Hunt quota likely 220 wolves this fall . . . Montana FWP Commission

Montana’s second hunt to be much larger than the 2009 hunt-

Montana’s wildlife commissioners have tentatively approved a wolf hunt this fall of 220 wolves, compared to their 2009 hunt of 79. There was no hunt in 210. At the end of 2010, the official wolf population estimate for Montana was 566 wolves.  This quota, if filled, is predicted to drop the state’s wolf population by 25% at the end of 2011, although there are competing computer models.

Idaho has an estimated 705 wolves, well down from its peak in 2009. Idaho’s Fish and Game Commission is expected to approve a big hunt quota, although their quota in 2009 was not reached.

Montana FWP tentatively approves 220-wolf quota for fall hunt. By Matt Volz. AP

Montana proposes 220-wolf hunting quota for 2011 season

If filled, the quota will result in estimated 25% reduction in state wolf population-

Montana’s wolf hunt is expected to be easier on the state’s wolf population than Idaho’s. With the congressional delisting of the wolf in the Northern Rockies, Montana and Idaho can pretty do what they want in terms of wolf quotas.

State wildlife officials propose 220-wolf quota for 2011 season. By Eve Byron Helena Independent Record.

Also, Obama administration takes wolves off endangered species list. AP.  They are also delisting the Great Lakes population, which is certainly ready. Unfortunately, all three states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan have fallen to tea party governors. Michigan’s seems as bad as Wisconsin’s notorious Scott Walker.

Budget bill pending before Congress would remove wolves from endangered list

Well, they’ve done it. They’ve reached an agreement to keep language in the upcoming budget bill which would delist wolves everywhere in the Northern Rockies except Wyoming. (Added to clarify what has happened)

While this process doesn’t immediately delist wolves, it cannot be challenged. It is unclear exactly what the language says but presumably wolves in the Northern Rockies will be delisted in all but Wyoming as previous wording has indicated. Previous language mandates the US Fish and Wildlife Service to republish the rule which delisted wolves in 2009. It does not preclude a petition to relist wolves if their populations become endangered again. The delisting rule still holds the states of Idaho and Montana to their management plans but it seems that, with the most recent “wolf disaster declaration” that they don’t intend to allow more than 100 wolves to persist in the state.

Also, the recent settlement agreement, as some have previously indicated, will likely provide political cover to the USFWS to accept Wyoming’s management plan with little or no changes. It seems that wolves are facing dark days ahead.

Here is the previous language, “SEC. 1709. Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this division, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on April 2, 2009 (74 Fed. Reg. 15123 et seq.) without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such re-issuance (including this section) shall not be subject to judicial review.

Budget bill pending before Congress would remove wolves from endangered list.
Matthew Brown – Associated Press

To clarify, the language has not been passed yet.  It was not included in the short term budget agreement which funds the government for the next several days but, rather, will be included in the long term budget bill which is being written and will be posted for review for three days as House rules require.

US Fish and Wildlife is accepting comments on Montana’s wolf reduction proposal in the Bitterroot Mountains

Blaming wolves for poor elk management?

Graph of information presented in Montana's Bitterroot 10(j) proposal. (Click for Larger View)

The US Fish and Wildlife Service has issued an Environmental Assessment for Montana Fish Wildlife and Park’s wolf reduction proposal for the Bitterroot hunting district HD250 just southeast of Hamilton, Montana.  In the proposal to kill all but 12 wolves in the district, they claim that wolves are responsible for declines that they have seen in the district and that they are causing “unacceptable impacts” elk population there such that they can no longer meet the objectives they have set there.

While the elk population has declined it should be noted that there was a sharp increase in harvest of all classes of elk in the area after wolves were documented even though as one of the peer reviewers says “[t]here is strong evidence that female harvests need to be reduced when wolves are present (for example, see Nilsen et al. 2005, Journal of Applied Ecology)”. The elk count objectives for the area were also drastically increased to levels far above what the area had previously supported and harvest levels remained high as well.

There is also very little information about the population of bears and mountain lions which also take elk.  Bears, in particular, take very young elk and can have a very large impact on elk populations.

Whether or not killing large numbers of wolves and other predators is effective in increasing elk populations is still debatable but it seems apparent to me that the FWP is blaming wolves for their poor management of elk and that their objectives were based on more wishful thinking rather than what was actually possible.

Here are the Criteria for Proposing Wolf Control Measures under the 2008 NRM Gray Wolf ESA Section 10(j) Rule

  1. The basis of ungulate population or herd management objectives
  2. What data indicate that the ungulate herd is below management objectives
  3. What data indicate that wolves are a major cause of the unacceptable impact to the ungulate population
  4. Why wolf removal is a warranted solution to help restore the ungulate herd to management objectives
  5. The level and duration of wolf removal being proposed
  6. How ungulate population response to wolf removal will be measured and control actions adjusted for effectiveness
  7. Demonstration that attempts were and are being made to address other identified major causes of ungulate herd or population declines or of State or Tribal government commitment to implement possible remedies or conservation measures in addition to wolf removal

Read the rest of this entry »

Earthjustice’s lawyers chastise Schweitzer for comments on wolf management

Montana Governor changes direction on wolves

May be violating federal law

Today Governor Brian Schweitzer has sent a letter to the Department of Interior stating that Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks will no longer prosecute killing of wolves by landowners defending livestock in northwest Montana, they will kill entire packs upon any livestock depredation, and they will kill entire packs of wolves in the Bitterroot to protect elk herds.

This would appear to violate federal law.

The letter is here and copied below : Read the rest of this entry »

Denny Rehberg introduces wolf legislation.

Denny Rehberg (R-MT) has introduced the first wolf bill of the new congress into the House of Representatives which would hand over management authority of wolves to the states of Montana and Idaho.

Here is the bill

Update 1/27/11: Apparently there are two bills.  The second one would remove all protections from wolves nationwide.

Here is the other bill