The Montana wolf season ended with 315 wolves taken, making a record year and showing that the state's wolf population is healthy and sustainable.
This year's Montana wolf season ended on March 15. The state's six-month-long season was actually comprised of three concurrent seasons, in which a total of 315 wolves were killed by various methods.
Montana's archery season for wolves ran from Sept. 1-14, 2018. The general hunting season ran from Sept. 15, 2018 through March 15, 2019. The state's trapping season ran Dec. 15, 2018, through Feb. 28, 2018.
During that time period hunters killed 165 wolves and trappers killed 130. The remaining wolf deaths were the result of train and automobile collisions, federal agents or landowners killing wolves because of livestock depredation, or were illegal kills/unknown.
During the previous year's wolf hunting season, 305 wolves were killed, with 166 taken by hunters and 88 by trappers. Montana sold 17,000 wolf hunting licenses this season. That license number is down several thousand from previous years.
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 1 wildlife program manager, Neil Anderson, opined that December and January mild weather had something to do with the good harvest. Most wolves harvested by hunters and trappers were taken during December and January.
"I think it had to do with the conditions on the ground, especially for trapping," Anderson said in the Flathead Beacon. "We had a pretty mild December, with not a lot of snow and not a lot of changes in snow patterns. That's more conducive for folks to get out and get after them. When the temperatures dropped and the snow started accumulating, traps start to freeze up, and we saw the harvests really taper off toward the end of the season."
He also reckons that while the wolves are getting smarter to hunting methods, hunters are also upping their skills at pursuing the big predators.
"More people are figuring out this whole wolf-hunting thing, which takes a lot of effort and knowledge," he said. "These are smart animals."
Nick Gevock, conservation director for the Montana Wildlife Federation, emphasized the importance of hunters and trappers in managing the state's wolf population, which biologists believe currently stands at around 850 statewide.
"We want to have ethical, fair-chase wolf hunters in the field helping to manage the species, but we also want to keep the wolf population healthy," Gevok said. "They are a difficult species to hunt, and I think Montana hunters and trappers are stepping up and showing that they are able to get the job done. I think that's reflective in this year's record wolf harvests."