Wolf History, Conservation, Ecology and Behavior
photo: Gary Kramer
courtesy of USFWS
Montana Wolf Conservation and Management Plan
Executive Summary
This is just a sampling of the material available at http://www.fwp.state.mt.us/wildthings/wolf/wolfmanagement.asp
photo: USFWS
Gray wolves (Canis lupus) are thriving and expanding in number and distribution in Montana.  This is because of natural emigration from Canada and a successful federal effort that reintroduced wolves into Yellowstone National Park (YNP) and the wilderness areas of central Idaho.  There are probably more wild wolves in Montana now than at any time in the past 70 years.  Since 1974, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has managed wolves in Montana, under the authority of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Wolves met the biological requirements for recovery at the end of 2002.    
Upon delisting, management authority for wolves will return to the state governments where wolves reside.  But before USFWS will propose to delist, federal managers must be confident that a secure, viable population of gray wolves will persist if the protections of the ESA are removed.  To provide that assurance, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming must develop conservation and management plans and adopt other regulatory mechanisms in state law.    
USFWS has managed wolves in Montana as either endangered, threatened, or as experimental, nonessential under the authority of ESA.  Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) proposes to prepare and adopt a wolf conservation and management plan so that management authority can be transferred to the State of Montana when the gray wolf is delisted.    
The State of Montana would adopt a wolf conservation and management plan prior to USFWS.s proposal to delist wolves, but the plan would not be implemented until USFWS transfers legal authority.  Montana statutes charge FWP with conservation and management of resident wildlife.  FWP is using the Montana Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) as a tool to decide the primary question of whether the state will assume management responsibility.  Secondarily, the process of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) requires FWP to decide how wolves will be managed if it assumes responsibility.    
FWP recognizes the gray wolf as a native species and is committed to recovery of the species within Montana.  The purpose of the plan is to manage wolves consistent with Montana.s own state laws, policies, rules, and regulations.  FWP intends to implement positive conservation and management strategies to make sure that all federal requirements are met, recovery is complete, and that wolves are integrated as a valuable part of Montana.s wildlife heritage.    
FWP also recognizes that the long-term persistence of wolves in Montana depends on carefully balancing the complex biological, social, economic, and political aspects of wolf management.  FWP will consider the wide spectrum of interests in designing and implementing a program that is responsive to the opportunities and addresses the challenges faced by people directly affected by wolves.  Managing gray wolves as a resident native species according to state guidelines will allow the program to be more flexible and adaptable in meeting the needs and interests of Montana citizens and visitors.  Managing gray wolves will not be easy, but wolf restoration is fundamentally consistent with Montana.s history of wildlife conservation.  FWP believes that it is in Montana.s best interest to recognize and take on the challenges, responsibilities, and benefits of a managing a restored wolf population.    
The plan will address wolf conservation and management anywhere wolves occur in Montana, except where management authority is otherwise explicitly reserved to other jurisdictions, such as Montana.s Indian tribes.  Ultimately, this EIS will result in a management and conservation plan which would be implemented through the combined decisions and actions of the FWP Commission, the seven FWP administrative regional offices, FWP.s headquarters in Helena, the Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL), USDA Wildlife Services (WS), local law enforcement or county authorities, and other cooperators.    

Public Involvement Process  
Montana's effort to assume management of this endangered species began when FWP solicited public comments on the agency taking a more active role during the recovery phase.  That effort resulted in the 1995 draft Wolf Recovery and Management Plan.  That plan was not implemented, primarily because of uncertainties about funding and agency responsibilities.  Then, five years later, the effort hit full stride when Gov. Marc Racicot convened Montana.s Wolf Management Advisory Council.    
The 12-member Wolf Management Advisory Council.a mix of livestock producers, hunters, educators, outfitters, conservationists, and other citizens.worked for seven months to develop 26 "Guiding Principles" organized in four broad subject areas that address the public interest, public safety, maintaining wildlife populations and protecting the livestock industry.  The council delivered its report and recommendations to Gov. Racicot, and then governor-elect Judy Martz, in early 2001.  Based on its public deliberations, the council reported that the State of Montana could contribute to wolf recovery in the northern Rockies.  Furthermore, the council reported that, once recovered, wolves should be allowed to find their place within Montana's complex biological, social, economic, and political landscape and that it is appropriate for FWP to develop a program.  
With the advisory council's report in hand, Gov. Judy Martz directed FWP to use it to frame a wolf management plan.  In response, FWP released the .Montana Wolf Conservation and Management Planning Document. in January 2002 (Appendix 1).  While the 117-page planning document reflected what a state wolf management plan could resemble if it were based on the council.s work and recommendations, FWP still needed to hear from others and explore various alternatives before adopting a management plan in full compliance with the legal requirements of MEPA.    
In January 2002, FWP mailed about 1,000 post cards announcing: (1) the completion of the Montana Wolf Conservation and Management Planning Document; and (2) that an environmental review process was set to began.  Using this document as a basis for discussion, FWP opened the .scoping. comment period for its wolf management EIS on Feb. 25, 2002 by asking the public to identify issues and concerns about a state-sponsored wolf management program.  The public was invited to provide oral comments to FWP at one of 12 community work sessions held throughout the state in March-April 2002. In addition, FWP invited the public to submit comments in writing or electronically.  
More than 800 people participated by attending a work session, and thousands wrote comments or sent emails, representing nearly every Montana county. In addition, comments came from 49 states, including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico; and eight foreign countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Israel, Mexico and the United Kingdom.  In all, FWP collected nearly 4,000 comments and written correspondences. Because many of the written letters and Emails identified more than one issue or concern, FWP recorded nearly 6,700 individual comments.   
The Wolf Management Advisory Council and the FWP Commission reviewed a summary of the public comments gathered during the 2002 scoping effort and the subsequent Draft EIS prepared by FWP in response.  In it, FWP analyzed five alternatives that reflected the spectrum of comments.  One of the alternatives was largely based on the work of the council, and FWP identified it as the preferred alternative.  Postcards were again mailed to announce the availability of the Draft EIS.  FWP released the Draft EIS to the public on March 12, 2003 and also made it available on the FWP website.    
FWP designed another 60-day comment period to accept comments on the Draft EIS, running from March 12 through May 12, 2003.  FWP hosted 14 community work sessions across the state to accept oral comments.  FWP also provided opportunities for the public to comment electronically via the FWP website, in addition to accepting written letters and postcards via postal mail or fax.  During this comment  period, FWP asked the public to provide more specific feedback by identifying which alternative/s best addressed their concerns about the future of wolf conservation and management in Montana and why.  FWP also asked the public to identify what, if anything, they would modify about the alternative so that it better addressed their concerns.  About 500 people attended the community work sessions in 2003, and hundreds more sent emails, letters, postcards, or faxes.  In sum, FWP received about 5,500 comments on the Draft EIS.  Because FWP asked for feedback specifically about the alternatives, comments were more complicated and detailed.  In addition, comments often referenced more than one alternative and many different issues.  Many comments were repetitive.  
Issues Identified through Public Scoping and Evaluated in the Final EIS  
The Montana Wolf Management Advisory Council identified roughly 30 issues during its deliberations in 2000.  During the 2002 scoping process, FWP asked Montanans to identify their issues in a similar manner.  Comments received during the public scoping period (community work sessions, written letters and postcards, and the E-mail correspondence) were entered into a computer database for systematic analysis.  There was a significant degree of overlap between the council.s list and the list of issues generated by the public at large.  In fact, many public comments supported the work of the council and agreed with its recommendations during the public comment opportunities in 2002 and 2003.  The comments gathered in 2003 on the Draft EIS were processed using a similar protocol as the 2002 comments.  Analysis of both the 2002 and 2003 public comments revealed broad themes (Table 1).  These issues were addressed as part of one or more alternatives.    
FWP's Recommendation  
Even though MEPA provides state agencies the latitude to adopt a Draft EIS as a Final EIS, FWP decided against it.  Because of the complexity, scope, and degree of controversy surrounding wolf restoration and management, FWP wanted to take the time for one last thorough evaluation of the preferred alternative, a final review of all the public comments, and to reconsider the substantive issues.  In preparing the Final EIS, FWP still adopts by reference the Draft EIS and all the supporting information obtained in the Draft EIS.  However, FWP also updates the Final EIS with new information obtained since circulation of the draft and explains why it recommends the preferred alternative.  
In the Draft EIS, FWP prepared and analyzed the potential impacts of five different alternatives, including the preferred alternative.  No significant new issues or omissions were identified during the second public comment opportunity in 2003.  Therefore, no new alternatives were created and analyzed in the Final EIS.  Based on the work of the council, the public comments, and the impacts analysis, FWP concludes that the preferred alternative is the best option to meet Montana.s legal requirement to maintain a recovered wolf population, to assure that the ecological needs of wolves are met, to resolve conflicts swiftly and effectively, and to address public concerns.  This alternative is the best overall approach to balance the benefits of wolf restoration with the costs and to minimize the impacts on those most directly affected by wolves.  
Issues not Evaluated in the Final EIS  
FWP received a number of comments identifying issues or concerns that are beyond the sideboards of the federal wolf recovery program, beyond the statutory authority of the State of Montana, not relevant to the decisions being made, or otherwise outside the scope of the proposed action.  These issues are listed below.  
