Environmental Quality Council meeting June 20, 2013 Helena MT

Environmental Quality Council meeting June 20, 2013 Helena MT

The Environmental Quality Council (EQC) met today to discuss Gray Wolf Management for the 2013-2014 season. First thing is first --- MT FWP has received 20,000 comments concerning the Montana wolf hunt --- THEY NEED MORE!!!

As I sat listening to Director Jeff Hagener talking about the wolf numbers going down, depredation going down and the overall ungulate issues changing for the positive, I still found myself not surprised when I heard him say that they will have a very liberal hunting season this year to minimize wolf numbers even more. 

Director Hagener reviewed the decline in wolves’ numbers over the past 3 years; to date we have 625 (minimum count) wolves on the Montana landscape. He also discussed the number of wolves killed during the 2012-2013 seasons, the decline in depredation as well as the number of wolves killed by Wildlife Services. Director Hagener stated that people appear to be confused about the "baiting over traps" section of the 2013-2014 proposal. He claims that this is not "wolf baiting" -- last year some  trappers saw wolves over bait (not trapped) and the question was, should they be able to shoot the wolf that is standing over their bate. The answer for them this year is yes.  Director Hagener --- what is the difference and how can you regulate this?

Representative Jerry Bennett (R) from Libby MT voiced his concerns of wolves killing people as he recited the death of a woman in 2010 who was attacked and killed by 1-2 wolves while running with head phones on in Alaska. He fears for the junior high school students in his town, where he claims they have seen 4-5 wolves via wildlife cameras over the past couple of years. 

Representative Jennifer Fielder (R) Thompson Falls, MT claimed that pet owners should be responsible with their pets by keeping them on leashes, this in response to trapping on public lands. Representative Fielder claims that some of the pets trapped, were on leash enforced public lands. 

Representative Kerry White (R) Bozeman MT questioned Director Hangener about funding issues due to WS under sequestration. Director Hagener explained that US Department of Agriculture is in charge of Wildlife Services as a "control agent" not MT FWP. The director explained that Governor Bullock will not allocate money from FWP to pay for livestock losses. Representative White also asked about the money from wolf tags sold and where that money goes. Hagener discussed that the $437,048.00 that was raised through wolf tags in the 2012-2013 season is legislatively allocated equally at 50% to lethal removal of wolves and 50% to the collaring of wolves.

During the public comment period I spoke to the council and immediately brought up Representative Bennett's fears of the wolf/human conflict by pointing out that "cattle kill more human's daily than wolves have killed in the entire last century please, let's keep things in perspective".  I highlighted the absolute need for the Gardiner Basin to be included in the WMU 313 quota zone due to the fact that this area is where Yellowstone National Park (YNP) wolves will come out of the park during elk hunting season to eat off of gut piles left by hunters. With hunters able to use electronic calls and baiting over traps to kill wolves this year, a low quota as well the inclusion of this area are imperative for the survival of YNP wolves. With less than 25 wolves left on the entire northern range (prior to pup count) wolves on northern range of Yellowstone cannot survive a quota of 7 and an open hunt in the Gardiner Basin. With MT FWP's own research and data declaring human harvest the biggest problem with the decline in elk numbers -- they can no longer play the blame game with wolves. 

Keith Kubista with Montana Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife spoke and referred to the decline in moose instead of elk this time. Mr. Kubista is in favor of the proposal. Nick Gervock with Montana Wildlife Federation (MWF) praised MT FWP for this year’s wolf hunting proposal. Gervock claims that MWF is the "radical middle in this long running wolf debate"  He claims the department has struck a "nice middle ground" with this proposal. Mr. Gervock, if you're reading this --- you are far from middle ground with the endorsement of this proposal and your reasoning is without merit.