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Yellowstone cautions against expanding wolf hunting, trapping outside the park

Jul 9, 2013 - The Associated Press

Wolves regularly cross from the hunting-free safe haven of yellowstone into Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, but Monday's discussion centered on wolves in Montana only.

BILLINGS, Mont. -- A proposal to relax gray wolf hunting and trapping rules in Montana got a cool reception from Yellowstone National Park administrators who said Monday that the move appears to be aimed at substantially reducing the population of the animals in the park.

Wolves regularly cross from the hunting-free safe haven of Yellowstone into Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, but Monday's discuss centered on wolves in Montana only, where wildlife officials want to drive down pack numbers in response to complaints about the predators from ranchers and big game hunters.

Montana wildlife commissioners are scheduled on Wednesday to take final action on proposals to lengthen the wolf season, increase the bag limit and set quotas around the park.

Park administrators complained Monday that some of the changes would make it too easy to target wolves that live primarily in Yellowstone.

The move to loosen hunting and trapping rules was driven in part by the Montana Legislature. Lawmakers last session passed a measure increasing the number of wolves that could be taken by individual hunters and trappers and prohibiting the formation of a no-hunting buffer zone around Yellowstone.

In response to the concerns raised by Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk and others, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said that the agency is recommending revisions to the original wolf hunting proposal tentatively adopted in May.

The changes include a bag limit of just one wolf per person in areas adjacent to the park and an increase in the area where quotas will apply.

However, the quota for the Gardiner area north of Yellowstone still would exceed what the park wants in terms of the number of wolves that could be killed and the size of the quota area.

Yellowstone's chief scientist Dave Hallac said he appreciated the changes but added that it was unclear whether the commissioners will accept the agency's recommendations.

"The park is not anti-hunting," Hallac said. "What we're trying to do is balance the conservation of wolves in Yellowstone, which are not exploited population right now, with some level of reasonable harvest."

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