Darrell Ehrlick

(Daily Montanan) The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department says that hunting and trapping wolves is fine. But, it doesn’t have the resources to translocate — or move — them to another state.

In May 2023, Jeff Davis, Colorado’s Director of Parks and Wildlife, sent a request to Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington, seeking 30 to 50 wolves during the course of “several years,” because voters there had passed Proposition 114, which created a wolf re-introduction plan for the state.

Colorado media outlets reported that the state had reached out to other states, including Montana, but had to go to Oregon to get its first wolves, after Idaho and Montana declined.

Greg Lemon, spokesperson for the Montana FWP, said that Montana does not have adequate staff to handle the request, which would include locating the wolves, trapping them and then transporting them. For example, he said that contributing the animals to Colorado would have likely required an environmental impact statement and other documentation that could have monopolized staff time.

He told the Daily Montanan that Davis had reached out to former FWP Director Hank Worsech, who was contacted by letter by Colorado. He said that Worsech had a phone conversation with Davis, declining to help Colorado reintroduce wolves with Montana animals.

Lemon said the decision was made by Worsech and that the governor’s office was not involved with the decision.

In regards to public information requests and inquiries by media, the Montana FWP released this statement:

“Wolf management in Montana is controversial and demands a balance of sometimes competing values from landowners, hunters, trappers and the general public. This will remain our focus. Moving wolves to Colorado would involve a lengthy environmental review, public process and ultimately a commission decision. It would also involve staff time in the field to find, trap and move wolves. This effort would take our focus off managing wolves for the people of Montana. We are simply not willing to divert our attention from this important task.”

Even though Montana declined to “translocate” wolves, the state is currently involved with moving another species. Montana has agreed to move some of its grizzly bears to Wyoming in an effort to connect isolated bear populations and diverse their genetics.

“That’s part of our commitment to the conservation of the species,” Lemon said. “We have to ensure genetic exchange and that’s important.”

The Daily Montanan asked what made the two decisions different, and Lemon said wolves have proliferated in the state, whereas the bears’ recovery has been a slower process that could benefit from the new genetics.

“The reality is that we have finite capacity and resources for our wildlife,” Lemon said. “And, (the Colorado) request is just not where we’re at.”