State wildlife officials increased the number of wolves that can be legally killed to 186. Last year that number was 75. Other numbers considered for the increased quota were 153 and 216. The stated reason for the increase is a wild wolf population in Montana estimated to be 506. This population is believed to be too large by ranchers, hunters and apparently some state wildlife officials. The state said wolves killed 97 cattle and 202 sheep in 2009.
A proposal was also passed which does not count illegal wolf kills in the total of 186, meaning if ten wolves were killed illegally, 186 more could still be killed legally.
The hunt is scheduled to begin September 4. For Montana residents a wolf hunting license costs $19. Non-residents pay $350. Last year’s hunt with a quota of 75 wolves generated about $325,000. There seems to be a potential conflict of interest. The state decides how many wolves will be killed, and they receive more money when they allow more hunting and sell more licenses. How much more money will be generated by a wolf hunt of 186? Could the current economic recession have played any role in the decision to more than double the wolf hunt, which undoubtedly will increase income for the state? It was just last year the wolves were removed from the endangered species list. Now, according to state wildlife officials, 186 of them are ready to be hunted and killed.
A Natural Resources Defense Council representative said of the increased hunt, “We are ultimately disappointed, we don’t think wolves are fully recovered in the Northern Rockies yet, and with so many sources of wolf mortality on the landscape, the biggest being lethal control action for livestock depredation, we think a wolf hunt is premature at this time.”
The fate of those 186 wolves in Montana has not yet been finalized, however. Federal Judge Donald Molloy still has to rule on a lawsuit filed to have the wolves reinstated as endangered and regain their protections they had just a little over one year ago. His ruling is expected to be issued shortly.
High Country News, in a review of various judges in the region, considered him to be one of the greenest judges in the West. According to HCN, in 2003 he “…shut down five timber sales in Kootenai National Forest because the Forest Service was violating its own plan for protecting old-growth habitat.” Last year he blocked the removal of grizzly bears from the Endangered Species List. He also allowed the hunting of 75 wolves to be undertaken, but thought that there was an aspect to the hunt that is questionable, “The Service has distinguished a natural population of wolves based on a political line, not the best available science.”
Image Credit: dobak