Montana’s Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission is planning a major expansion to the state’s upcoming wolf season, and has recently opened the plan to public comment. The new regulations will lengthen the hunting season, allow taking of wolves near bait, and increase personal bag limits to five wolves, nearly twice the limit from the previous season.
According to Reuters, the aim of the Commission is to reduce the state’s current population of an estimated 635 wolves.
“Our overall goal is to get wolves in balance with the rest of the critters on the landscape as well as landowner tolerance,” said FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim.
Montana was one of the first states where the wolf was delisted from federal protections, and one of the first to implement a wolf management season. The action was highly controversial at the time and sparked off a debate exists to this day, especially with Michigan legislators’ recent decision to allow a wolf season. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service is currently considering removing the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List for the rest of the country. This move is caused in part by the recovery of the species, which is once again causing conflicts with humans, wild game, and livestock.
Gray wolves were nearly extinct in their native ranges until recent conservation efforts, which brought back their numbers to 1,674 animals in the Northern Rockies alone. Animal rights activists argue that the species is not sufficiently recovered and can be vulnerable to over-hunting.
Wildlife agencies and hunters welcome management seasons to keep the wolf population in check, and the five states with wolf seasons–soon to be six with the inclusion of Michigan–are currently analyzing data taken from past seasons.
More information on the proposal can be seen here.
Image courtesy National Park Service