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The Urgent Need for Advocacy in Montana’s Wolf Management

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Wolves have long been a symbol of the wild, embodying freedom, strength, and the delicate balance of nature. However, in Montana, their future hangs in the balance. The state’s wolf management strategies are currently under scrutiny, and the decisions made now will have long-lasting impacts on wolf populations and their ecosystems.

At the Wolf Conservation Center, we believe in the power of informed advocacy and collective action. We need your voice to guide Montana’s wolf management towards a future where wolves are respected and protected.

The Challenge Facing Montana’s Wolves

Montana has opened a public comment period regarding its draft 2023 wolf plan. This is a pivotal moment for wolves in the region. The state’s approach to wolf management has raised significant concerns among conservationists, scientists, and wolf advocates. The strategies adopted in this period will shape not only the survival of wolves in Montana but also the health of the entire ecosystem.

Key Points for Your Comment

As you prepare to submit your comment, we urge you to focus on the following critical issues:

  • Science-based Population Estimates: Challenge the reliance on the Integrated Patch Occupancy Model (IPOM), a model not backed by peer-review and based primarily on data from hunting communities. This model does not accurately reflect wolf populations, as it is based on 1) an estimated annual wolf distribution based on hunter observations, combined with 2) a prediction of territory sizes to predict the overall number of packs in an area. The predicted number of packs and pack sizes are then combined to calculate the total abundance estimate.
    • Without more precise counts to determine wolf population size, FWP could mark wolf populations as stable when they could actually be declining.
  • Inhumane Nature of Trapping: Emphasize the indiscriminate and cruel nature of trapping. Traps and snares cause injury and death to non-target species, including endangered ones. They disrupt the natural social structure of wolf packs and can lead to increased conflicts with humans and livestock.
    • Trapping poses a threat to grizzly bears and wolverines, who are now federally protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Like grizzly bears, wolverines could be a non-target species impacted by trapping. Judge Molloy’s recent decision to limit wolf trapping to Jan. 1 to Feb. 15 in FWP Wolf Regions 1-5 and in Hill, Blaine and Phillips counties in an effort to protect threatened grizzly bears indicates that wolf trapping poses a significant threat to the recovery of threatened and endangered species that share the landscape.
    • Hunters can use snares and foot-hold traps to kill wolves. Snares can cinch around a wolf’s neck, slowly cutting off circulation from a wolf’s head to their heart. Their brain begins to swell until the wolf’s head explodes – a horrible death referred to as “jelly head phenomena.”
    • los trapping of wolves leads directly to more livestock attacks by the eradication of wolf family groups.
  • Impact on Wolf Social Structure and Ecology: Explain how excessive hunting disrupts the natural dynamics of wolf packs, leading to ecological imbalance. Refer to the situation around Yellowstone National Park, where an increase in wolf deaths has led to the breakdown of pack structures and biological processes.
    • FWP needs to recognize the essential role wolves play as a keystone species.
  • Violation of Fair Chase Hunting Practices: Address the ethical concerns surrounding practices like night hunting and baiting, which give hunters an unfair advantage and undermine ethical wildlife management principles.
    • FWP calls for increasing opportunities to kill wolves and “reduce wolf population abundance” (p. 54) through allowing tools to make hunting wolves easier, such as baiting and night-hunting, and implementing additional equipment, like electronic calls. These practices violate fair chase hunting ethics by giving hunters an unfair advantage over their target animals.

How to Make Your Voice Heard

Your participation is essential. Here’s how you can submit your comment:

  • Reopened and Extended Comment Period: 5 pm on Saturday, March 9, 2024
  • Initial Deadline for Comments: 5 pm on Tuesday, December 19, 2023

FWP is hosting regional in-person and virtual public meetings to answer questions about the draft 2023 wolf plan. Learn how to attend.

Together, We Can Make a Difference

Your voice has the power to influence the future of wolves in Montana. By engaging in this comment period, you’re advocating for responsible, ethical, and science-based wildlife management. It’s about ensuring that wolves are managed with respect for their ecological and intrinsic value.

We at the Wolf Conservation Center are committed to safeguarding the future of wolves through education, advocacy, and research. Join us in this crucial advocacy effort to shape a better future for wolves in Montana and beyond.

Thank you for standing with us and for the wolves.

Don’t let this opportunity pass by. Your participation in this critical comment period is invaluable.

Want to do more for wolves? You can be assured any donation you send to the Wolf Conservation Center goes directly to our mission: to advance the survival of wolves by inspiring a global community through education, advocacy, research, and recovery.