WISDOM – A southwestern Montana rancher says he’s withdrawing his property from a public hunting program, claiming the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks isn’t managing wolves properly.
Fred Hirschy, who had allowed hunters to use about 45,000 acres of his family’s property west of Wisdom, also criticized the department for a lackluster response when his cattle have been attacked.
“When I call them, they don’t do what I ask them to do anyway,” he said. “We want more people on the ground and we want the people on the ground that can shoot some wolves.”
Montana is allowing hunters to shoot 75 wolves this year, part of the state’s first legal wolf hunting season.
But Hirschy and other ranchers in the Big Hole Valley are frustrated that the big predators are still inflicting losses on their livestock.
Portions of Hirschy’s ranch have been enrolled in the program since 1996, and the cancellation of the contract will cost the Hirschys $12,000 this year.
Pat Flowers, regional FWP manager, met with other Big Hole Valley ranchers Thursday.
“The sentiment expressed today is general frustration with the impacts that wolves are having on their livestock, and I think that general frustration is not limited to the Big Hole Valley,” Flowers told The Montana Standard.
Flowers said he’s hoping to eventually assuage Hirschy’s concerns and re-enroll his property in the hunting program.
“I’m disappointed because he had some valuable block management parcels,” Flowers said. “He’s been good cooperator and those were some great opportunities for hunters.”
Hirschy said his ranch will have some hunting this season, but by permission only. Part of the ranch is under a FWP conservation easement that requires public hunting.
Public hunting is necessary to control pack size, said Carolyn Sime, wolf program coordinator.
“Public hunting and removal of some of these wolves in areas in close proximity to livestock we think is a good thing,” she said. She said it’s unfortunate that the Hirschy Ranch will drop out of the program because landowners and hunters share the goal of controlling wolf numbers.
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