Yellowstone officials expressed displeasure at a Montana state plan to increase grey-wolf hunting that also rejects the idea of a no-hunting buffer near the Park.The new wolf-hunting rules, as they stand now, would allow a hunter to bag five wolves during a longer season and set quotas in areas outside Yellowstone. When setting the new Montana wolf hunt rules, the Montana Legislature specifically prohibited a no-hunting zone near the Park.
Still, there’s some wiggle room, and Montana wildlife commissioners are expected to use that wiggle room to lessen the impact on Yellowstone wolves. Hunters near the Park would be allowed only one wolf, and the areas where quotas would apply is expanded.
That may not be enough to placate Yellowstone officials, who say the new Montana wolf hunt law targets Yellowstone wolves. Wildlife doesn’t respect human boundaries like Park limits and state lines, and given the propensity of wolves to wander over a large range in the course of a year, it’s inevitable that many will go into Montana — where, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say, the wolves become Montana’s problem. Last year 12 Yellowstone wolves were killed in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming after leaving Yellowstone.
Yellowstone’s chief scientist Dave Hallac said he appreciated the changes but added that it was unclear whether the commissioners will accept the agency’s recommendations.
“The park is not anti-hunting,” Hallac said. “What we’re trying to do is balance the conservation of wolves in Yellowstone, which are not an exploited population right now, with some level of reasonable harvest.”
Wildlife commission chairman Dan Vermillion said the move to lower the bag limit to one wolf near Yellowstone – versus five animals elsewhere in the state – was about increasing hunter opportunity, so that one hunter couldn’t fill the entire quota.
The presence of wolves in Yellowstone is still a contentious issue for sportsmen, who argue wolves diminish the number of elk in the region, and area ranchers who say their livestock is threatened by wolves.
Image courtesy National Park Service.
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