Privatizing wildlife

Bull elk

Elk in the crosshairs, though not necessarily the crosshairs of rifle scopes aimed by your average Joe Montana hunter. A new governor and FWP Fish and Wildlife Commission are making it easier for landowners to get elk tags to hunt their own property, but are also making it harder for the public to get access to the same large herds that congregate where public hunting isn't allowed.

For FWP, managing elk/landowner conflicts just got more difficult as well.

As usual, nice reporting by Brett French at the Billings Gazette.

And so it begins …

The Feds are under fire for killing eight pups in the Timberline wolf pack that lives in Boise and Idaho counties. The pack was "adopted" by students at Timberline High School in Boise in 2003, and those students have been monitoring the wanderings of the pack ever since.

The story does not give any details about recent problems with the pack that may have warranted killing the pups, other than to say biologists considered the pack to more likely "to relocate" if the pups were dead.

Of course the killing of eight pups in a pack adopted by high school students will only strengthen efforts to get the Feds back involved in wolf management now that Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have all adopted regulations that foster the indiscriminate killing of the animals in those states.

Rather than reexamining their controversial and unpopular wolf slaughter policies, look for political leaders in these states to instead pass laws prohibiting schools from adopting wolf packs.

Wolf carnage may reduce public support for hunting in general

I'm a bit "meh" about wolf hunting and population control in general. The origin story of wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies included the bargain that hunting would be used as a means to manage the species, and generate revenue for state wildlife agencies. I'm not a participant, but I recognize some management (killing) is part of the reality of having wild wolves in Montana and the West

Recent plans to increase the wolf death toll in Montana is another matter. This column by Matt Barnes in the Missoula Current spells out the irrationality or the policy. Barnes makes a good point about the potential damage of widespread wolf killing: it will likely further damage the public perception of hunting among the non-hunting public.

Whether we like it or not, support from the non-hunting population is essential for the survival of the sport in a world in which most people do not hunt.

Southwest brown trout on the ropes

Here's some good reporting by Montana Standard reporter Michael Cast on the decline of trout numbers, especially brown trout, on rivers in the southwest part of the state.

There's bad news on the Big Hole, Ruby and Upper Clark Fork rivers. The numbers on the Madison and Yellowstone are also declining. Biologists don't yet have a good idea what is driving the population trends, since the numbers have been poor even in good water years.

FWP is considering changes to fishing regulations on the Big Hole River in the popular lower river near Melrose, where brown trout have declined from 1,800 to 400 in the last six years.