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Montana Prepared for First Wolf Hunt

August 27, 2009.

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

Montana’s first-ever, fair-chase wolf hunting season, set to open September 15 in some areas of the state, is the culmination of one of the fastest endangered species recoveries on record.

"Montana’s approach to recovery has always been open, balanced, and based on science," said FWP Director Joe Maurier. " Montanans have lived with wolves since the mid 1980s, about 10 years before wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park. We’ve all worked long and hard to reach the day when Montana would fully bring wolves into the state’s wildlife management programs."

In the mid 1990s, to hasten the overall pace of wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, 66 wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains was set at a minimum of 30 breeding pairs—successfully reproducing wolf packs—and a minimum of 300 individual wolves for at least three consecutive years and well distributed throughout the recovery area. The goal was achieved in 2002, and the wolf population has increased every year since.

FWP recently intervened in a federal lawsuit aimed at turning back a recent decision to remove gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains from the federal list of endangered species. FWP will also oppose a preliminary injunction to stop planned wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho.

In March, Montana wildlife officials praised U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s announcement that affirmed an earlier decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species in Montana, Idaho, and parts of Utah, Washington, Oregon.

"That was a great day for Montana and a great day for the Endangered Species Act," Maurier recalled. "It’s what we worked for and we were happy to see that officials in far away Washington, D.C. agreed that Montana did its part to establish a secure place for wolves. It was a recognition for a job well done and recognition that Montana earned the right to take over management of this wildlife species."

In July, Montana wildlife officials set a state quota at 75 wolves for hunting seasons across the three specifically defined wolf management units. Hunting license sales are set to begin August 31.

Maurier said the quota of 75 wolves is a conservative approach to hunting a prolific species like the wolf, whose numbers in recent years have increased about 20 percent annually in Montana.

"The quota limits the total number of wolves that can be taken by hunters and it ensures that FWP can carefully monitor the population before, during, and after the hunting season," he said.   "We want to take it slowly, learn from the experience, and ensure that we do this right."

At the end of 2008, about 500 wolves lived in Montana in about 84 packs, 34 of which were breeding pairs. Some 1,650 wolves lived in the northern Rocky Mountain region, where wolves can travel about freely to join existing packs or form new packs.

"In Montana, we finally have the full range of tools to manage wolves along with elk, deer, bears, mountain lions, grouse, bighorn sheep, and some 600 other fish and wildlife species. Our goal is to manage all Montana wildlife in balance with their habitats, other species, and in balance with the people who live here."

The recent removal of the wolf from the federal endangered species list allows Montana to manage wolves in a manner similar to how bears, mountain lions and other wildlife species are managed, guided completely by state management plans and laws.  

To learn more about Montana’s wolf hunt, visit FWP online.

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