The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintained its call for the science-based management of wolves as Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) released its 2012 estimate of the state’s wolf population. FWP reports there are a minimum of 625 wolves in Montana, which amounts to a four percent drop since the last count in December 2011 and equates to a wolf population remaining well above the state’s management objective.
“This is a step in the right direction, but it’s a small step,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “What we need to remember is that even though hunters and trappers together had more success this season than in the past, overall wolf numbers remain well above objective. We also need to recognize that this latest calculation is a minimum estimate.”
While the new count is the first decrease since 2004, Montana’s minimum wolf pack and breeding pairs estimates actually increased slightly from 2011. The 2012 calculation does not include the 95 wolves taken by hunters and trappers between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 of this year. Overall, hunters and trappers harvested 225 wolves during the 2012-2013 season compared to hunters alone who took 128 a year ago. With more than 650 wolves reported by FWP at the end of 2011, population data indicated a harvest of nearly 400 wolves would be required to reduce the minimum population below 500.
“The best news is that hunters and trappers, the core of Montana’s wildlife conservation program, are helping us manage Montana’s most recently recovered native species,” said Jeff Hagener, director of FWP.
Hagener also stressed that even with this season’s hunting and trapping success—and 104 depredating wolves removed from the population as a result of more than 70 control actions—Montana’s wolf population remains robust.
“There is a ‘sky-is-falling’ mindset by some who believe wolf management equates to extermination. Nothing is further from the truth. Proper management is mandatory to ensure the future of all wildlife,” added Allen. “We applaud Montana and other states for their ability to manage wolves, just as they do other wildlife, with all the tools in the management tool box.”
“We need to achieve a reduction,” Hagener said. “Montana has made room for wolves, we are long past the period of recovering wolves, and we are committed to managing for a recovered population. We also need to remember it is FWP’s responsibility to manage with an eye to how all of our special wild resources affect each other and address issues such as public tolerance, including that of landowners. That is what we continually hear the public asking us to do. FWP is working to manage wolf numbers and will continue to use reasonable tools to maximize harvest opportunities.”
Logo courtesy Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation