By CODIE WYERS/Montana State News

The Legislature passed and Gov. Steve Bullock has signed into a law a measure to expand wolf hunting in Montana.

House Bill 73 allows an individual hunter to hunt more wolves during the given wolf season (dates for the 2013 season are still pending). This bill allows hunters to use electronic calls to entice wolves in and does not require hunters to wear orange like they do during the regular elk and deer hunting season.

This bill also prevents the state wildlife agency from banning wolf hunts in areas around national parks such as Yellowstone; these changes will take effect in the upcoming wolf hunting season for 2013.

Gov. Steve Bullock said this bill was backed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks saying, “The department did support it, and at the end of the day we need to base these decisions on science, not on politics, and allowing more than one, three wolves to be taken, it fits with the science.”

The previous hunting season for wolves as reported by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks resulted in 128 killed during archery/general season and 97 killed by trapping. Trappers are required to take a wolf-trapping certification class that is free and offered to anyone 11 years old or over. The class is six hours long and is taught by trappers who have experience in trapping wolves specifically.

While some wildlife advocates have argued that the state is being too aggressive against a species only recently restored to the northern Rockies, none spoke against this bill on the Senate floor.

Democrat Sen. Larry Jent said, “These creatures are hard to hunt, and we need to allow our wolf hunters the best chance of getting into them while the season is still ongoing.”

The recovery of the wolf in the Northern Rockies remains the single fastest endangered species comeback on record. The FWP has led wolf management under the federal guidelines since 2004, and the delisting of wolves has led them to be managed similarly to the ways in which bears, mountain lions and other wildlife are currently managed.

The upcoming wolf hunting season dates will be announced in July by the FWP Commission.

– Edited by Rebecca Marston

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