? the wisdom, legality, or methods by which the federal government reintroduced wolves into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho
 ? termination of wolf recovery in the State of Montana and the northern Rockies; prohibition of wolf presence in Montana  
? legal classification of the gray wolf as a .predator. under Montana law and management through a bounty system  
? changes in state or federal highway design and construction, changes to federal land management practices, grazing management, travel management strategies, road densities, area closures, use of motorized vehicles, creation of more wilderness areas, etc.   
? USFWS decision to delist the gray wolf in the northern Rockies is premature; related issue was that the wolf population would continue to warrant the protections of ESA even after reaching the biological recovery goals because of concerns about how western states would manage the population.    
? USFWS proposal to reclassify the gray wolf and adopt new regulations, as published in the Federal Register July 2000.    
? modifications to ESA or the scope of federal authority to recover species    
? wolf population should be allowed increase in number and distribution and that human presence or uses of the landscape should be subordinated to wolf use.    
? commercial outfitting on federal public lands and the difficulty in changing .use days. or the areas where an outfitter is allowed to go  
? the potential for legal challenges to either state or federal actions related to the delisting of the gray wolf in the northern Rockies or the implementation of Montana.s program.  
Status of Gray Wolves in Montana  
Wolves started naturally recolonizing the Glacier National Park (GNP) area of northwestern Montana in 1979, although they had been seen sporadically prior to that.  In 1986, the first wolf den in over 50 years was documented within GNP. Since then, new packs have established throughout western Montana due to dispersers from Canada and the GNP area.  To hasten recovery in the other two areas, USFWS reintroduced a total of 66 wolves from Alberta and British Columbia into central Idaho and YNP in 1995 and 1996.    
Gray wolves are thriving and expanding in number and distribution in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming (Figures 1 and 2).  Within Montana alone at the end of 2002, there were approximately 180 wolves in about 35 packs distributed primarily in western Montana (Figures 1 and 2).  Sixteen of those packs met the federal recovery definition of breeding pair.  While wolves are still found primarily in northwestern Montana and in the GYA, packs are slowly establishing along the Montana/Idaho border, in south central Montana, and outside the northeastern corner of YNP.  There have been occasional reports in the Crazy, Highwood and Snowy mountains, but no breeding pack has been confirmed.  The gray wolf population in the northern Rockies met the biological recovery goal at the end of 2002.  
Wolf Ecology  
The gray wolf is a social species that lives in packs.  The pack typically consists of a socially dominant breeding pair, their offspring of the previous year, and new pups.  Pack size is highly variable, ranging from as few as three to as many as 37.  Such large packs tend to be very unstable.  More typical pack size in the State of Montana (not counting packs in YNP) is between four and fifteen.    
Wolves are opportunistic carnivores and are keenly adapted to hunt large prey species such as deer, elk and moose.  Wolves may also prey on smaller species, scavenge carrion or even eat vegetation.  In Montana, white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, and moose make up the majority of wolf diets.  Ungulates will comprise different proportions of wolf diets, depending on the relative abundance and distribution of prey availability within the territory.  Wolves may also kill and feed upon domestic livestock such as cattle, sheep, llamas, horses, goats, or dogs.  Pack territory boundaries and sizes vary from year to year.  Similarly, a wolf pack may travel in its territory differently fro one year to the next because of changes in prey availability or distribution, conflict with neighboring packs, or the establishment of a new  neighboring pack.  Wolves demonstrated a greater tolerance of human presence and disturbance than previously thought characteristic of the species.    
It was previously believed that higher elevation public lands would comprise the primary occupied habitats.  While some packs did establish territories in backcountry areas, most preferred lower elevations.  Gray wolves tend to favor gentle terrain where prey is more abundant, particularly in winter.  Wolf packs may use or travel through private lands and co-exist in close proximity with people and livestock.  Wolf packs are established across a complex array of public, private, corporate-owned lands, land uses, and degrees of rural development.  Acceptance of wolf presence, and the use of private lands is highly variable in space and time.  Given the mobility of the species and the extent to which these lands are intermingled, it would not be unusual for a wolf to traverse multiple landownerships in a single day. Wolves in Montana die from a variety of causes, usually classified as natural or human-caused.  Natural mortalities occur during territorial conflicts between adjacent packs, due to injuries incurred while hunting prey, old age, disease, starvation, or accidents.  Humans usually are the largest cause of wolf mortality and the only cause that can significantly affect populations at recovery levels.  Human-caused mortality includes control actions to resolve conflicts, legal and illegal killings, as well as car/train collisions.  
Wolf populations increase or decrease through the combination and interaction of wolf densities and prey densities.  Actual rates of change depend on whether the wolf population is pioneering vacant habitat (as in YNP and central Idaho during the first few years post-reintroduction), whether the population is well established (as in northwestern Montana), and food availability.  The degree and type of legal protection, agency control actions, and regulation harvest will also influence population trends.

FWP initiated this EIS to more completely involve all Montanans and other interested parties in the wolf planning process and to ensure full compliance with the MEPA.  Several potential alternatives were identified through the public scoping process.    
Alternatives Identified during Scoping, but not Considered Further  
1. No gray wolf recovery program in the northern Rockies or individual wolves present in Montana.  
This alternative was not considered because it is outside the sideboards established by the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery Plan, which calls for a viable, secure wolf population in the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming.  Removing all wolves from Montana is neither feasible nor legal.  The question of whether or not wolves will be present in Montana is no longer relevant.  Alternatives in this EIS must address the question of how gray wolves in Montana will be managed in the future.  
2. Delist the gray wolf from ESA, but USFWS retains management responsibility.  
The U.S. Congress charges USFWS with the recovery of listed species, and ESA directs the USFWS to delist species once recovery criteria are met.  There is no legal mechanism or precedent for the USFWS to manage a delisted species.  Indeed, the opposite is true.  The respective state fish and wildlife agencies are the traditional and appropriate entity to manage non-imperiled species--as resident, native wildlife according to state laws and regulations.  For USFWS to continue managing the gray wolf in Montana, the species would need to remain listed under ESA, even after recovery criteria are met.  This would conflict with USFWS.s authority and the legal requirements of ESA.    
3. Changes in how USFWS implements the recovery program in Montana.  A related alternative could involve changes to ESA.    
The states, through their respective fish and wildlife agencies, are encouraged to conserve and manage species so that federal ESA protections are not warranted.  However, once a species is listed under ESA, the U.S. Congress invests almost sole authority to oversee recovery efforts with USFWS and their cooperating partners due to the national value associated with recovering rare and imperiled species.  In 1995, FWP decided that it would not formally participate as a cooperator in shaping and implementing the recovery program.  However, FWP has participated informally through consultation and information exchange since then.  FWP continues to informally consult with UWFWS, but does not have any decision-making authority in the federal program currently.  Modification of ESA is a separate issue and well beyond the scope of the proposed action.  
Alternatives Selected for Analysis  
In general terms, most public scoping comments fell along a continuum from highly protectionist philosophies to highly exploitive philosophies.  More specifically, input ranged from the need to prevent all wolf mortalities (no matter what the circumstances) to the need to kill or remove all wolves from Montana before any more .damage is done..  This philosophical spectrum represents peoples. values, opinions, and beliefs--the social factors that need to be considered.  The alternatives represent that philosophical continuum within the sideboards of the federal requirement for a secure, viable gray wolf population well into the future.    
Because of the significant number of comments taken during the scoping period, FWP consulted with the Wolf Management Advisory Council prior to finalizing the alternatives presented in this EIS.  In January 2003, FWP and the council discussed and examined new information and a summary of public comments.  Ultimately, FWP crafted a total of five alternatives.  One alternative suggests that FWP would not develop and adopt a state wolf management program.  Three alternatives, presenting a spectrum of approaches, suggest that FWP should adopt a management program.  One of these three is the work of the council.  At the January 2003 meeting, the council discussed several new issues that arose during the scoping process, revisited some issues it had previously discussed, and formally endorsed several updates to their original planning document.  The updates are incorporated into their alternative in the Final EIS, which FWP identifies as its preferred alternative.  The fifth alternative presents a .contingency,. or interim plan that FWP would consider implementing if delisting were delayed because of litigation or delays in the planning efforts in other states.    
The main issues selected for further analysis and which underlie the specific details of the alternatives are:  wolf conservation and management, social factors, administration, prey populations, livestock, and compensation.    
Alternative 1.  No Action.    
Under this alternative, Montana would not prepare or adopt a state conservation and management plan.  FWP would complete the EIS process and sign a Record of Decision indicating that it will not take any further action.  Because the state would not develop a plan, the USFWS would not propose to delist the gray wolf.  Therefore, wolves in Montana would continue to be managed by the USFWS.  This alternative represents a continuation of the existing situation.    
USFWS and its cooperating partners carry out all management, monitoring, public outreach, and technical assistance to landowners.  Wolves occurring within the Northwestern Montana Recovery Area are managed as .threatened. while wolves occurring elsewhere in Montana are managed as .experimental, non-essential. according to the final rules adopted for the reintroduction effort (USFWS 1994a).  The USFWS wolf recovery program in the northern Rockies is funded through the U.S. Congressional budgeting and appropriations process.  FWP occasionally consults informally with USFWS as needed.  The current FWP budget will cover the administrative costs of ongoing informal coordination.   
USFWS decision-making is guided by ESA, the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan (USFWS 1987) and its amendments, the Northwestern Montana and Central Idaho Interim Wolf Control Plan (USFWS 1999), the Final EIS on Reintroductions of Gray Wolves to YNP and Central Idaho, and the experimental rules (USFWS 1994a).  The USFWS could adopt or amend management policies or regulations at any time in the future, so long as the changes were consistent with ESA requirements to recover the species and the proper administrative steps are followed.    
