Outdoors

Montana turns tide on wolves; first year since 2004

This undated image provided by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks shows a wolf in Montana. Hunters in Montana have shot about 160 wolves as the season came to an end in mid February, 2012, falling short of the state’s 220-animal quota.  (Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)
This undated image provided by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks shows a wolf in Montana. Hunters in Montana have shot about 160 wolves as the season came to an end in mid February, 2012, falling short of the state’s 220-animal quota. (Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)
PREDATORS — Montana wildlife officials say they've finally turned the tide on the growth of gray wolf populations that generally have been increasing since the 1900s.
 
At least 625 wolves inhabited Montana at the end of 2012 according to state wildlife managers in a summary of a federally required annual wolf conservation and management report released today.
Montana's verified minimum wolf count decreased more than 4 percent in 2012, compared to a 15 percent increase in 2011 and an eight percent increase in 2010 despite  open hunting seasons.
 
The minimum wolf count is the number of wolves actually verified by FWP wolf specialists at the end of the year. Actual numbers likely are higher.
 
The 625 wolves are in 147 packs with and 37 breeding pairs.
 
While it's the first time since 2004 that the minimum count has decreased, Montana’s minimum wolf pack and breeding pairs estimates increased slightly from 2011.
 
The 2012 calculation, however, doesn't include the 95 wolves taken by hunters and trappers between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 of this year.
 
“We're making some progress,” said FWP Director Jeff Hagener. “Confirmed livestock loss has been on a general downward trend since 2009, and we have more tools now for affecting wolf populations. In some areas, where hunting, trapping and livestock-depredation removals have been effective, it looks like the wolf population's growth has been curbed this year. In other areas the population may be leveling off, but we have more work to do. There are still places where we need to manage for a better balance among other Montana wildlife and with Montana's livestock producers and their families.”



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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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