By Derek Goldman, ESC Northern Rockies Representative
We’ll, it seems as though wolves will get a reprieve from Montana hunters for the remainder of the year. As of one half hour past sunset on Monday, state wildlife managers in Montana officially closed the inaugural wolf hunting season when it appeared the hunting quota would be reached. Here’s a quick recap:
- The statewide quota was set at 75; 72 wolves were legally killed, plus at least 2 illegally.
- 15,600 wolf licenses were sold in Montana, which includes 89 to out-of-state hunters.
- The sale of these licenses brought in $325,859 to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks coffers.
- Before the hunting season opened, Montana’s wolf population was estimated at 497 animals.
One interesting note is that demand for wolf licenses was below what we may have expected, given all the anti-wolf hoopla we’ve been hearing. Montana leads the nation in hunters-per-capita, with about 19 percent of residents engaged in some sort of hunting. That means our hunting population is about 150,000. Thus, it appears that only about one in ten Montana hunters decided to go wolf hunting this year. This seems to confirm what I’ve been thinking all along: that the most rabid, anti-wolf, hunter contingent probably represents only a tiny, but vocal minority within the larger hunting community. I suspect vast majority of hunters (like me) are simply out hunting in pursuit of animals you can actually eat (mostly deer, elk and birds) in order to provide their households with some nutritious, locally-grown, natural food for the winter.
On a related note, a poll released this week by Montana State University—Billings shows a solid majority of Montana voters support the wolf hunting season. According to the poll, 75 percent of respondents agreed that wolf hunting should be allowed in Montana. So, apparently, even the non-hunting public in Montana supports at least a limited wolf hunting season.
Although Idaho is currently considering extending its wolf hunting season, the remaining wolves in Montana can kick back and take rest of the winter off.