After a public comment period that drew more than 26,000 comments, the Montana Fish & Wildlife Commission at its August 20 meeting adopted several changes to the 2021/2022 wolf hunting and trapping regulations.
Changes include eliminating quotas, increasing the number of wolf trapping and hunting licenses allowed for individual hunters, extending wolf trapping seasons, and the allowance of snares for trapping wolves.
In a 3-2 decision by commissioners, for the upcoming hunting season, a statewide quota of 450 wolves was approved - almost 40% of the estimated population according to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) data. There were also individual harvest quotas set for each region that will allow FWP to close hunting should there be too many harvested at a time.
Hunters are able to possess 10 wolf licenses and trappers are allowed a bag limit of 10 wolves. Each wolf harvested must be reported to the state within 24-hours. The commission approved snare trapping of wolves on public and private lands, and also night hunting and bait hunting of wolves
They have also instructed FWP to establish education to inform hunters about good practices and how to avoid conflict with non-target animals such as dogs.
Opponents raised several issues at the meeting, saying that the new rules were politically based rather than scientific, and stating that snares are inhumane.
Advocates said snares and baiting are necessary due to the increasing number of wolves in the state.
The commission provided the following details in a news release:
- A harvest of 450 wolves shall initiate a commission review with potential for rapid in-season adjustments to hunting and trapping regulations. Thereafter, the commission shall be similarly re-engaged at intervals of additional 50 wolves harvested, if season adjustments allow for additional wolf harvest. Additionally, the following harvests by any region alone shall initiate a commission review with potential for rapid in-season adjustments to hunting and trapping regulations:
- Region 1: 195 wolves
- Region 2: 116 wolves
- Region 3: 82 wolves
- Region 4: 39 wolves
- Region 5: 11 wolves
- Region 6: 3 wolves
- Region 7: 4 wolves
- A non-target capture of one lynx or grizzly bear shall initiate a commission review with potential for rapid in-season adjustments to trapping regulations. Afterwards, the commission shall be similarly re-engaged for any additional non-target capture of lynx or grizzly bear.
- All non-target captures shall be reported to the department with 24 hours (as currently required) to include captures from foothold traps and snares.
- Wolf snares include required equipment and setting requirements to minimize the potential for snaring and holding non-target species. Specifically:
- Snares must be equipped with a loop stop that will close to a loop no smaller than 2.5 inches in diameter (stop placed at no less than 8 inches from end of loop).
- Snares must have a breakaway device rated at 1,000 lbs. or less installed on the loop end.
- Snares must be placed such that the bottom of the snare loop is at least 18 inches above the surface.
- If snares are allowed on public lands, power-assisted (e.g., spring-loaded) snare locks are prohibited on wolf snares on public lands.
- A relaxing snare lock is required on snares in lynx protection zones (LPZs).
- Wolf and furbearer seasons will continue to be set by the commission annually to allow opportunity for season adjustments between consecutive seasons based upon review of harvest, population size and conflicts.
- Hunters will be allowed to purchase and possess 10 wolf hunting licenses.
- Trappers will be allowed a bag limit of 10 wolves.
- Season dates for trapping wolves will be the first Monday after Thanksgiving to March 15 for the entire state. For areas inside a designated Grizzly Bear Recover Zone, the trapping season will start on Dec. 15 unless otherwise determined by FWP due to evidence the majority of bears in these areas have begun hibernation. Trappers should be aware that grizzly bears exist in much of the western half of Montana and should always be prepared to encounter a grizzly bear while trapping.
- Snaring is permitted on public and private lands consistent with trapping season dates, with the exception of those areas federally designated as Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones.
- Night hunting is permitted on private lands statewide.
- Use of baits for hunting and trapping wolves is permitted statewide with current wolf trapping bait definition.
- Eliminate quotas in WMUSs 110, 313, 316.
Montana law allows residents and nonresidents to donate their hunting license and or special permit to a disabled military veteran or disabled active duty service member. The disabled veteran or active armed forces member must be working with an organization that uses hunting as part of the rehabilitation process. While one cannot choose the organization to receive a donated license, the disabled veteran or armed forces member who receives the license will be a Purple Heart recipient and have a 70 percent or greater disability rating. Each license must be donated or surrendered before the beginning of the general hunting season. The deadline to donate your license is October 23 at a FWP office or postmarked by Oct. 23. One cannot repurchase the same license again during the license year. For more information on the program, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov. Click Disabled Veterans Hunt License Donation.
For more information on hunting and trapping wolves in Montana, visit the FWP website.