"Appeal to Supporters: Emergency Montana Wolf Action Alert"
January 9, 2012
In 2011, Montana FWPs adopted a statewide wolf hunting quota of 220 and created an additional “wildlife management unit” (WMU) in the Bitterroot Valley (called WMU 250). The model they adopted predicted that the statewide quota will result in a 25% reduction in the wolf population; other models used by independent scientists suggest perhaps a reduction as much as 39%.
The wolf hunting quota assigned to the Bitterroot Valley (WMU 250) is 18 wolves. However, as of Dec. 23, 2011, only 3 wolves have been killed by hunters. In December, in response to pressure from hunting organizations and outfitters, Montana FWPs extended the wolf hunting season to Feb. 15, 2012 despite vehement objection from wildlife advocates.
To add to these disturbing circumstances, we have just been informed that Montana FWP has scheduled another meeting on Jan. 19, 2012 to address the 2012 Wolf Management Harvest. At that time, a proposal will be made to further extend the wolf hunting season in the Bitterroot Valley (WMU 250) through April 1, 2012 or until the quota of 18 wolves is met, whichever is first. Their rationale is based upon concerns about the impact of wolves on elk populations and the low “harvest” in the Bitterroot.
The National Wolfwatcher Coalition believes that extending a wolf hunt into April will be a devastating blow to the wolf population in Montana because it means the hunt will extend into the breeding season, thus affecting pregnant wolves and pups. We assert that this proposal is scientifically unsound and unwarranted.
Public comment on this extension will run through Feb. 13th at 5PM. Final decision will be adopted on Feb. 16th. Thus, we are sounding an alarm for your help in encouraging Montana FWP to reconsider its plans. Please contact the government agency representatives below via email and phone to voice your strong opposition to this proposal. We have provided a list of talking points to assist you. Please be reminded that appeals to our supporters are reserved for critical situations, and we believe this to be an extreme emergency.
Extending the hunt will significantly disrupt the mating season, and thus further jeopardize the future viability of wolf populations. Hunting fractures wolf pack dynamics at a critical time of year; it can cause increased livestock depredation which leads to engaging Wildlife Services and more human-caused wolf mortality.
Scientific studies show that human killing of wolves is associated with an increase in total overall wolf mortality; wolf populations will decline beyond the predictions of the management agencies, as a result. Currently predicted declines in the wolf population resulting from recreational hunting and other killing of wolves by humans will reduce the wolf population in excess of the reported wolf kill numbers. The altered pack structure that results from human-caused mortality is a significant concern for wolf conservation because it results in additional wolf population losses beyond the mere number of wolves directly killed by humans. The agency’s analysis should consider the effects of both the loss of the wolves planned or expected to be killed by humans directly – plus an increment of additional wolf population loss that will result from reduced breeding and survival resulting from the altered pack structure that the agency inappropriately discounts. (See: Scott Creel and Jay J. Rotella, Meta-Analysis of Relationships Between Human Offtake, Total Mortality and Population Dynamics of Gray Wolves (Canis lupus), PLoS ONE, September 2010, Vol. 5, Issue 9, e12918.)
A few years ago, the area in question, Westfork of the Bitterroot, was mandated by Helena legislators to reduce the ungulate population numbers. This encouraged over-hunting of ungulates which resulted in the elk population’s significant decline. Habitat loss has also caused a negative effect on ungulate population numbers in Montana, in general, and the Bitterroot , in particular.
While there may be localized areas where elk populations have declined, USFWS has acknowledged those declines cannot be attributed to wolf activity alone. Elk populations naturally fluctuate depending on the abundance of food, weather conditions, disease, and habitat loss. In fact, these regional trends have been documented for several decades, many of which have been established long before wolf reintroduction.
Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Commissioners
Tel: Chairmen Bob Ream 1.406.461.3202
Environmental Staffer, Governor Schweitzer’s Office