Montana Outfitter Asks State to Close Elk Season in Bitteroot Valley

From this story in the Missoulian: Saying big-game numbers in the West Fork of the Bitterroot are precariously low, a … Continued

From this story in the Missoulian:
Saying big-game numbers in the West Fork of the Bitterroot are precariously low, a member of Bitterroot Elk Working Group has asked the state to institute an emergency hunting closure this year. Scott Boulanger sent his request to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks director Joe Maurier last week. As an outfitter of 13 years in the West Fork area, Boulanger said making the request wasn’t easy. “There aren’t very many others who will feel the impact of a closure more than me,” he said. “About 75 percent of my income comes from hunting.” Elk numbers have dropped dramatically over the past couple of years in the West Fork. Many blame high predator numbers, especially wolves, for most of the decline.

Boulanger was a member of the elk working group when it recommended setting the elk population objective in the West Fork at 2,000 several years ago. As late as 2005, biologists estimated the hunting district was home to at least that many elk. Over the last two years, elk numbers dropped to about 765. Worse yet, Boulanger said this year’s aerial survey could only find four bulls for every 100 cows. The statewide elk management plan call for a minimum of 10 bulls per 100 cows. Elk calf numbers had dropped to a ratio of about 11 per 100 cows. Biologists say it takes nearly 25 calves per 100 cows to sustain an elk herd that’s not being impacted by wolves, Boulanger said. Throw wolves into the equation and the number of calves needs to be closer to 30.

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