HELENA (AP) — The number of wolves in Montana increased by 15 percent to at least 653 animals despite the state’s efforts to reduce the population with an extended hunting season, state wildlife officials said Wednesday.
Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks officials said 87 more wolves were counted at the end of 2011 than were in the state a year before. There were 130 verified packs and 39 breeding pairs counted, also increases from 2010 numbers.
Ranchers concerned about wolves attacking their livestock and hunters who blame wolves for a decline big game say that’s way too many predators and the population must be reduced.
FWP authorized a quota of 220 wolves in the first hunt since Congress passed legislation last year removing endangered species protections for the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains except for Wyoming. That state’s policy was considered harmful to the species’ survival.
FWP had aimed to reduce Montana’s wolf population to 425 animals with the hunting season. But only 165 wolves were killed, or 75 percent of the quota, despite the end of the hunting season being extended from the end of December to mid-February.