HOWL Colorado

Montana happy with wolf hunt’s higher body count

This week marks the conclusion of the highly contentious yet most productive gray wolf hunting season in Montana.

As of Feb. 25, hunters and trappers reported killing 219 wolves during the state’s third season and first that allowed trapping, which was 53 more than last year’s total. The general rifle season began Oct. 20 and trapping opened Dec. 15. The last day to hunt wolves is Thursday, Feb. 28.

With expanded hunting options and recently modified regulations, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has made up ground in its pursuit of reducing the wolf population.

Hunters shot 128 wolves and trappers caught 91, according to FWP. A total of 42 were killed in the two eastern districts, which reach from Butte and Bozeman to the bordering Dakotas. The rest were taken across Western Montana, including 77 in districts northwest through Kalispell to the corner of the state.

“Certainly it’s a step in the right direction,” FWP Spokesperson Ron Aasheim said…

Read the entire article on Wolf Hunt Yields Higher Numbers

A “step in the right direction?” This unqualified quote is not a particularly promising one from the spokesperson of Montana’s FWP. About 1 in 3 wolves died this year in Montana and since this is only a step in the direction these officials want to go, one can only assume that they will expand and grow their hunting season for 2013-14 in the hopes of driving down the population even further.

This goal, towards which this slaughter was a step, remains ambiguous at best. Numbers such as 450 wolves in the state have been floated out there, but that goal seems arbitrary at best, and merely a number to reduce as special interests demand in the future. There is certainly no scientific support for 450 being the right number, especially if it is taken in context of the overall region’s population which was hammered particularly hard this year with the addition of hunting for Wyoming and the most aggressive hunting in Idaho.

Biologists are confident that the wolf population is resilient and won’t face imminent threats of extinction or relisting because of these aggressive wolf killing plans.

However, the fear is not that the wolves will just disappear – that would place the states at odds with the federal government and the last thing the special interests and state officials want is for the federal government to take back over the wolf management.

The concern is much more abstract and easily ignored by the rhetorical anti-wolfers who continue to use hot button terms such as Canadian wolves, and praying on the fears of the undereducated with claims of conspiracy theory and big government control.

Wolves, much like any animal species, requires genetic diversity to maintain a healthy population. Indeed, wolves have a built in system to ensure dispersion. Omegas are driven from the pack and travel dozens if not hundreds or even thousands of miles in search of a mate. This dispersion ensures continuous mixing of bloodlines.

Shrinking the wolf population to the bare minimums needed to avoid federal intervention puts the wolves at risk in a long term way.

The promise made with these reintroductions was that the wolf populations would be maintained at  the level necessary to ensure decades of healthy wolves. The number needed for this healthy population is debatable, but what’s certain is that 150 per state was never considered to be that number, no matter what the anti-wolfers suggest. Science of any kind is an exercise in refinement, so we see different numbers being put forward, but many seem to agree that 2500-3000 wolves in the region would likely be the right number.

So, from our perspective Mr. Aasheim, you took a step in a very wrong direction

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