue.

While the lawsuit could prevent a wolf hunting season again this year, the commission wants to be prepared. Keeping wolf populations in check by allowing them to be hunted has long been part of Montana’s and Idaho’s management plans, which were approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The wolf hunting season would occur during the general big game season.

Ron Aasheim, FWP’s community education coordinator, says the public will have until June 19 to comment on the commission’s recommended quota. A final decision is expected to be made on July 9.

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