Hunters killed 163 wolves in Montana this season, far short of the state’s 220 animal quota. This shortfall of around 25% has led some in the state to call for an extended season — the season ended at sunset on Wednesday February 15 — and others to say enough is enough. Some hunters and livestock owners are urging wildlife commissioners to allow the season to continue.
Animal activists of course didn’t want a wolf season in the first place and are adamant against extending the season because it would carry over the predator’s breeding season. Stuck in the middle of these opposing views are the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission, who undoubtedly can’t please everybody.
“The quota is a ceiling; it’s not a basement. If we haven’t reached the ceiling we haven’t failed,” Bob Ream, chairman of Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission told the Associated Press. “It’s been a good season and people should treat wolves like other game animals.”
But “other game animals” are what some hunters in the state are concerned about. Many feel the state’s declining elk numbers are the result of too many wolves, which were reintroduced to Montana and Idaho in the mid 1990’s. Hunters and trappers in Idaho have killed 294 wolves to date. That state’s wolf season runs through June 30. Unlike Montana, Idaho has no statewide quota. A 2011 wolf population count for both states should be completed next month.
As of press time it doesn’t look as though the Montana season will be extended. Last month Ream and fellow commissioner Ron Moody voted against extending the season in portions of the Bitterroot Mountains near the Idaho border in response to complaints about declining elk numbers. A final vote on the matter is set for Thursday.