Fifteen gray wolves from five different packs were killed in Montana for preying on livestock between May 17 and May 21, making it one of the deadliest five-day stretches in 2010 for Canis lupus.
So far this year, 64 wolves have died, with the majority – 44 – being shot by federal agents for preying on livestock. The others were killed by cars or property owners or died from unknown causes.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials also have authorized the shooting of at least 18 more wolves from five packs. If successful, that will bring the total to 82 dead wolves in Montana so far this year.
“It seems a little heavy-handed, when at last count there were only 524 wolves in Montana and a lot more cows,” said Jesse Timberlake, with the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife.
Liz Bradley, a Missoula-based wolf management specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, readily acknowledges that the state is acting more aggressively this year on control actions because more wolves are on the landscape than have been here in the past decade. It’s part of an ongoing upward trend; in 1999, when about 80 wolves were spotted on Montana’s landscape, 19 were killed for wildlife depredation. Ten years later, with more than 500 wolves in the Treasure State, that number rose to 145 wolves.
“More wolves in more places equals more conflicts,” Bradley said. “We’ve seen that trend over the years. We’re still trying to use preventive methods to reduce conflicts, but there are places that hasn’t worked.”
Limited wolf hunting was opened in Montana last year. Another season is scheduled to open in September.