Glacier National Park plays an essential role in the recovery of the state’s wolf population, the director of Montana’s wildlife agency said Tuesday.
Jeff Hagener addressed the “challenging” management of wolves in an online column published Tuesday. He noted the ongoing work of biologists to track collared wolves and the history of local recovery efforts.
“Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks exists to conserve and manage Montana’s wildlife,” he wrote. “Wildlife management often means hunting and exercising some means of wildlife population control to maintain a balance among an array of ecological factors—and with an eye toward social tolerances.
“It’s a challenge to get that right season after season but our wolf specialists and wildlife managers are out there working to do just that day after day.”
Hunters and trappers have reported killing 27 wolves through the first month of Montana’s general wolf season. The hunting season is expanded and has much looser rules than in past years as state wildlife officials ramp up efforts to reduce the predators’ population in response to public pressure over livestock attacks and declines in some elk herds.
Lower license fees, a five-wolf per person bag limit and a longer season top the list of changes put in place for the 2013-2014 season.
Only two areas in the state — near Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks — have limits on how many gray wolves can be killed.
Conservation groups have criticized the state’s liberal wolf hunting rules as a threat to their long-term population. But livestock owners and hunters have pushed for even more wolves to be killed, and state officials say they intend to maintain a smaller, but still viable, wolf population.
Hagener said wolves’ recovery can be traced back to Glacier and Yellowstone national parks, “essentially incubators for wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains, and remain a kind of protected refuge for wolves in the West.”
Hagener said Montana’s wolf population continues to “thrive.”
“More important, wolves are now an accepted part of Montana’s rich wildlife heritage,” he wrote.
“Through it all, Montana has also recognized the importance of national park wolves by creating specific harvest quotas near the parks. As for Yellowstone wolves, they’ll continue to contribute ecologically to the system that has been responding to their presence for nearly 20 years.”
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