Wolf management on behalf of other interests is somewhat limited.  The primary focus of the federal program is on species recovery.increase wolf numbers and distribution so that protection under ESA is no longer warranted.  USFWS may or may not be able to address certain issues, depending on the legality or consistency with existing federal regulations.  The federal program emphasizes conflict resolution for livestock and human safety concerns rather than incorporate proactive wildlife management principles to adjust wolf abundance or distribution per se.    
USFWS would not carry out any particular management on behalf of prey populations, but the agency acknowledges that wolf predation can influence prey population abundance or distribution, particularly in  conjunction with other environmental factors or concurrent with human hunting.  FWP would continue managing ungulates subject to existing plans and policies.    
USFWS and WS respond to and resolve wolf-livestock complaints according to existing federal regulations.  Recent changes in the classification of the gray wolf to .threatened. in northwestern Montana provide more flexibility for federal officials to resolve conflicts, particularly on private lands.  (USFWS 2003a).  Federal officials attempt to resolve conflicts as quickly and efficiently as possible by focusing on the offending individual/s problem wolves.  Management tools include technical assistance to reduce the conflict potential, telemetry-based monitoring, non-lethal hazing devices (or munitions by permit), relocation, and lethal control.  For as long as the gray wolf is listed under ESA, actions by livestock producers are constrained by federal regulations.  
The Defenders of Wildlife compensation program is intended to assist in the recovery efforts of listed species.  Defenders of Wildlife will presumably continue providing compensation payments and cost-sharing preventative management tools.  However, these efforts are voluntary and sustained by private donations.   
Alternative 2.  Updated Council: FWP-Preferred Alternative  
This Alternative is based on the comments and recommendations of a diverse 12-member citizens group, the Montana Wolf Management Advisory Council, and an Interagency Technical Committee.  Under this alternative, FWP adopts and implements the council.s Wolf Conservation and Management Planning Document and the updates to the document described in this EIS.  This document describes a spectrum of management activities that maintain viable populations of wolves and their prey, resolve wolf-livestock conflicts, and assure human safety.  This alternative mirrors public comments calling on FWP to seek common ground between wolf advocates and those most directly affected by wolf presence.  In addition, this alternative is based on public calls for a balanced wolf management program that is consistent with modern wildlife management practices and how FWP manages other wildlife species.  
Upon federal delisting, provisions of SB163 take effect and wolves would automatically be reclassified under state law from .endangered. to a .species in need of management..  This statutory classification offers full legal protection under state law.  Implementation of this alternative is contingent on securing adequate funding.  Implementation also requires FWP to develop and adopt final administrative rules and regulations under the .species in need of management. designation.  State laws and administrative rules become the regulatory and legal mechanisms guiding management.  FWP and the FWP Commission will establish the regulatory framework to manage the species.  FWP is responsible for implementing monitoring, research, law enforcement, public outreach, and other functions.  The FWP Commission oversees FWP policy.  A MOU will be signed by FWP, MDOL, and WS to address wolf-livestock conflicts.  The Montana Legislature maintains its budget oversight authority.  Ongoing interagency, tribal, and interstate coordination activities are important cornerstones of program implementation and administration.   
FWP would recognize the gray wolf as a native species and would integrate wolves as a valuable part of Montana.s wildlife heritage.  Wolves will be integrated and sustained in suitable habitats within complex management settings.  The wolf program will be based on principles of adaptive management.  Management strategies and conflict resolution tools will be more conservative as the number of breeding pairs according to the federal recovery definition decreases, approaching the legal minimum.  In contrast, management strategies become more liberal as the number of breeding pairs.  Ultimately, the status of the wolf population itself identifies the appropriate management strategies.  Fifteen breeding pairs will be used as the signal to change management strategies.  An adaptive approach will help FWP implement its  wolf program over the wide range of social acceptance values.  Sensitivity towards and prompt resolution of conflict where and when it develops is an important condition of not administratively capping wolf numbers or defining distribution.  
By applying the federal recovery definition of breeding pair, FWP would incorporate an added measure of security and margin for error in the face of unforeseen future events, as well as greater flexibility for management decisions on a day to day basis.  Successful reproduction would be documented as well.  Because not every pack (or social group) of wolves would meet the federal recovery definition as a breeding pair, more groups of wolves would also exist on the landscape in assurance that Montana.s minimum contribution towards the tri-state total is achieved.  As the Montana wolf population becomes more established, through the monitoring program, FWP will evaluate a more general definition of a social group (four or more wolves traveling in winter) as a potential proxy for a breeding pair.  
Wolf distribution in Montana, just as for all wildlife, will ultimately be defined by the interaction of the species ecological requirements and public acceptance, not through artificial delineations.  Wolves will be encouraged on large contiguous blocks of public land, managed primarily as backcountry areas or national parks where there is the least potential for conflict, particularly with livestock.  Wolf packs in areas of interspersed public and private lands will be managed like other free-ranging wildlife in Montana and within the constraints of the biological and social characteristics, the physical attributes of the environment, land ownership, and land uses.  Some agency discretion and flexibility will be exercised to accommodate the unique attributes of each pack, its history, the site-specific characteristics of its home range, landowner preferences, or other factors that cannot be reasonably predicted at this time.    
Management flexibility will be crucial to address all of the public interests that surround wolves.  Wolf population management will include the full range of tools from non-lethal to lethal and will incorporate public outreach, conservation education, law enforcement, and landowner relations.  An effective management program should match the management strategies to the environments or setting in which each wolf pack occurs, recognizing that wolves interact with and respond to the environment in which they live, too.  Potential management actions will be evaluated in light of prevailing conditions as well as extenuating circumstances.  
FWP has the primary responsibility to monitor the wolf population, although collaborative efforts with other agencies and universities will be important.  FWP will estimate wolf numbers, pack distribution. Document reproduction and tabulate mortality.  FWP will also tabulate the number of breeding pairs meeting the federal recovery definition.  Concurrently, FWP would also tabulate packs according to a more general definition of social group, meaning .four or more wolves traveling in winter..  While there is no guarantee that a group of four wolves traveling in winter would include young of the year, it is indicative of a socially cohesive group holding a territory and capable of reproduction.  Four or more wolves traveling together will likely contain a male and female as an alpha pair and that has or will produce young in the spring.  Determining pack counts in winter would follow the peak of human-caused mortality on adult wolves associated with summer/fall livestock grazing seasons, potential illegal mortality during the fall big game hunting seasons, and the harvest expected through regulated hunting and trapping seasons.  The monitoring program will help confirm reproduction.    
FWP will use the monitoring program to verify that the more general definition is adequate to document that the population is reproducing and secure.  Once FWP becomes more confident that the more general definition is adequate, it will be applied within the adaptive management framework and FWP would not monitor packs using the more rigorous federal recovery definition.  Maintaining the federal recovery definition as the monitoring metric under adaptive management over the long term may be too stringent for a recovered population, especially in light of the difficulty in distinguishing pups from similar sized adults in December and the expense of radio telemetry.  USFWS data indicate that there is a significant  correlation between the number of packs meeting the federal recovery definition as a breeding pair and the number of social groups according to the more general definition of four or more wolves traveling in winter (Meier et al. in prep), lending greater confidence that the more general definition will prove adequate for the purposes of the monitoring program as well as the basis for decision-making within an adaptive management framework.  
When the wolf population no longer fits the definition of a species .in need of management. or when wolf numbers have increased and population regulation is needed, the FWP Commission may reclassify the wolf as a big game animal or a furbearer.  Regulated public harvest of wolves by hunting and trapping during designated seasons will help FWP manage wolf numbers, fine tune distribution, and would take place within a comprehensive management program.  Regulated wolf harvest would take place within the larger context of multi-species management programs, would be biologically sustainable, and would not compromise the investments made to recover the gray wolf.  Within the context of a comprehensive program, regulated harvest should advance overall conservation goals by building social tolerance, interest in, and value for the species among those who would otherwise view wolf recovery as detrimental to their ungulate hunting experiences.  Harvest management would proceed adaptively, but all hunting and trapping is precluded if there are fewer than 15 breeding pairs in Montana.  
The Montana Legislature would establish the license, fees, and penalties for illegal activities.  The FWP Commission could then establish season structure and regulations to implement a public harvest program for wolves as it does for other hunting, trapping or fishing seasons.  Initiating a public harvest program is a separate administrative process from this EIS.  The FWP Commission follows a process that requires public notification of the proposal, public meetings, and a comment period of at least 30 days.  The FWP Commission would initiate this process at a later date when a harvest program becomes biologically sustainable.  The Montana Legislature would establish license fees and penalties.    
Under this alternative, FWP would seek state legislation to make the unlawful taking of a gray wolf a misdemeanor under MCA 87-1-102.  This statute makes it a misdemeanor to purposely, knowingly, or negligently violate state laws pertaining to taking, killing, possessing, or transporting certain species of wildlife.  Including the gray wolf under this statute would be consistent with the inclusion of other legally classified wildlife species, such as deer, elk, moose, mountain lion, or black bear.  Specific penalties (e.g. fines) under MCA 87-1-102 (2) would be determined at that time.  FWP would also seek legislation to include the gray wolf under the restitution sections of MCA 87-1-111 that requires a person convicted of illegally taking, killing, possessing certain wildlife species to reimburse the state for each animal or fish.  Restitution values could also defined in MCA 87-1-115 for illegally killing or possessing trophy wildlife.  The Montana Legislature will address these in a future session.   
