Montana's Wolf Quota Could Go Up

With one wolf hunting season in the books, the state of Montana is set to increase the quota for next year.

From this story on KECI.com (Missoula):
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks unveiled its wolf hunting plan for this season. Increased quotas and more districts top the proposals, but it left ranchers, hunters and conservationists alike with questions.

FWP Wildlife Manager Mike Thompson just celebrated his 30th year on the job. Wolves knock the complexity right off the charts, that's the biggest thing we have going on right now," Thompson said.

_Wildlife officials say the issue goes back to the 1800s, when settlers nearly killed off the American gray wolf. Northern Minnesota had the only substantial population. The Federal Government put wolves on the Endangered Species List in the 1970s, but that statement means more than just a name on a piece of paper. "The Federal Government establishes recovery criteria that the state has to meet," Thompson said.

The biggest recovery goal says there must be at least 15 breeding pairs in Montana, but Montana is long past that. FWP estimates the wolf population grew 32% last year. That's where the problem lies. Now, they're proposing to increase this year's wolf hunt quota to 153, 186 or 216. Thompson says the only big difference between the numbers is the pace of getting control of wolf populations. "If we could restore a balance, if we could manage for a balance, as we do other species that we manage, I think people would find room to accept wolves." But, regardless of how you feel about the hunts, Thompson says wolves need to be managed. But, not everyone agrees. Montanans have until June 14 to comment. The FWP Commission is expected to make a decision in July. But, if Judge Don Molloy puts the wolves back on the Endangered Species List, the hunt would be off_