Montana FWP officials reportedly want to triple the number of gray wolves hunters can kill in an area bordering Yellowstone National Park.
According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agency wishes to raise the harvest quota in a hunting district near Gardiner from two to six. The agency cites the need to “stabilize” the population, which currently stands at 24 animals. From the Chronicle:
Yellowstone scientists and administrators have sought for years to establish a buffer zone around Yellowstone where hunting would be restricted. Even under smaller quotas, they’ve said too many wolves were being killed once they stepped into Montana.
The quota in a second area bordering the park would not change, nor would a similar quota in an area bordering Glacier National Park in the northwestern Montana. Fish Wildlife and Parks Commissioners are scheduled to consider the proposal Thursday, with a final decision in July.
The higher quota would stabilize but not reduce the local wolf population, said Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim.
“Our guys are saying we could take a few more and get down to a better balance with elk and other species,” he said.
Marc Cooke with the advocacy group Wolves of the Rockies said he’s urging officials to drop their plans to up the quota in the 60-square mile hunting district around Gardiner.
“It’s kind of ridiculous that they would consider bumping it up to six, considering it’s such a small amount of land,” Cooke said. “These Yellowstone wolves and these people who go to Yellowstone to watch wildlife they need to be heard, too.”
There’s no limit on how many wolves can be killed statewide. Hunters and trappers harvested 210 of the animals in Montana during the 2015 season.
The proposal comes after a new study spearheaded by the University of Washington posited wolf sightings in Yellowstone and Denali went down by approximately half when hunting was permitted at the periphery of park boundaries. According to the Chronicle, FWP officials previously attempted to set up a no-kill buffer zone east and west of Gardiner; a judge struck down the restrictions after ranchers and property rights advocates sued.
Previously, officials raised the quota to four wolves in 2013. Subsequently, they reduced it to three in 2014 and to two last year.