FWP would seek to maintain the public.s opportunity to hunt a wide variety of species under a variety of circumstances, and to do so in a sustainable, responsible manner.  Wolf presence within the yearlong range of a specific ungulate herd adds a new factor that FWP biologists must consider among all environmental and human-related factors.  FWP will integrate management of predators and prey in an ecological, proactive fashion to prevent wide fluctuations in both predator and prey populations.  To that end, FWP may increase or decrease hunter opportunity for either predators or prey species, depending on the circumstances.  If reliable data indicate that a local prey population is significantly impacted by wolf predation in conjunction with other environmental factors, FWP would consider reducing wolf pack size.  Wolf management actions would be paired with other corrective management actions to reduce ungulate mortality or enhance recruitment.  Concurrent management efforts for wolves and ungulates would continue until the prey population rebounded, recognizing that by the time prey populations begin to respond they may be influenced by a new set of environmental factors.  
FWP further clarifies that prey species are managed according to the policy and direction established by the programmatic review of the wildlife program (FWP 1999) and by species plans.  Even though plans are written for individual species, the underlying foundation of those plans is based on an ecosystem perspective and recognizes the inherent variation in wildlife populations in response to the environment and human activities, including hunting.  These plans typically describe a management philosophy that protects the long term sustainability of the resource and within management objectives based on biological and social considerations.  Furthermore, populations will be managed to keep them at or near FWP objectives--rather than significantly above or below objectives.  As recommended by the council, the gray wolf will be incorporated into ungulate management and future planning efforts.    
Livestock producers and other landowners provide many benefits to the long-term conservation of gray wolves, not the least of which is the maintenance of open space and habitats that support a wide variety of wildlife, including deer and elk.  At the same time, they can suffer financial losses due to wolves.  These losses tend to be sheep and young cattle, although occasionally llamas, guarding dogs or other livestock are lost.  Some losses can be documented reliably but others cannot.  Addressing wolf-livestock conflicts will entail two separate, but parallel elements.  One element will be management activities by WS and FWP to minimize the potential for wolf-livestock conflicts and to resolve the conflicts where and when they occur.  This would be funded, administered, and implemented by the cooperating agencies.  Livestock producers should report any suspected wolf depredations (injuries or death) or the disruption of livestock or guarding animals to WS directly.  If the investigating WS agent determines that a wolf or wolves were responsible, management response will be guided by the specific recommendations of the investigator, the provisions of this plan and by the multi-agency MOU.  WS will take an incremental approach to address wolf depredations, guided by wolf numbers, depredation history, and the location of the incident.  When wolf numbers are low and incidents take place on remote public lands, WS would use more conservative management tools.  WS could apply progressively more liberal methods as wolf numbers increase and for incidents on private lands.  Conflict history of the pack, time of year, attributes of the pack (e.g. size or reproductive status), or the physical setting will all be considered before a management response is selected.  FWP will determine the disposition of wolves involved in livestock depredations.  
FWP may also approve lethal removal of the offending animal by livestock owners or their agents by issuing a special kill permit.  A special kill permit is required for lethal action against any legally classified wildlife in Montana, outside the defense of life/property provision or FWP Commission approved regulations.  FWP will not issue special kill permits to livestock producers to remove wolves on public lands when wolf numbers are low.  If Montana had at least 15 packs, FWP may issue a special kill permit to livestock producers that would be valid for public and private lands.  FWP will be more liberal in the number of special kill permits granted as wolf numbers increase and for depredations in mixed land ownership patterns.    
In a proactive manner, WS and FWP will also work cooperatively with livestock producers and non-governmental organizations with an increased emphasis on proactive efforts to reduce the risk of wolf-livestock conflicts developing in the first place.  Landowners could contact a management specialist (FWP or WS) for help with assessing risk from wolves or other predators and identifying ways to minimize those risks.while still acknowledging that the risk of livestock depredation by wolves will never be zero.  Incentives may even be provided to participating producers.  FWP would work with the livestock industry to identify sources of funding to accomplish preventative initiatives.  Some funding could come from monies FWP already provides to WS for animal damage management in cooperation with MDOL.  Some of those funds could be used to support the development and implementation of preventative programs and technical field assistance to landowners in identifying risks and preventative measures prior to any depredations.  Private conservation groups are also working towards those ends.  
Beyond technical assistance from WS or FWP and other collaborative efforts, livestock producers (or their agents) may non-lethally harass wolves when they are close to livestock on public or private lands.  Private citizens may also non-lethally harass wolves that come close to homes, domestic pets, or people.  Upon delisting, private citizens could kill a wolf if it is threatening human life or domestic dogs.  Livestock producers or their agents could also kill a wolf if it is attacking, killing, or threatening to kill livestock.  This is consistent with Montana statutes that permit private citizens to defend life or property from imminent danger caused by wildlife.    
This alternative also clarifies the definition of .livestock. to mean cattle, sheep, horses, mules, pigs, goats, emu, ostrich, poultry, and herding or guarding animals (llama, donkeys, and certain special-use breeds of dogs commonly used for guarding or herding of livestock) for the purposes of addressing wolf-livestock conflicts.  Dogs used for other purposes such as hunting or as pets are not covered under this definition.  The defense of hunting dogs or dogs as pets is addressed under Human Safety.  FWP also clarifies the council.s use of .non-lethal harassment. to refer to situations in which a wolf is discovered testing or chasing livestock and the owner attempts to scare or discourage the wolf in a non-injurious manner and without prior attempts to search out, track, attract or wait for the wolf.  A special permit would be required to actually injure or kill the wolf or if a person purposefully attracted, tracked, or searched for the wolf.  
The second element addresses the economic losses of individual livestock producers through a compensation program when livestock are injured or killed by wolves.  The two elements, management and compensation, are funded, administered, and implemented separately and independently of one another -- but parallel one another, united in the goal of maintaining a viable wolf population and addressing economic losses.  This Alternative would maintain and enhance the benefits of the compensation program.  The State of Montana intends to find or create an entity to administer a compensation program.    
But compensation payments would not be made from FWP funds or matching federal funds intended for FWP programs, or from state revenue sources (e.g. taxes or the general fund).  Defenders of Wildlife could be a partner.  The entity or non-governmental organization would be independent from FWP to retain impartiality and negotiations would take place between the livestock owner and the independent administrator.  Agency decision-making on the disposition of the problem animal is independent of the outcomes of the compensation negotiations.  The results of a comprehensive analysis of compensation programs, along with future input from the public, the Wolf Management Advisory Council, and the FWP Commission could be used to determine more specific details of a compensation program.  
This alternative would be funded using a combination of sources to conserve and manage this native species on equal standing with other carnivores like mountain lions or black bears.  License revenue will be used to partially fund the program since FWP intends to use regulated harvest as a management tool.  FWP acknowledges that existing financial resources are not adequate.  FWP seek will additional funding from a diversity of sources, including special state or federal appropriations, private foundations, or other private sources.  The states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are still investigating the idea of a grizzly bear/gray wolf trust fund that would be created through a special federal appropriation to fund the conservation and management of these two species of national significance.  Compensation for livestock losses would be funded independently.    
Alternative 3.  Additional Wolf  
Under this alternative, FWP would adopt the council.s updated Planning Document (as described in Alternative 2 Updated Council), but with some modifications.  This alternative was developed in response  
to public comments expressing general support for FWP to manage the gray wolf, but to do so more conservatively and with greater numbers of wolves on the landscape.  
FWP would recognize and accept the challenges, responsibilities, and benefits of a restored wolf population.  Upon federal delisting, provisions of SB163 take effect and wolves would automatically be reclassified under state law from .endangered. to a .species in need of management..  This statutory classification confers full legal protection.  Implementation details of this alternative are the same as for Alternative 2 (Updated Council).  
The adaptive management framework described for Alternative 2 (Updated Council) will be modified to increase from 15 to 20, the number of breeding pairs required to transition from conservative to liberal management tools.  Other program elements described for Alternative 2 would also be incorporated within this alternative.  
Prey species management under this alternative, would follow the recommendations of the council in Alternative 2.  However, ungulate monitoring efforts would be increased over Alternative 2 due to the higher numbers of wolves present in the Montana population.  
FWP would address wolf-livestock conflicts as recommended by the council in Alternative 2, using the same management framework and tools.  FWP and WS will provide field-level assistance and address problem wolves as described for Alternative 2 (Updated Council).  Landowners will legally be able to defend their livestock from attacking wolves, similar to other troublesome wildlife.    
However, the State of Montana would not actively promote or create an entity to fund and administer a compensation program.  Instead of a state-initiated compensation program, improved management and enhanced flexibility for the agency and the landowner would be substituted for a compensation program.  Landowners would be provided with management flexibility within the guidelines of Montana law and the administrative rules adopted by the FWP Commission.  Because no compensation programs are funded or administered by the State of Montana or FWP for other wildlife species such as mountain lions or black bears, this alternative would be more consistent with how damage by wildlife is addressed in Montana.    
This alternative would be funded similar to Alternative 2 (Updated Council), with one exception.  Under this alternative, the State of Montana or FWP would not actively promote or facilitate an independent compensation program.    
