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Wolf concerns voiced to FWP

 

January 16, 2020

Miriah Kardelis

FULL HOUSE - Community members gathered at Lakeside Resort last Wednesday to discuss proposed regulation changes with officers from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

The Lakeside Resort conference room in Trout Creek was filled with around 250 people last Wednesday to learn about proposed hunting regulations for 2020-2021 from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP).

The agency was represented by local biologist Bruce Sterling, Neil Anderson, Region 1 Wildlife Manager and Dillon Tabish, FWP Information and Education Program Manager. Community members voiced input on changes FWP will be implementing in the coming year. Along with the 250 in the crowd, Sheriff Tom Rummel was in attendance as well as several FWP officers.

The main objective of the meeting was for FWP to hear and record comments and concerns from locals. The new proposals from FWP addressed topics including quotas for deer, elk and black beer, as well as proposals for boundary changes, shoulder season changes and season dates. However, the majority of the hunters in attendance were there to air their grievances about wolf management in the area.

The floor was opened for comments for the Region 1 proposal changes. "I'll leave you with this piece of advice; opinions are good, but ideas are better. So, we really need some ideas that are actual. Those are the kinds of things we're looking for and what our commission is looking for," Tabish stated.

Many of the proposals were not questioned by the attendees. A specific proposal regarding mountain lions could affect hunting district 121. The proposal would replace the current quota and male sub quota with separate male and female special license for each district. "The downside of this license is that there will be a lot of people applying for this license, so there could be quite a bit of wait time," Anderson said.

Jeff Smith of Trout Creek voiced his opinions about mountain lion management and wanted to know who came up with this these specific proposals. "These here are the facts, as of right now. There have been 22 tom mountain lions taken, there have been six districts with none taken. There are three that are closed, and they just closed within the last day or two. I want to know, who is not getting an opportunity to kill these mountain lions?" Smith stated. "If anything needs to be done, they need to put it back to where you don't have to draw a tag so some of these cats will get killed."

The room erupted in applause when Smith was done with his comments. "I forgot to mention, we don't want to clap or boo or anything like that. We want to make sure folks feel comfortable to come up and state their opinions here," Tabish stated.

Proposals on the wolf hunting season was opened to the floor. The FWP commission has proposed to reduce the wolf harvest quota on Wildlife Management Units (WMU) 313 and 316 from two to one. No other changes have been proposed. Concerned sportsmen noted that the 300 people in attendance at the Dec. 2018 meeting proposed a lot of the same ideas to FWP. They also noted, none of those ideas were taken into consideration.

Smith went up to the podium again. "I see no other changes have been proposed. There have been all kinds of proposals and changes we have told you guys about," he said. "If we don't belong to your little group up in Libby, then nothing changes." The room erupted again with applause.

Jim Barker of Trout Creek stated, "there has been an 84% decrease in elk harvest, so if you guys don't think wolves have a big impact on our elk, you're mistaken. If you're not going to change the rules, then you're not listening to the people."

People in attendance expressed that Montana needs to adopt more relaxed wolf management regulations, as in Idaho and Wymoing. Those in attendance suggested changing the start month of the wolf hunting season, a longer trapping season, and people want to be able to shoot wolves on-sight.

Another concerned attendee wanted to know why wolves haven't been listed as a predator. Anderson answered, "Montana FWP does not have the authority to designate wolves as a predator. That is a legislative act."

Paul Fielder, who is running for the state House of Representatives, would like FWP to take a stand with the sportsmen, to take an actual role in the legislature. "Let's be on the side of the sportsman in the legislature, and it will help the legislature that are bringing forth bills that are trying to address these concerns," he said.

Hunters expressed a desire for a more aggressive approach to wolf management. They know they can't do this alone; they have said wolves are smart and hard to hunt. They are asking FWP for help, in hopes of FWP working with the legislature to find a solution that works for everyone.

FWP is taking comments on regulation proposals until Jan. 22. For reference, the 2019 regulations are available online at fwp.mt.gov/hunting/regulations. "Opportunity for Public Comment" and supporting information can be found online at fwp.mt.gov/hunting.

 

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