HELENA — The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted new wolf hunting regulations at its meeting this week in Helena, with new special consideration for the hunting of wolves near Yellowstone National Park.
On Thursday, the Commission voted to do away with the state’s 18 current Wolf Management Units (WMU). This coming hunting season wolves will now be managed in seven regional trapping units and one WMU. The new WMU 313 is a combination of the old WMU 313 and 316, both of which border the north side of Yellowstone.
Hard harvest quotas were set for each trapping district totaling 450 wolves combined. Independent of the trapping districts, a quota of six wolves was set for the new WMU 313. FWP had recommended a quota of 10 for the new WMU, but the commission said they lowered that number to six based on input from the National Parks and the public.
“One of the things that is really important to me is this sense of trying to get to some level of compromise,” said Fish and Wildlife Commission Vice Chair Patrick Tabor. “We all know what happened to the Gardiner area. So if this creates a little bit or reprieve in terms of what will happen, in the tourism perspective, I think that was compelling.”
In the 2021-22 wolf season, 21 wolves were killed by hunters in WMU 313 and 316. One Yellowstone wolf pack, the Phantom Lake Pack, was considered eliminated by park biologists.
The 2019-20 quotas for WMU 313 and WMU 316 were set at two per unit. The intent of the low quota was to follow state law regarding the management of wolves while limiting the impact of Yellowstone wolves. In 2021, the Fish and Wildlife Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, saw significant member changes following the election of Republican Governor Greg Gianforte. That year the Gianforte majority commission removed all quotas for the WMUs near Yellowstone choosing to manage wolf quotas by region instead.
The number of wolves killed in Montana during the 2021-22 wolf season outside Yellowstone saw outcry from wildlife advocates, local wildlife viewing guides and Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly.
FWP estimates there are about 1,100 wolves living in Montana. A total of 273 wolves were killed by hunters in the 2021-22 wolf season.