Alternative 4.  Minimum Wolf   
Under this alternative, FWP would develop and adopt a wolf conservation and management program that meets the minimum standards for a secure, viable wolf population.  It maintains the fewest wolves possible to fulfill the legal requirement of wolf recovery.  It represents the most aggressive management philosophy, the lowest tolerance for wolf presence, and is the least conservation-oriented.  Most of the underlying philosophies and guiding principles adopted by the council are stripped away, although many of the same management tools remain.  This alternative most closely matches the .no wolf. sentiment expressed in some public comments.    
Modern scientific wildlife management principles have limited application under this alternative.  The gray wolf would not be treated as a native wildlife species, nor would management be modeled after black bears or mountain lions.  Wolves would be managed as closely as possible to a legally classified predator such as the coyote, while still meeting the definition of .species in need of management. which  provides a legal protection not extended to the coyote.  Adaptive principles would not apply.  Management tools would be aggressive and liberal most of the time in contrast to the incremental approach of alternatives 2 and 3.  Under this alternative, Montana.s connectivity requirement would be met through a trapping/relocation program to artificially mimic the natural dispersal events required to ensure long-term genetic viability.    
Wolf numbers would be capped at 10 breeding pair (federal recovery definition), which is Montana.s expected minimum contribution towards the tri-state total of 30 pairs.  More than 10 packs will be required to achieve 10 breeding pairs as defined by the recovery definition because not every pack successfully reproduces.  However, aggressive management would limit the total number of packs to only the minimum necessary to maintain 10 breeding pair.  FWP would define a pack according to the federal recovery definition -- .a male and a female with at least two pups on December 31..  Total pack numbers will be fine-tuned to maintain only as many packs as necessary.  Wolf distribution would be artificially zoned so that wolves would be strongly discouraged in eastern Montana and may in fact be trapped and relocated to western Montana.  Wolves would be permitted in FWP administrative Regions 1, 2, and 3, and portions of Regions 4 and 5.  The eastern boundary line would correspond to boundaries for FWP Regions 6 and 7.  Wolf presence in portions of Regions 4 and 5 would be tolerated, depending on whether wolves occurred in large blocks of public land or in mixed ownerships where conflicts were likely.  Wolf use of private lands would be at the discretion of the landowner, one step shy of zoning wolves out of private lands since some landowners may tolerate wolf use.  Capping wolf numbers and administratively defining wolf distribution requires aggressive management tools and a liberal interpretation of management flexibility for both agencies and landowners.  However, under this alternative, the monitoring program is much more intensive.  This is because FWP will be managing the wolf population very close to the minimum requirements to keep the northern Rockies population from being relisted.  Pack status must be known with a high degree of certainty.    
Under this alternative, wolf predation on big game populations would be minimized.  This would be accomplished by the overall aggressive management activities of this alternative, such as capping total numbers, the liberal provisions for landowners to kill wolves on private lands, and restricting wolf use of FWP WMAs.  Prey populations would be monitored less intensively than alternatives 2 and 3 because fewer wolves would be present in the Montana population.  
Under this alternative, there is little tolerance for wolves on private property.  Individual landowners would carry relatively more responsibility for management activities on private lands in lieu of agency response compared to alternatives 2 and 3.  FWP will provide as many special kill permits as possible to interested landowners for wolf control actions on their private property.  Livestock producers could still kill wolves caught .attacking, killing, or threatening to kill. their livestock and the FWP Enforcement Division would still investigate defense of property incidents.  WS will still respond to wolf-livestock complaints, provide technical assistance to landowners, and aid in limiting wolf distribution to western Montana.  Because of the underlying premise of liberal, aggressive wolf management to limit wolf numbers and distribution, with landowner participation, livestock losses would be minimized to the extent possible.  Therefore, a state-initiated compensation program is not included under this alternative.  
Under this alternative, the wolf program would be funded entirely by special federal appropriations, since the role of licensed hunters and trappers is expected to be minimal and the gray wolf would not be integrated into the broader context of a scientific wildlife management program.  This alternative is the most expensive alternative to implement.    
Alternative 5.  Contingency  
Under this alternative, FWP would seek an agreement with federal authorities to implement the Updated Council Alternative (2) as an interim step to assuming full management authority in the event that delisting is postponed.  Delisting delays could be caused by the lack of conservation plans and/or adequate regulatory mechanisms in the other two states or by litigation on the actual USFWS delisting proposal.    
The pubic and the advisory council anticipated delays and expressed their concerns about developments beyond Montana.s control.  Comments clearly reflected Montanans. concerns that they could be negatively affected by increases in wolf numbers and distribution and a lack of state management authority if the gray wolf was not delisted in a timely manner.  In response, FWP developed this unusual alternative to manage a listed species until such time as it was removed from the list.  It may not be legally possible to implement some provisions, such as regulated public harvest, because of the listed status but many other aspects would be implemented.  This alternative allows FWP to respond citizens. needs and address the challenges faced by those most directly affected by wolf presence, albeit more conservatively than FWP or the public may desire, until such time as the wolf is delisted and under full authority of the state.    
FWP believes inclusion of this alternative is important because gray wolves will continue to increase their numbers and distribution in Montana while the administrative process for delisting runs its course.  Gathering public comment on this idea as part of this EIS process allows FWP to hear from Montanans about the future of wolf management under a different set of legal conditions should the gray wolf not be delisted in the foreseeable future.  The significance or duration of any delay is speculative at this time.  Nonetheless, this alternative outlines a potential approach that would allow FWP to become more involved in the day to day management of wolves in Montana than is presently the case.    
Even if FWP selected this alternative as an interim management program while the delisting process is ongoing, FWP would continue working with USFWS and the states of Idaho and Wyoming to resolve any obstacles to complete delisting and the transfer of management authority from the federal government to the respective state governments.  Upon delisting, FWP would implement the remaining program elements of Alternative 2 (Updated Council) that had previously been prohibited by federal regulations.  
The State of Montana would be the primary decision maker.  USFWS would maintain some oversight authority to assure that FWP does not violate the agreement, violate ESA or federal rules, or stray outside the provisions outlined in the alternative.  USFWS would annually review the state.s program.  WS would still investigate and resolve wolf-livestock conflicts according to the Updated Council Alternative.  FWP and USFWS would renew the agreement, even modify it when and where necessary, until all three states have acceptable management plans and adequate regulatory mechanisms, USFWS has completed its delisting process, and any litigation delaying the transfer of management authority is resolved.    
Since FWP released the Draft EIS, USFWS reclassified the gray wolf from endangered to threatened in the Northwest Montana Recovery Area.  The experimental, nonessential designation in the rest of Montana did not change.  The downlisting was accompanied by a new set of rules and guidelines for USFWS to use in resolving conflicts.  They provide greater management flexibility for agencies and private landowners to resolve conflicts on private land and offer agencies additional tools to help address wolf-livestock conflicts on public lands.  Because USFWS adopted the final rule and reclassification, FWP would consider implementing this alternative if adequate funding could be secured.  
Upon delisting, FWP would take the administrative steps necessary, including those assuring full MEPA compliance, to implement those provisions of the Updated Council Alternative that had been prohibited  by federal law.  State laws and regulations would then fully guide the program, including the provision of SB163 that reclassifies the wolf from .endangered. to a .species in need of management..  This classification offers full legal protection.  
Under this alternative, FWP would implement all the wolf conservation and management elements outlined in the Updated Council Alternative (2) that are consistent with and allowed by federal law and regulations.  Nearly all aspects would be allowed in some form or another, but the circumstances by which gray wolves could be injured or killed is an important consideration because wolves would still be listed under ESA.  Regulated harvest of wolves through hunting and trapping is not possible under this alternative.  Furthermore, special kill permits issued by FWP to address wolf-livestock conflicts would be subject to the same provisions as the federally issued permits.    
FWP would still integrate the wolf management with ungulate management as described for Alternative 3.  However, FWP.s wolf management tools would be limited to relocation if reliable data indicate that a local prey population is significantly impacted by wolf predation in conjunction with other environmental factors.  Regulated harvest could not be used to reduce pack size while wolves are still listed under ESA.  Montana.s final plan will need to describe what the adverse impacts are, how they will be measured, and identify possible mitigation measures.  Before FWP initiates capture and relocation efforts, USFWS would need to approve the state.s final plan and determine that such actions will not inhibit wolf population growth toward recovery.  
Wolf-livestock conflicts would be addressed similar to the Updated Council Alternative (2), except that federal law and regulations guide actions by livestock producers, WS, and FWP that would harass, injure, or kill wolves in conflict with livestock.  The federal regulations are similar to Alternative 2 (Updated Council) in that they are intended to promote flexibility for landowners and agencies to resolve conflicts by directing management response at problem wolves.  The specific management tool most readily available to livestock producers to resolve conflicts is a permit that authorizes the permittee to take a wolf under certain conditions.  These are similar to the state's special kill permit described under Alternative 2.  However, the federal regulations are more restrictive, in keeping with the listed status.  It is important to note that while the adaptive management framework still guides the incremental approach, taking of wolves under the federal regulations is guided by whether the conflict took place on public or private land, rather than the proposed adaptive framework of remote public lands or mixed land ownerships in Alternative 2.  
Funding to implement this alternative would be split between Montana and the federal government because the species would still be listed and Montana lacks a significant source of funding dedicated to listed species.  ESA Section 6 provides for 90% of the funding, but Montana would need to fund the remaining 10%.  This 90-10 cost share is also predicated on the condition that Montana continues to coordinate with the other states to recover and delist the gray wolf, which most certainly will be the case.  FWP would fund its share either through private sources or by state license revenue.    
