The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has donated $25,000 to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks for wolf management.
“This grant will put more collars on more wolves so Montana’s wildlife managers have more relevant data on Montana’s wolf population,” RMEF President David Allen said in a news release. “We are far over objective on wolf numbers and the more specific data we have the better we can manage the population downward.”
The money will go toward a new population modeling effort FWP uses to determine wolf numbers. It combines hunter observations with a calculation using average pack territory sizes and average pack individual counts to estimate how many wolves might be on the landscape.
The RMEF funds will pay for GPS radio collars and related equipment. FWP uses the collars to better figure what wolf pack territory size is in different parts of the state. The collars also collect wolf movement data, which can be studied after the collars are recovered.
At least 627 wolves were in Montana during 2013, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Annual Wolf Report. That compared with 625 last year.
FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim said the new method has been in development for five years.
“It’s another way, and a cheaper way, to get a handle on estimated wolf numbers,” Aasheim said. “In 2012, we had a minimum count of 625 wolves in 147 packs using our verified observations of wolves from the air, on the ground and hunter observations. This model predicted 804 wolves and 165 packs.”
RMEF in the past has donated money that state game managers put toward federal predator control efforts. Montana contracts with the federal Wildlife Services program, which provides hunters and trappers to kill wolves suspected of killing or harming domestic livestock. The Missoula-based nonprofit group has awarded more than $240,000 in wolf management grants in the past two years.
“We very much appreciate the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s continuing support of science-based wildlife management,” FWP Director Jeff Hagener said in a statement. “RMEF has been a great friend of wildlife and a valuable partner with our agency. With budget constraints and the need to address many challenging issues, this grant is especially appreciated as it will enhance the information we have available to manage wolves and find the proper balance between wolves, other wildlife, hunting opportunities and landowner tolerance.”
The FWP Board of Commissioners is considering creating a special landowner quota of 100 wolves a year that can be killed without a license if a landowner believes they threaten human safety, pets or livestock. Commissioners may also authorize a special permit drawing for wolf trappers who want to on wildlife management areas, including the Blackfoot-Clearwater, Fish Creek and Mount Haggin WMAs.
Public comment on the proposals is accepted through June 23. For detailed information, go to the “Hunting” section on fwp.mt.gov. Written comments can be mailed to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Attn: Wildlife Public Comments, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701.