Gone hunting wolves

 

By the time you read this blog, I will be on my second day of hunting gray wolves in Montana. An old friend of mine in Livingston introduced me to some ranchers in Paradise Valley to write a story of their hunt. We will be trudging through a wilderness of snow on horseback, hoping to “get lucky”, you might say. Luck, I’ve found, is at least 50 percent of hunting anyway -- for wolves, it’s probably closer to 80 percent.

That’s not to say wolf hunters this year have been unsuccessful. Looking through wildlife agency websites for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, hunters have recorded fairly significant kill numbers. All this occurs as wolf reintroduction, “the greatest success of the Endangered Species Act”, enters a new era -- one I'm hoping to explore in my story on the topic. The survival of America’s gray wolves now rests in the hands of state wildlife agencies and sportsmen, who have supplanted environmentalists as their diligent guardians.

Some statistics to date:

Hunters in Montana have harvested 84 wolves as of Thursday afternoon, out of a population of at least 650 statewide. Different this year compared to the last is that there is no statewide wolf harvest limit. In 2011, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks set a harvest quota of 220 wolves, but even though hunters had a 46-day extension, they only killed 166 wolves by the end of the season in mid-February. Another difference: This 2012 season allows trapping in Montana for the first time since wolves were delisted. From December 15 through February 28, trappers will be able to snatch three pelts apiece.

Idaho doesn’t have a state bag limit either, and their season starts earlier and ends later. Last year, with a population estimated around 746 wolves, hunters and trappers killed a combined 349. Trappers are typically more successful than hunters, but there are fewer of them, as Jason Husseman, regional wildlife biologist for Idaho Department of Fish and Game told me.  Roughly 1,000 trappers took the state's mandatory trapper license course this year, compared with over 100,000 hunters that head out into the woods, many of them looking for wolves. So while trapping may be an easier way to kill a wolf, there just aren’t as many people doing it … so far.

Wyoming is the state environmental groups worried about the most during the height of the wolf de-listing wars, and was the last state to get approval for a wolf hunt.  Wolf advocates worried the state would kill off their population with lax regulations. Depending on how you look at it, they may have had reason to fret. The state designated wolves “predatory animals” except for within four management units, plus Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. As predatory animals, wolves can be killed, year-round, without a license. On the other hand, some say the majority of Wyoming’s wolf population is located in the management units, which all have quotas, and the rest of the state isn’t inhabited by wolves. It’s tough to gauge who’s right at this point. So far 37 wolves have been harvested in the management units; the total quota for the units is 52. Outside the units, 19 wolves have been killed to date.

If you’re hankering to kill a wolf and you live outside one of these states, I'd recommend taking your gun to Idaho. They only charge non-residents $31.75 for a wolf tag. Montana's fee is $350 (compared to $19 for locals) and Wyoming charges $180 (residents pay just $18). Either way, you’re going to have a tough time. Wolves aren’t easy to spot. I’m sure I’m finding that out by now.

Neil LaRubbio is the editorial fellow at High Country News. His Twitter handle is @VictorAntonin.

Photos provided by Wade Richardson.

High Country News Classifieds
  • WATER POLICY ANALYST WITH WRA (BOULDER)
    Position Summary: Western Resource Advocates seeks a passionate Water Policy Analyst with knowledge of western water issues to join our Healthy Rivers Team to strengthen...
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • PROGRAM MANAGER, SUSTAINING FLOWS
    Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • PROGRAM ASSOCIATE - VERDE RIVER EXCHANGE
    Verde River Exchange - Friends of the Verde River, Cottonwood, AZ. Apply at https://verderiver.org/employment-opportunities/
  • CODE COMPLIANCE OFFICER
    Teton County Planning & Building is hiring! Our ideal candidate is a team-player, a problem-solver, pays attention to detail, and can clearly communicate technical material...
  • ARCHITECTURE DRAFTSPERSON/PROJECT MANAGER
    Studio Architects is seeking a full time Architectural drafts-person/project manager with1-3 years of experience to join our firm. At Studio Architects our mission is to...
  • ASSISTANT MANAGER/TRAINEE, COLORADO RANCH
    needed for 16,000+ acre conservation property in south central Colorado. Qualified candidate would have experience working on a ranch or wilderness property, general forestry/fire management...
  • FARM HAND &/OR NANNY IN ESCALANTE
    Nanny for 18-mnth-old. Yearly salary, vacation, health insurance. Spanish/other foreign-language native spkr prefrrd.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Washington Association of Land Trusts seeks an ED to build on WALTs significant success & to lead the association to new levels of achievement. See...
  • BEAUTIFUL CUSTOM STRAWBALE HOME IN WESTERN COLORADO!
    Secluded, energy efficient Southwestern home on 40 wooded acres. Broker - Rand Porter - United Country Real Colorado Properties. 970-261-1248, $425K
  • FORMER RETREAT CENTER/CONSERVATION PROPERTY FOR SALE
    57 acres in Skull Valley, AZ, 17 miles from Prescott, year-round creek, swimming holes, secluded canyon, hiking/meditation trails, oaks, pines, garden, greenhouse. House, office building,...
  • ARIZONA PUBLIC LANDS ORGANIZER
    Title: Public Lands Organizer About the Arizona Wildlife Federation (AWF) The AWF is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and assisting individuals and organizations...
  • HISTORIC RANCH HOME W/ 20 ACRES
    Historic 1893 Ranch Headquarters. 4 Bdrm, 3.5 Ba, 4000 ft2. Remodeled 2002. Includes 2 studio apts, stables, arena, workshop, 5 RV hookups. Chirachua & Peloncillo...
  • VICE PRESIDENT OF RETAIL OPERATIONS
    The Vice President of Retail Operations will provide overall leadership and accountability for purchasing, product development, merchandising planning, visual merchandising, retail operational excellence, oversight and...
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners seeks an experienced fundraiser with excellent communication and organizational skills.
  • PROGRAM MANAGER
    position in Phoenix with the Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy.
  • ROADS END CABIN NEAR YELLOWSTONE
    Vaulted ceilings, two fireplaces, two bedrooms, loft, jetted tub, wifi. Forest, mountain views. Wildlife. [email protected]
  • ACCOUNTING CLERK
    Our director is seeking to employ the services of an Accounting Clerk to assist with various accounting and administrative tasks. This is a great opportunity...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, COMMUNITY RADIO PROJECT
    Community Radio Project, Cortez, CO (KSJD & the Sunflower Theatre). Visit ksjd.org and click on the Executive Director search link. CRP is an EOE.