Table 2 summarizes how each of the five alternatives addresses the major issues.    
Wolves will be present in Montana regardless of which of the five alternatives is selected, but the number of wolves present will vary by alternative.  Different management philosophies and tools will lead to different outcomes, each based on the range of management philosophies . from conservative to aggressive.    

  The environmental consequences are speculative because no one can accurately predict the status of Montana.s wolf population at the time of actual delisting, which may be one to three years away.  Moreover, the actual outcomes will result from future management decisions and circumstances that may or may not have been fully anticipated.  Therefore, the reader may find it helpful to consider the significance of the impacts described in each alternative, and then to compare alternatives relative to each other rather than to focus exclusively on the prediction.  The impacts are estimated using the best available information and historical data, in keeping with accepted scientific and statistical methods.    
For this EIS, FWP evaluated the environmental consequences by assuming each alternative would be implemented starting in 2003.  Impacts are then reported for 2015.  Some environmental consequences will be short term and develop rapidly.  Others may not emerge for several years.  The longer time span accounted for:  1) the time required to complete the delisting process, 2) the biological life span of wolves and their prey, and 3) impacts which develop while the wolf population stabilizes.  Cumulative environmental impacts result from incremental consequences added to other past, present, and reasonably foreseeable actions by FWP, including actions by other state agencies and businesses regulated by other state agencies.  In this EIS, consideration of cumulative impacts is limited to the State of Montana.  
While impacts are predicted, it is also possible for FWP to mitigate or lessen impacts to some degree, based on how and when specific management strategies described for each alternative are implemented.  FWP intends to lessen the impacts of a recovered wolf population where possible, while still maintaining a secure and healthy population.  A summary of the consequences of each alternative is presented in Table 3.  

The following are not included:
Table 1.  The main issues identified through two public comment opportunities (scoping in 2002 and the Draft EIS in 2003) and their frequency.
Table 2.  Summary of how each alternative addresses the issues identified by the Montana Wolf Management Advisory Council and by the general public in spirng, 2002.
Table 3.  Summary of environmental consequences for each alternative.
Figure 1.  Minimum fall number of wolves in the State of Montana, 1979-2002 and the first known dispersal event leading to a new pack in the Montana population (USFWS unpubl. data).  The arrows show the years of the first known dispersals of radio-collared animals into the State of Montana to start a new pack or join an existing pack.  
Montana Wolf Conservation and Management Plan
Environmental Impact Statement Preparation
Summary of Public Scoping Comments
August 2002
FWP began accepting comments in February on a state-run wolf management program. It marked the first step in the preparation of an environmental impact statement with the proposed action that the “State of Montana will develop and implement a wolf conservation and management program.”
Issue scoping allows the public to identify issues, concerns, and what it wants FWP to address in the EIS. FWP is required to allow at least 30 days for scoping under the Montana Environmental Policy Act. The agency, however, designed a 60-day process to ensure wider opportunities and more time to comment. FWP conducted community work sessions in 12 Montana towns in March and April, provided opportunities to comment on-line, in addition to taking comment via Fax and regular mail.
More than 800 people participated in the community work sessions and the agency received more than 4,000 comments between February and April. Comments were received from nearly every Montana county, 110 different Montana zip codes, 49 out of 50 states, and eight foreign countries.
The various alternatives will be developed based on these comments. The summary below capture the sentiment and offer a general picture of a representative cross section of comments. Comments are nearly verbatim and emerged from communities across Montana, as well as from many non-residents.
How the comments were processed
Comments from the work sessions—and from written and E-mail correspondence--were entered and summarized in their own individual data files, but with an identical file structure....
Because of the volume of comments received, this summary was prepared to capture the cross section of input and to help formulate alternatives in the EIS. It was interesting to note the differences in comments between the work sessions and the written letters as well as the geographic differences across the state for the work session comments. Some issues appear to be more regionally focused than others.
Key word categories and a spectrum of comments
Representative comments are shown in bullet format. The alphanumeric code indicates the identification number in the computer database. “S” denotes comments recorded at the community work sessions and “W” denotes comments received through the mail or via E-mail. The number indicates the record number in the respective database. Comments are nearly verbatim for both databases; they were streamlined to remove unnecessary text while still preserving most of the original words.
Wolf Management (1203), Numbers (611), and Distribution (193) – ( 2011 total) comments address the philosophies, tools, and strategies for wolf management, the numbers of wolves in Montana, and where they live.
I think wolves should be managed like other wildlife in the state. We do not set maximum levels for the other species, so we should not for wolves. S2341
How will “pack” be defined? Any plan will have a minimum number of wolves and packs. But what is a pack? Will previous successful breeding (not just current) define a pack? S1681
Emphasis should be on stewardship methods that do everything possible to avoid conflicts before lethal control measures are even considered. W1184
Support a regulated hunting season for wolves, lions, and bears that ensures the survival of each species and healthy big game populations, without infringing upon hunting opportunities for humans. Fair chase hunting of the species to keep wolf numbers in check while contributing to the activities of management agencies is OK. W495
Best management for wolves is to put the bounty back on them and eliminate. Wolves are truly nonessential in this day and age. W837
There needs to adequate and vigorous law enforcement to discourage wolf poaching. W939
To the degree possible, we urge you to manage people, not wolves. W1159
I do not want wolves to be managed as a game species. S409
The goal of managing wolves must be a logical, scientific management plan. S48
Don’t like adaptive management – it won’t work and there are more hassles. S1824
As mother nature rarely allows for any system to remain static, the plan should be flexible enough to adapt to change in wolf movement and population changes. S162
Wolves cannot be managed and the management plan cannot work. S775
Sportsmen should be part of control. Control hunts rather than Fish and Game or Feds doing the killing. S717
You have a hunting season and license for all kinds of other animals, why not for wolves? S2346\
Hunting and trapping… should do both. Wolves get smart if shot at or trapped – need both. S1996
Have different units or zones where wolves are managed differently. Some zones have no hunting, trapping whereas this may be necessary in others. S1582
As much as possible, prevent human-caused mortality … unless, of course, where there is immediate threat to human life, livestock, or other property. W777
There should be no killing of wolves whatsoever. W873
We oppose the use of public hunting or trapping as management tools for wolves and we oppose the use of sterilization procedures. W1142
I think it is critical that the three state plans count wolf mortalities together throughout the three states. W941
The first objective for managing wolves ought to be to satisfy the needs of hunters. W1168
Three-tiered, progressive management approach: protective, conservative, and long-term … W1158
Eliminate the population or keep them in the park at the fed’s expense.
Prevent further growth of wolf packs. They should be tolerated only in Yellowstone Park and in a 3-mile buffer outside the Park. W823
Wolves should be restricted to certain areas and limited in number. S178
Keep in mind that wolves don’t understand “boundaries.” S506
Maintain wolves in parks, wilderness areas, and on federal lands. S1159
Could eliminate lots of problems if “no wolf” zone in eastern Montana where we have lots of agriculture. S1162
Wolves originated from Canada so treat them like Canadian animals. No wolves below 3500 foot elevation, as they are managed in Canada. S2125
Corridors – how will you insure (a) preservation and (b) recovery of corridors used by wolves to preserve connectivity between packs? S1579
No artificial boundaries that exclude wolves from certain areas. W1150
Leave wolves in Yellowstone Park if you want, but any that cross the line must be eliminated. W1094
Wolves must be allowed to expand their range to all areas accessible to them and be allowed to persist wherever those areas may be throughout the entire state. W928
Wolves should be limited to public lands and those private lands where they are welcome. W1071
Need larger number of packs as the target and a three-tiered management protection program. S51
What is the target wolf population size? Where and how do we set this? S496
Figure out what Montana can sustain for number of wolves and manage at that number. S810
Need a reasonable cap on wolf numbers. S2411
Current goal of 15 packs should at least be doubled to 30. S1631
The minimum should be the maximum. S2169
Wolves should be counted as total number of wolves, not just packs. S2560
Ensure viable wolf populations into the future or all the money and time spent so far will be wasted. W811
Seek to achieve a target of 20 breeding packs by securing 30 wolf packs overall in Montana. W869
Should not put a limit on the number of wolves. Let the population fluctuate based on the weather, habitat, and prey. W797
The documented federal goal for wolf reintroduction is 30 breeding pairs split among Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. We do not necessarily agree that this number is defensible, necessary, or desirable. But if we use this number as a theoretical benchmark, why should Montana bear half of this burden? Why does the Plan specify a minimum of 15 breeding pairs in Montana? W1168
Management plan should include increasing the wolf population until it can become a game animal and a hunting season can be established. W533
Montana would use 15 packs as the trigger point while such packs play a valuable role ecologically, they are largely irrelevant in either reaching or maintaining viable population levels unless they are breeding packs. All standards must be based solely on breeding packs as currently defined by FWS. W944
I suggest that the number on hand right now become an absolute “upper limit” of wolves allowed. W931
Since not all packs are successful breeders, 15 packs may be equivalent to 10 or fewer breeding packs which is considered the threshold of endangered status. W1149
…Montana with its vast wide open spaces, low population density, high prey populations, and large roadless areas could support thousands of wolves. Suggestions that 10 or even 20 wolf packs is “adequate” are based entirely on a political number taken out of thin air, and are not supported by any scientific or biological justification. Wolf populations should be permitted to adjust to their own self-determined population levels. W1159
There is no need to adopt a trigger number unless officials are recklessly trying to manage wild animals for conflicts before they occur. W1143
The number of wolf packs (15) as a benchmark – it is unclear how this value was obtained or if it has a biological significance. Provide more information on the derivation of this value. Incorporate further analyses that identify the minimum number of wolf packs required to maintain a viable population. W1186
Social Factors (803) – comments address various social values associated with wolves and wolf management.
