Bill to Allow Wolf Hunts at Night Fails

Rep. Bob Brown, R-Thompson Falls, says his constituents want more tools to manage wolf population

By Tristan Scott

A Thompson Falls legislator who introduced a measure to allow hunters to kill wolves at night saw the bill die on the House floor last week, despite a plea to fellow lawmakers that included an imitation wolf howl that echoed through the capitol building.

Republican Rep. Bob Brown said he introduced the measure because his constituents in Northwest Montana have been advocating for nighttime wolf hunting and expanded trapping opportunities due to the impact they say wolves have had on deer, elk and moose populations in Sanders County hunting districts.

It’s been a point of contention this legislative session as a host of bills aimed at reducing wolf numbers crowd the docket, with Brown’s name attached to many of them. Last week he brought House Bill 551 before the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks Committee, which he chairs.

The bill received support from two people who testified that nighttime hunting would provide additional tools to manage the wolf population, while leaders of several conservation groups opposed it, calling the nighttime wolf-hunting proposal “unethical.”

“We feel hunting any game animal at night is unethical,” Nick Gevock, of the Montana Wildlife Federation, told the committee members while testifying in opposition to House Bill 551.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the agency tasked with managing the state’s wolf population, also opposed the bill, saying it could intensify poaching at night, which often involves the use of spotlights.

The bill narrowly passed out of committee, but failed on the House floor.

The bill would have made wolves the only big game animal that could be hunted during non-daylight hours.

Another of Brown’s pending wolf-related bills, House Bill 552, would remove trapping setback regulations on roads closed to highway vehicles year-round, and would also make them inapplicable on gated roads closed seasonally. Current trapping regulations require a “setback,” or a specific distance away from roads and trails that traps must be set.

Traps for most animals are required to be set 50 feet from a road or trail, but wolf traps require a 150-foot setback.

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