Wildlife managers with Fish Wildlife and Parks say their goal has always been to maintain a healthy wolf population in Montana, while reducing impacts on livestock. Last year they set a quota of 220 wolves but hunters only harvested 166.
"Our objective was to bring that population down and our minimum population estimates our wolf population actually increased 15% after hunting season," says FWP Region Three Wildlife Manager Howard Burt.
That's why the FWP is proposing some major changes this year. They're goal is a population of 425 wolves, the same as last year. Officials are proposing a longer general season, running September 1st to February 28th. They want no quota, except for areas around Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, where conservation groups say they're necessary.
"We're certainly happy to see that the idea of a pretty low quota in management unit around the park will be maintained," says Greater Yellowstone Coalition Conservation Director Mark Pearson.
The FWP is also proposing a trapping season with mandatory education and no snares allowed.
"I think it's a good approach as far as going kind of slow and making sure it's done right because trapping is an important recreational opportunity for a lot of people and it's also a management tool that we can use as far as managing wolf populations," says Burt.
Yet, some aren't so sure.
"What's the incidental impact on species like wolverine, which is about to be listed as an endangered species, for example?" asks Pearson.
He also questions the possible impact on those recreating.
"In the forests around greater Yellowstone, there's a vast number of people that are out there recreating with their dogs, running around off-leash, and what's the possible impact to recreationists in terms of pets getting caught up in these kind of traps?" says Pearson.
Others say trapping is a good start but say the proposal, as a whole, doesn't go far enough toward cutting down the wolf population.
"We're trying to get them to harvest more," says Jefferson County Commissioner Dave Kirsch.
"We've had cattle eaten, horses attacked, dogs eaten," explains Kirsch.
Yet, FWP officials say depredation of livestock is down and say it could be due to last years hunt.
Burt stresses this is a learning process and hope with more hunts, they can be more effective at managing wolves in Montana.
To see the full proposal and to make comment, visit the FWP's website.