Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wolves Resurge in Rockies, Prompt New Arguments

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wolves Resurge in Rockies, Prompt New Arguments

Article excerpt

SEATTLE Wildlife managers are calling it an ecological success story. Conservation advocates say it threatens to undermine years of work to recover a once-endangered species.

The debate: A total of 553 wolves that have been killed by hunters and trappers in the Northern Rockies this season, the second since hunting of the furtive predators was made legal.

An additional 216 wolves were killed by federal Wildlife Services agents, largely to prevent ongoing conflicts with livestock.

Figures are trickling in as hunting seasons wind down in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, where wolves were hunted to extinction in the last century but, in the wake of a controversial reintroduction program, are now ensconced in all three states and pushing toward Washington, Oregon and California.

State wildlife officials, fearing the recovery has been too robust, have encouraged hunters and trappers to shave the numbers back, and the latest figures show that effort has worked, with 225 wolves killed in Montana, 69 in Wyoming and 259 in Idaho.

Is that a healthy number? No, thats persecution at an incredible level, said Marc Cooke, spokesman for an advocacy group, Wolves of the Rockies, in Stevensville, Mont.

But state wildlife officials say they are maintaining healthy wolf populations in all three states and cannot ask residents to put up with more.

We need to achieve a reduction. Montana has made room for wolves, we are long past the period of recovering wolves, and we are committed to managing for a recovered population, said Jeff Hagener, director of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The best news is that hunters and trappers, the core of Montanas wildlife conservation program, are helping us manage Montanas most recently recovered native species.

Montanas wolf harvest was up 36 percent this year, including four radio-collared wolves from Yellowstone National Park shot by hunters. The deaths of the four prompted a national outcry. Gov. Steve Bullock signed into law last month legislation that will open the door to even more hunting, lowering license fees for nonresidents, reducing the five-day wait for hunters obtaining new licenses, and allowing the use of electronic calls to lure the animals. …

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