Wolves in Yellowstone National Park reflect modern America’s strong sentiment for conservation of the west’s natural heritage. Montanans have to accept this, while we know that it means we will have to share much of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem with wolves. I am pleased to see our state FWP stepping up to the challenge with wisdom and flexibility. W654
Wolves help keep checks and balances in place. Wolves are essential predator species. S516
Treat the wolves like animals, not Gods. S2547
Nevertheless, all co-signers greatly value the recovery of the wolf population in Montana and the eventual restoration of their evolutionary influence as a top-down predator throughout the state and the rest of the west. W1159
The plan should put what is best for the wolf ahead of what’s socially acceptable. S468
Wolves are a deserving symbol of our precious wild heritage. The State of Montana should be proud of its opportunity to protect and preserve them. W746
Wolves have been deprived of their habitat by humans. Humans have been robbed of their biodiversity. W686
I feel that it is important to consider the biology of the species and the role wolves play in the ecosystem, while not forcing this down people’s throats. People’s opinions, attitudes, and livelihoods are also important. S1581
Wolves do nothing to enhance our experience in the outdoors, besides reduce game numbers for people that like to view game through either their camera in Yellowstone Park or their riflescope during hunting season. W1099
As a lifelong hunter and wildlife advocate, I am glad wolves are returning to Montana... the return of the wolf marks an important point in Montana’s wildlife history. If we do our job right, our children will be enjoying this magnificent native Montana animal. Wolves are smart, adaptable, and fecund creatures. They’ll do their part, if only we let them. W861
Long term survival of wolves requires a robust and well distributed wolf population in areas of Montana where wolves could find suitable habitat and where their presence is accepted by people. W752
The people who make their living off the land should be considered. W790
I think we can do very well without wolves in the west. If we must have them in the Parks for the tourists to see, and to kill other wildlife and game animals so be it. If they venture outside the Park boundaries, they become fair game for anyone to kill. Don’t put the burden of management on the taxpayers of the western states. W1095
I believe that wolves should have a place in Montana and other states, where large areas of federal land can offer them a place to reasonably exist without undue impacts on the private land. These are my lands, too. W677
I think that it is BS that Montanan’s never even got a chance to vote on this. If they leave the park, we should be able to shoot them on sight. … The wolves are going to be over populated and the hunting won’t be worth much for future generations. You should have at least let us locals vote on the issue. When we all voted not in favor, tell the tree-huggers that if they want to see a wolf, go see one in a zoo. W 567
Consider pasture trade for livestock in high risk areas to low risk areas. W978
Wolf management should be treated like that of other large carnivores. W1181.
Any wolf management plan must protect the rights of the people of Montana first, and should not do anything to endanger big game hunting in our state. W924
Agriculture will always be the number one business in Montana, and therefore there will always be conflict with wolves. W2431
Would like to see a way to manage wolves and work closely with ranchers and landowners. S1553
The plan must incorporate not only the desires of the ranchers and local farmers but also the desires of the environmentalists, and wildlife management professionals. W800
Please consider those of us who make our living raising cattle and sheep. The environment is not greater than the people who live here. W900
They are interesting, but I wish they weren’t here – it was so peaceful before they showed up. I don’t like them. Too bad the people who love them can’t live here. W1031
Discontinue wolf introduction and management in Montana. This isn’t bambi-land. We cannot go back 100 years into the past. It is irresponsible and immature to pay homage to those idealistic and whiny “back to nature” kids who most probably still haven’t gotten out of the sandbox let alone spend any real time in the woods. Wolf introduction fiasco is truly pitiful. W491
I believe wolves belong in this state. Learning to be tolerant of wolves and learning that their role in the ecosystem is critical to a healthy environment is the key to success of the wolf in the state. It is imperative that people learn that we can live with wolves and still live our lives. W1078
We encourage the use of educational outreach like the “Living with Carnivores” program which is currently being promoted throughout Washington, Oregon, and Idaho and utilized as a tool for helping residents (rural and urban) learn ways to avoid conflicts with native predators. W1161
What good are wolves? They will kill many livestock, and we already eliminated them once. S55
Given FWP’s reliance on license revenues, will non-hunters have an equal voice in wolf management? S304
Both sides have been willing to listen and be open-minded on wolf issues. S302
Many Montanans and Americans want wolves here. S63
Some livestock owners favor wolves. S76
What is the basis for determination of “optimum” number of packs? S102
Can we find common ground between pro-wolf/anti-wolf? Find a compromise that promotes a healthy ecosystem and a healthy economy. S300
Please consider the word “conservation” – Management to me means control and manipulation. Isn’t it time to recognize wolves have value and are worth protecting for future generations? S159
Times change and ranchers must evolve just like other industries. Plan should encourage inclusive attitude. We’re all a part of this and can work through it. S556
Wolf proponents are ignoring the reasons wolves were cut back in the 1930/40s. S603
FWP should look at the ecosystem as a whole and recognize individual species play a role and not isolate wolves from the picture. S115
I don’t object to having some wolves around. Wolf populations should fall under the guise of modern wildlife management practices. Populations should be controlled to ensure ample hunting opportunities, which will ensure recruitment of new hunters. Wolf population numbers should also be controlled to protect small family ranches. There is no logical or biological reason to confer exalted status on wolf population to the exclusion of other species. S153
Unfunded mandate not a good thing. S139
If they want wolves, put them in Central Park. S751
I’m not for the wolf, how did we get stuck with them? Shouldn’t we be able to vote – let people of Montana decide. If not, then we should not have to maintain. S708
Free shoot, shovel, and shut-up t-shirts. It’s not the wolves’ fault. S700
All non-residents that have moved to Montana think wolves should be here. Should take the wolves and leave. S692
As a taxpayer, I am upset that we are paying to kill predators. S769
It prevents us from ability to have life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. S947
Look at areas where wolves and people co-exist for models of management. S858
What authority does Federal Fish and Wildlife Service have to mandate the existence of any animal on the state land? What would happen if we said we were going to manage our own way, with or without the USFWS? S2356
Wolves will have the benefit of bringing folks here to observe the wolf, tourism, and hunting. S2429
If the government let wolf numbers drop, why should we pay to bring them back? S1798
Everyone can have a voice/opinion, but those who are impacted financially should have more of a voice. S1825
A lot of people benefit from wolves being restored to Montana. There are legitimate costs, but we should figure out a way to spread the cost around among all who benefit. S2364
I want 3 good reasons what wolves are good for. And I don’t want to hear that tourists like to hear them howl. S2368
There is difficulty in getting “use days” changed for outfitted activities on federal lands. S1878
We should have wolves in all the parks, like Central Park in New York. S1881
Wolves need to be seen as a wildlife species and managed in the same way as other wildlife species. S1659
Wolf management is a national issue and national opinion will and should be regarded. S1413
What does FWP consider a balance between predators and big game? S1664
It can be worked out, but will take everyone. S1693
Livestock producers should not be a scapegoat when wolves need to be controlled. S1362
What’s more important? Humans are dominant. Who will be here in 100 years? People or wolves…. S1151
Tolerance is variable area to area. How do we account for that? S233
We’re being forced to accept these wolves. S2127
We didn’t have problems with wolves when we were allowed to shoot them. S1948
Administration and Delisting (623) – comments address state and federal responsibilities, the current status of wolves, their recovery, federal and state delisting processes, and the progress of planning efforts in other states.
