Montana discusses wolf kills
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
May 14, 2008
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks issued a wolf update that addresses concerns about the number of wolf control actions occurring in that state since wolves were removed from federal protections at the end of March.
The report notes:
Many have asked about how FWP exercises its “new” discretion for addressing wolf-livestock conflicts as provided for in the state’s wolf plan, particularly with respect to lethal control now that wolves are officially delisted. Others have asked more general questions related to the total number of dead wolves in Montana or for the number of wolves killed by private citizens between March 28 and April 28 (first 30 days post delisting).
FWP and the FWP Commission adopted Guidelines (consistent with Montana’s plan) which guide agency decision-making when addressing wolf-livestock conflicts. State law guides what private citizens can do. FWP is implementing those Guidelines (on a statewide basis), and they are similar to the previous 10j rule that had applied in southern Montana prior to delisting. Confirmed damage by wolves based on an investigation by USDA Wildlife Services is required prior to implementation of any lethal control, and control efforts are terminated after a maximum of 45 days or upon removal of the pre-determined number of wolves, which ever is sooner.
Because Montana’s Guidelines are similar to the old “10j” rules, Montana has not authorized any more lethal control across southern Montana than would have been the case if wolves were still listed or was the case during the same 30-day period in 2007. Across northern Montana, no injured or dead livestock have been reported and no lethal control has been authorized, which is not surprising because most livestock losses due to wolves occur in southwestern Montana where livestock densities are higher. Neither FWP nor Montana citizens have abused the transition from the federal legal framework to the state legal framework.
However, FWP and WS have documented and responded to higher levels of confirmed livestock losses in between March 28 and April 28, 2008 than in the same period in 2007. In the 2008 period, 9 wolves were killed through agency control efforts, 1 wolf was hit by a car, 1 wolf was hit by a train, 1 wolf death is under law enforcement investigation, and 1 wolf died of mange, and 1 wolf was killed on private land while caught in the act of testing livestock for a total of 14 mortalities. WS was authorized to remove up to an additional 17 wolves, one of which was due to close proximity to human dwellings and loitering behavior by an apparently habituated wolf. In 2007, 12 wolves had been authorized in the same period and 1 wolf was killed by a private citizen.
The increase in lethal control authorized in 2008 is far more reflective of what’s happening on the ground than changes in the legal framework. This is because of: an increased Montana population (up 34 % from the previous year), the late spring this year and lingering heavy mountain snow pack, and that the same packs (only larger size in 2008) have been confirmed as injuring / killing livestock in areas where losses were confirmed last year. All losses so far in 2008 were confirmed on private lands and by packs that had either depredated in the same area last year or by unknown wolves predating on livestock in the same areas as had been documented in previous years.
FWP has also opted for non-lethal options in several occasions in spring, 2008. FWP decided to increase monitoring and / or requested WS to collar and release wolves at or near the depredation sights in several instances. FWP has also worked with 3 different landowners and installed fladry (regular in 2 locations on private land and electric in 1other location on private land) and has been working collaboratively with area livestock producers and others in 4 different areas on rider projects.