BILLINGS – Montana and Idaho are moving to host the first open gray wolf hunts in the lower 48 states after the animal’s removal from the endangered list across much of the Northern Rockies.
Montana wildlife commissioners voted Wednesday to let hunters throughout the state shoot 75 wolves, or 15 percent of Montana’s population, beginning in mid-September
In Idaho, commissioners meet later this month to set their quota. A prior plan called for hunting almost 250 wolves.
Legal challenges to the hunts are certain as environmentalists argue wolves could again be driven toward extinction.
Experts, however, said wiping out wolves would be difficult. And state wildlife managers said the quotas are crucial to keep the fast-breeding predators in check and limit attacks on domestic sheep and calves.
“We’re signaling our commitment to being responsible wildlife managers,” said Montana’s lead wolf biologist, Carolyn Sime.
Without hunting or another means to manage wolves, she added, “you either eliminate all the wolves or you eliminate all the livestock.”
Gray wolves once ranged from Alaska to Mexico.
Hunting, trapping and government-sponsored poisoning wiped out the species across most of the lower 48 states by the 1930s.
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