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Montana sees first wolf population decrease since 2004

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HELENA — This year’s wolf hunt saw the largest take in the hunt’s short history.

According to a press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the minimum number of wolves in Montana at the end of 2012 was 625 wolves in 147 packs and 37 breeding pairs — a population decrease of 4 percent from 2011 numbers. 

In contrast, the wolf population actually increased in 2010 by 8 percent and again in 2011 by 15 percent. 

The 2012 numbers do not include 95 wolves harvested between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 of this year. Those wolves will be included in next year’s count.

“We’re making some progress,” FWP Director Jeff Hagener said in the press release. “Confirmed livestock loss has been on a general downward trend since 2009, and we have more tools now for affecting wolf populations. In some areas, where hunting, trapping and livestock-depredation removals have been effective, it looks like the wolf population’s growth has been curbed this year. In other areas, the population may be leveling off, but we have more work to do. There are still places where we need to manage for a better balance among other Montana wildlife and with Montana’s livestock producers and their families.”

Hunters and trappers combined took 175 wolves in 2012, compared to 121 taken by hunters in 2011. 

To prevent livestock depredation, wildlife agencies killed a total of 108 wolves in more than 70 different instances, up from 64 depredation-related harvests in 2011. 

“Confirmed livestock depredations due to wolves included 67 cattle, 37 sheep, one dog, two horses and one llama in 2012. Cattle losses in 2012 were the lowest recorded in the past six years,” the press release read. “The delisting of wolves in 2011 allows Montana to manage wolves in a manner similar to how bears, mountain lions and other wildlife species are managed, which is guided by state management plans, administrative rules, and laws ... The recovery of the wolf in the northern Rockies remains one of the fastest endangered species comebacks on record.”

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