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Changes to 2021-2022 wolf trapping season in Montana

Wolf
Posted at 6:09 PM, Oct 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-28 20:09:36-04

HELENA — The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved adjustments of the 2021-2022 Wolf Trapping Season in an effort to reduce non-target captures of federally protected lynx and grizzly bears.

The trapping season had been set to begin the first Monday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 29 this year with a Dec. 15 date for wolf management areas where grizzlies are present, which includes much of western and south-central Montana.

After public feedback and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) input, the commission decided to move the opening date of grizzly impacted wolf management units to FWP’s discretion with a default date of Dec. 31.

The goal is to allow grizzlies to enter hibernation before traps could be set. FWP will provide advanced public notice for when each district will open.

The impacted wolf management units are: 100, 101, 110, 121, 130, 150, a portion of 200, all of 210, 280, 290, 310, 313, 316, 320, the western portion of 390 (west of Hwy 310, South of I-90, and west of I-15/Hwy 69), and the western portion of WMU 400 (north and west of I-15/Hwy 87, west of Hwy 223 between Fort Benton and Hwy 2 at Chester, south of Hwy 2 between Chester and I-15 at Shelby, and west of I-15 between Shelby and the Canadian border.

The goal is to allow grizzlies to enter hibernation before traps could be set. FWP will provide advanced public notice for when each district will open.

Opponents of the change said wolves are difficult to hunt and the Monday after Thanksgiving gives them a fair shot a filling their tags. Proponents supported moving the start date back but believed it should be set at a firm Dec. 31. Grizzly advocates also wanted to see the closing date moved up to Feb. 15, believing the Mar. 15 closing date for the season was too late and grizzlies would already be out of hibernation if there was a mild winter.

No action was taken regarding the closing of the wolf trapping season, which remains Mar. 15.

The commission also prohibited snaring of wolves in Lynx Protected Zones on public lands. Snaring will still be allowed on private lands in those protected areas.

At the commission meeting, FWP Director Hank Worsech also provided clarification for the number of wolves a person can harvest each hunting season. In Montana, a hunter can harvest up to 10 wolves with a rifle or bow, and another 10 through trapping for the potential of 20 wolves combined in a given season.

FWP has reported 36 wolves have been harvested in Montana as of Oct. 28 for the 2021 hunting season. Officials at the Thursday commission meeting said the current harvest amount is in-line with previous years.

The new changes to wolf trapping regulations in Montana come after a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service criticism of Montana and Idaho's wolf hunting regulations and the agency stating they are conducting a comprehensive status review of the gray wolf in the western U.S.