Montana's wolf hunting controversy just got a lot more heated.
The hot button topic of wolf hunting is probably going to get much more heated in the coming months after the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted their 2021/2022 regulations for the species with some significant changes that are sure to cause controversy.
The commission reported they received more than 26,000 comments on the matter prior to their August 20 meeting. The most notable change is the elimination of specific harvest quotas.
This does not mean it is a total open season on the wolves though. Commission reviews and in-season adjustments to regulations will happen once the harvest hits a certain number of animals. Statewide, a total harvest of 450 wolves will initiate such a review. For every additional 50 wolves harvested after that, the commission will do a similar review.
In their press release, the FWP stated that similar reviews and adjustments might also be made once harvests hit the following numbers for these regions:
- Region 1 - 195 wolves
- Region 2 - 116 wolves
- Region 3 - 82 wolves
- Region 4 - 39 wolves
- Region 5 - 11 wolves
- Region 6 - 3 wolves
- Region 7 - 4 wolves
This means that while there is no quota, Montana could potentially close the season early if commissioners determine too many wolves have been harvested. It is worth noting that just 315 wolves were killed in the 2019 season. So, there is the possibility hunters may not hit these numbers anyway.
However, this is not the only major change to wolf season in Montana though. Wolf hunters will be allowed 10 licenses and trappers will have a bag limit of 10 animals. FWP has also decided to allow the use of baits for hunting and trapping. Night hunting will also be permitted for wolves, albeit only on private lands.
FWP has also set the trapping season to run from the first Monday after Thanksgiving to March 15 statewide. In areas FWP has designated a grizzly bear recovery zone, hunters will have to wait a bit longer until the bruins hibernate, December 15 before they can begin. Additionally, trappers will want to be careful since non-target captures must be reported to FWP within 24 hours and each non-target capture of a grizzly bear or lynx could initiate a commission review with potential to change the regulations mid-season.
While snaring will be legal on both public and private land, FWP noted the exact regulations in their press release. Specifically, all snares are required to have a loop stop that closes the loop to no smaller than 2.5 inches in diameter. All snares must be placed so the bottom of the snare loop is 18 inches above the surface and must have breakaway devices rated at 1,000 pounds or less on the loop end.
Trappers on public land are also prohibited from using spring loaded snare locks. In lynx protection zones, a relaxing snare lock is required. Montana's wolf seasons have been extremely controversial with hunters and non-hunters alike in the past. It will be interesting to see if hunters meet or exceed the review numbers set for this season.
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