Montana FWP officials say the wolf population jumped 15 percent in 2011, to roughly 653 wolves. Here?s the catch though, that?s the minimum wolf population count.
Experts think it is likely 10 to 30 percent less than the actual number of wolves. FWP?s director says the state still aims high to bring wolf numbers down, and officials will be looking at other options. NBC Montana spoke with one hunter on Thursday, who said he would support a year-round season on wolves.
?And then we?ll look at this in another year and see how many have been harvested and if we still haven?t reached our target number of harvested wolves then I think we need to look at other options such as aerial hunts and trapping and that sort of thing,? said Rich Birdsell, who owns and operates Northern Rockies Outfitters.
?We need to manage wolves in balance with other wildlife,? said FWP Spokesman Ron Aasheim. ?If you have predators go unchecked, the prey species like elk, deer and moose have unacceptable impacts to a lot of people and our job is to manage those so that they are in balance.?
Montana?s wolf plan calls for a minimum of 15 breeding pairs of wolves. Wildlife officials say hunters killed 166 wolves in the last hunting season, which is roughly 75 percent of the quota.