Aislin Tweedy

(Daily Montanan) Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks are proposing to reduce the hunting quota for wolves statewide from 450 to 289, according to the department and an interview with a spokesperson.

FWP said the wolf population has dropped in the last two years, and it believes the new quota will keep wolves at a healthy and sustainable population per state law.

“State law, set by the 2021 Montana Legislature, requires FWP to reduce wolf populations in Montana to a sustainable level,” said Greg Lemon, FWP public information officer. “We believe the quota of 289 wolves will meet that statutory requirement while ensuring a healthy wolf population in the state.”

This announcement comes a year after the wolf numbers fell in 2022, according to the 2022 FWP Wolf Report.

Wolf hunting regulations in Montana are controversial. In 2022 in Region 3, which borders Yellowstone National Park, hunters killed 82 wolves, the threshold which caused the FWP to direct wolf hunters and trappers in the region to remove their equipment immediately. The threshold represented a 39% decline.

The estimated wolf population for 2022 was 1,087 wolves, according to FWP. This number is down 56 wolves from 1,143 in 2021. The number of wolf packs was 181, down 10 packs from 2021. Total wolf kills for the spring and fall of calendar year 2022 were 248.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission of FWP will decide the quota for the 2023/2024 season at its Aug. 17 meeting. FWP said the proposed quota of 289 wolves statewide reflects an average of the last five years’ statewide harvest. The allowable kills would be broken up by regions: Region 1 – 120 wolves; Region 2 – 91 wolves; Region 3 – 52 wolves; Region 4 – 15 wolves; and Regions 5, 6, and 7 – 5 wolves total.

FWP is proposing wolf trapping season to start the first Monday after Thanksgiving, outside of the mapped grizzly bear-occupied range. The FWP is proposing a floating starting date for areas inside of the mapped grizzly bear range.

Lemon said FWP is proposing to set dates like the agency did last year. Throughout December, he said the staff will assess whether grizzly bears are denned using collar information as well as reported sightings to make the determination.

“Once we feel grizzly bears are mostly denned, then we’ll open areas for wolf trapping,” said Lemon. “This assessment will be done on a weekly basis and all wolf trapping will be open on Dec. 31.”

The Commission said at its August meeting that they will also amend and review a draft rule language for non-lethal and lethal control methods that are consistent with the Montana Grey Wolf Conservation and Management Plan.