The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released an environmental review that proposes a management hunt for wolves in Montana's West Fork Bitterroot drainage to reduce predation on a diminished elk herd in that area.
The Service released its environmental assessment for public comment Monday. The document proposes that the state of Montana be allowed to reduce the wolf population in the West Fork area to a minimum of 12 wolves in two to three packs. It’s estimated there are currently 30 wolves in three to five packs.
Meanwhile, the West Fork elk population is estimated at 784 animals, well below a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks management objective of 1,600 to 2,400 elk.
According to a state analysis backing a wolf management hunt, “the West Fork of the Bitterroot elk population is below population management objectives and wolf predation is a primary cause of mortality preventing the elk population from reaching management objectives.”
The state has taken other actions to help the elk herd, such as increasing bag limits for black bears and mountain lions.
“We appreciate the state’s efforts to submit a science-based, peer reviewed proposal to the Service that addresses the impact of wolves on wild elk in the West Fork unit,” said Mark Wilson, the Service’s Montana Field Office supervisor.
The environmental assessment includes two alternatives, one that involves the wolf reduction plan and the other that would take no action.
Last month, the Service advanced a similar measure allowing for wolf management hunts in parts of Idaho.
The Service is accepting pubic comments through April 12. Comments can be submitted online at: http://www.regulations.gov