Region One wolf count discussed at Kalispell meeting

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The sportsmen’s meeting held in Kalispell on Jan. 30 drew 400 plus attendees. We would like to thank the area sportsmen and women, the Foundation for Wildlife Management, Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Montana Fish, Widlife & Parks for being there. It was a very passionate, concerned crowd who were frustrated with the ungulate population counts in Region One, located in Northwestern Montana.

Following is some alarming information received from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks on ungulate and predator numbers in Region One. Region One is the second smallest wildlife region in Montana. This area has a higher wolf count (approximately 350 — which we feel is a low estimate) than the entire state of Wyoming. Region One has 200 more wolves in it than what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service mandated for our entire state. Do we think this is OK? State Biologist Allen Schallenberger states that wolves kill 23 elk per wolf during the six winter months.

This count does not take into consideration the remaining 6 months of the year. 350 x 23 = 8,050 elk. Region One also has 1,500 mountain lions. Adult mountain lions kill one deer per week per lion. 1,500 x 52 = 78,000. Hypothetically, if these same lions kill 10 elk per year this computes to 1,500 x 10 = 15,000. How can Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks stand by and let this carnage continue? That is the 500-pound elephant in the room. These numbers do not include predation from bears and coyotes. It is not a very safe time to be an ungulate in Western Montana’s Region One.

If you take into consideration our current population of 3,300 elk in this hunting Region, the outlook is not very promising. Simple math tells us we have a major problem. Our elk herds are no longer in the back country where they used to be. These herds have been pushed into the farms, ranches and river bottoms around houses. Wolves kill more than they consume and pressure game herds year round. This causes lower pregnancy rates of does and cow elk and stresses ungulates into aborting their offspring.

WYOMING AND Idaho wildlife officials are out in front of Montana in reducing predation. In Wyoming the wolves are on the predator’s list, and the state of Idaho offers more trapping and hunting opportunities. We need to reduce the predator numbers in Region One to take the pressure off of ungulate populations. Fish, Wildlife & Parks has plenty of tools in their toolbox to correct this overpopulation of predators, such as longer seasons, putting wolves on the predator’s list in targeted regions, changing trapping setbacks, issuing more tags in areas of heavy predation, habitat restoration and increased mountain lion harvest. Sportsmen and women are ready to help Fish, Wildlife & Parks to reduce predator numbers. We just need more hunting and trapping options.

WE, AS a group of concerned sportsmen and women have been working with our State Legislators to change laws. A big thank you to House Rep. Bob Brown, who has been working with us since our first sportsmen’s meeting held in September 2018 in Trout Creek. He has stepped up and introduced legislation to help with reducing predator numbers. These include House Bills 279, 280 and 281. They need your support.

Sportsmen ask, “What can we do?” Several things can be done on an individual level. You can contact your local legislators and let them know how you feel about this issue. Support the above House bills. Contact Sens. Steve Daines and John Tester and ask them to support wildlife restoration and fire reduction efforts in the national forests to create more abundant habitat.

Remember to always be respectful when working for change. Also, individuals can support and join the three organizations that are battling for change: Foundation for Wildlife Management (www.f4wm.org), Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (www.mt.sfw.org), and The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (www.rmef.org). These groups are fighting daily through legislative changes and habitat development. It takes time, effort and money to fight for sportsmen.

It is also critical to contact Fish, Wildlife & Parks Citizen Advisory Committee from Region One. They can be found on-line at Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1 Citizen Advisory Committee. Click on that link, then on Members and that will guide you to the contact information for the 15 members of this board. We urge you to let these committee members know what your feelings are as we move forward with needed change.

THE NEXT meeting is being planned for early May in Hamilton.

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