Law enforcement and wolf management in Montana should be exclusively drawn up and executed by the residents of Montana. W884
Do not engage the services of Wildlife Services. W784
Wolves are a natural part of the ecosystem. They must stay listed as endangered federally and permanently protected. W785
Implementation of the plan should rest with MT FWP, shared with Wildlife Services. Wolves should be managed by wildlife professionals. Montana Department of Livestock should have no or very limited involvement. W807
The early stages of state management will likely be the most difficult. We encourage you to include a provision for a state wolf management advisory council to continue to identify, discuss, and discern management goals, conflict resolutions and public education opportunities. W1161
Please do not turn over wolf management to the state of Montana. These special interest groups corrupt elected officials from protecting wolves and the environment. W819
Montana Department of Livestock should never be allowed to control wolves in Montana. Once the wolves are no longer classified, their care should be put under the care of FWP. W821
I support the continued protection of wolves. I do not support efforts to de-list the wolf from the endangered species protection it deserves. W716
Delist the wolf. This will benefit the wolf and the citizens of Montana by not dragging the process out and fighting with other agencies. W1137
I believe that it is in the best interest of the wolves, the people of Montana, and the large game population to leave this matter in the hands of the state. W555
Concerned that this agency (FWP) will simply promote the slaughter of wolves. W841
Montana should not be committed to recovering wolves. Montana would provide the prey base forever more and the cost of management would further burden our state. W835
Important for FWP to work collaboratively to developing and implementing the wolf program. W119
Please don’t turn over wolf management to the State of Montana. Predators such as wolves should remain protected. W600
Glad State of Montana will have control over management and not the feds. No use for wolves in MT. Let them stay in Canada and Alaska. W1098
The USFWS brought in the wolves so they should manage them. W930
It is extremely important that Montana develop a careful plan to manage wolves after delisting so that a healthy wolf population will exist into the future. W651
I am concerned that wolves will never be delisted. W958
Continue the citizen advisory council with the majority of members on the council being active big game hunters. W1155
My concern is that Wildlife Services is going to be responsible for handling of “problem” wolves. Put into the plan a provision where Wildlife Services it not directly responsible for making the decision if lethal control is used. W1085
I do think that FWP can do a good job of managing the wolf in our state as long as they keep “good science” as the management tool of choice and the agency does not succumb to political whim. W643
Do not allow FWP to become Fish, Wolf and Parks. W521
We support the idea that the wolf should be delisted and managed as a game species. We believe this is a state’s right issue and that MFWP is the agency with jurisdiction. W1140
Concerned that delisting is premature at this time. W1182
I believe that some thought should be given to greater coordination with the states of Idaho and Wyoming. All three states should work together to ensure that wolf numbers remain healthy and well beyond levels that would trigger a debate over relisting. W1149
I hope that the wolf will be delisted and that we will be allowed to shoot them. It is only a matter of time before all the elk are eaten. The balance that environmentalists are trying to accomplish will be totally out of whack in favor of the wolf. W942
I look forward to delisting of the wolf only if the state of Montana can manage them like they do other predators. W642
There should be a high priority, urgency, to get a management plan in place. S17
How will the wolf management plan relate to other wildlife management plans? S22
I support the management planning document that the council has prepared. Do not want to see a “no action” option be the one adopted. S403
Leave it up to the Federal Government as our only answer to change the Endangered Species Act. We don’t need wolves. S481
I’d like to see this wolf management plan implemented with existing FWP personnel without hiring a whole new cadre of bureaucrats. S322
Maybe need more staff to manage wolves in the future and where will the money come from? Number of wolves is increasing so need more staff and time to manage for wolves. S381
We must convince all federal agencies involved to let Montana manage wolves. S23
As soon as the state can take over management, it should do so – the sooner, the better. S320
Why does Montana FWP want to manage wolves instead of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? S316
Find a way to balance the various concerns so that everyone that comes to the table gets their concerns heard and considered. S570
What is the benefit of the state of Montana taking on wolf management? Why would we do this? S552
Fear of the unknown … we are in the petri dish. S549
Do not take on a management plan. Let the USFWS live with its mistake. Then maybe we can get the ESA changed. S483
Local people will have more authority to make decisions. S533
Critical that we have clear guidelines on when ranchers can kill problem wolves. S312
Tough laws for illegal killing of wolves. S508
Concern that delisting process will take longer than anticipated. Fear of lawsuits. S275
What happens if the population falls below acceptable levels? How does re-listing occur? S272
Can we find common ground between pro-wolf/anti-wolf? Find a compromise that promotes a healthy ecosystem and a healthy economy.
FWP should use data they gather to make decisions on wolves. S128
Given FWP reliance on license revenues, will non-hunters have an equal voice in wolf management? S304
What control do we have over wolves now? Ted Turner can release wolves anyplace without supervision. S647
Wolves cannot be managed and the management plan cannot work. S775
Wolves will be managed by courts despite best intentions. S666
Does the state of Montana have the guts to stick with the program of hunting or trapping of wolves – or will it capitulate to environmentalist extremists like it did with buffalo and grizzly. S640
Federal government dropped a “hot potato.” Suits to follow and we will get the bill. Let the Federal government keep wolves. S644
The big issue is the financial impact to FWP and the state of Montana. Are we willing to commit the resources to do the job? And how are those resources going to be raised? S940
Penalties need to be set high enough to deter illegal wolf killing. S874
Relating to “managing a wild animal.” Using the wolf as a pawn in political exploitation and whim should not be tolerated. Either they’re allowed to live wild with dignity or let the USFWS keep at it. State politics do not belong around the neck of a wolf. S1073
In the development of the wolf program, there should be strong involvement by landowners and also the landowners should be involved in the actual management. S1885
If and when wolves are delisted, who is going to assume responsibility for livestock depredations? Will it be the state since it will be their baby then? S2366
Coordinate Montana’s plan with adjacent states and provinces and Federal government. S2379
FWP makes its money selling elk. Wolves live on elk. Is there a conflict of interest? S2413
If the state of Montana isn’t going to compensate for losses, then how will they ensure someone will? S2442
Will Montana delist if Wyoming and Idaho don’t have plans? S2498
FWP needs to think about funding. Need to see what will be dropped in order to pick up wolves. S1836
Compensation needs to be addressed and a plan to compensate for losses needs to be included in the management. S1864
FWP should lobby those out of state or those in city areas about the importance of having a plan. S1875
You have to be conscious of the human dimension of wolf management, not just the biological part – livestock reimbursement, hunting, education, law enforcement if there is poaching of wolves. It’s really people who are going to make it succeed or fail. S1368
Plan built in with some “politic-proof” mechanism to protect and stabilize the plan as administrations change. S1910
How are the different states going to work out the connectivity requirement? S1890
Let biology be a deciding factor, not personal opinions/politics/pressure. S1656
Should Montana have to wait for Idaho and Wyoming and visa versa to implement their plans? S1916
Feds have a problem and they want to get rid of it. S1142
How will the kill permit system work? Have to drive to town to get it? S1140
Flexibility means the ability to bring resources to the conflicts quickly, effectively, and efficiently. S206
Once we get the plan adopted and approved, how often will we be able to update and review the plan? S228
Will the Feds have to be involved if the plan has been adopted and approved? S230
Don’t want Federal gov’t to dictate to the state of Montana. S2059
State needs to have effective enforcement to deter citizens from taking things into their own hands … should be a healthy fine. S2271
Is it possible to delist species and the Feds still do the management? S2295
Is FWP mission of game management going to change because of the new wolf management? S2172
Can I protect my personal property without doing jail time or being fined? S2017
Let Fish and Game (state) stay out of it because they’ll screw it up. S1178
To what extent are the 3 states linked and management coordinated? Question if states are really linked. S1441
Mechanism to change the plan as we learn. S1452
Delist the wolf so we can manage them better. S1175
Will the respective states make any attempt to communicate and/or cooperatively manage wolves with Indian tribes? S1505
There should be no killing of wolves, whether by state or federal government officials or private hunters or trappers. W802
Support the recommendation to engage an advisory citizen/s group to collaborate, and any citizen’s group must also represent the long term national interest and not just local special interest groups. W1142
Please take over the wolf management to ensure continued big game hunting in the future. W554
While we recognize the agency’s existing wildlife biologists may need additional support in some areas of the state, 4.3 additional FTE is not warranted. We do not want to create “wolf biologists” to manage a single species. We feel strongly the agency needs to focus on multi-species management. Likewise, we see absolutely no justification for 2.5 additional enforcement staff. We cannot lend our support to a plan with this level of financial commitment until we know who is going to “foot the bill.” W1144
I don’t think you are the ones who should be working on this problem. The project was done by Federal agencies – they are the ones who should be paying for the problem. W1004
Get funding from the Federal government. Don’t take responsibility. W1017
It is imperative that the USFWS and MFWP do everything in their power to educate the public about the plan and its benefits for all Montana. The wolf conservation and management plan is being put forward on good faith as a reasonable alternative to the current avenue of action. This view must be relayed to the public positively. W1185
State, federal and private parties should work together, utilizing adaptive management. W1016
Wolf should be taken off the endangered species list. W846
Wolves must be managed by Montana and not Federal Government. W613
Additional FWP personnel should be responsible for regular assistance to livestock producers who use wolf trafficked areas. W564
Issue must not be subject to political whims of the state or federal government. I do not trust either to protect the wolves. W607
Triple the number of game wardens in western Montana. Enforce flagrant and or chronic violations with severe penalties which in turn could partially fund this item. W929
In adaptive management, all the stakeholders should have an equal voice; any decisions should involve hunting, ranching, and property rights groups with an equal voice. Only local, state stakeholders are allowed a voice in the Montana wolf management plan. W1178
Be sure all the requirements of ESA are taken into account. W559
I doubt that an agency funded by sportsman dollars should oversee the wolf program. W1089
As a repeat recreational visitor to Montana, I am requesting that the state of Montana take over the wolf management project. I believe that the residents and visitors of Montana, as well as the wolves, would be best served by and receive greater benefit with the management of wolves being in the hands of the government of the state of Montana, rather than the federal government. W808
Predator and prey relationships (501) -- comments address wolf impacts on Montana game populations and how wolves, game and other wildlife will be managed, and Montana’s hunting heritage.
Claims that wolves will destroy all wild ungulate populations are unfounded. If wolves had been able to decimate their prey, elk and deer would’ve been extinct before Columbus landed in America. W1161
Wolves are compatible with healthy prey populations; wolf numbers are self-regulating and do not need to be artificially reduced by people for prey populations to thrive. W1158
Maintain Montana’s big game populations and hunting opportunities. S551
Look at the devastation of the elk and deer herds. Wolf Numbers need to be controlled. W969
These wolves need to go. Wolves will greatly reduce wildlife numbers and I would be happier to see more wildlife. W1190
Help to get rid of the wolves. They kill whatever they can. W1090
Consider the future of Montana sportsmen. My main concern is that with wolves, there will not be any game to hunt in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Our forefathers knew best. W1002
I fear that we’ll be told that we’ll need to stop our time-honored tradition of hunting so there is enough game to feed the predators. W535
What is the present and future impact of wolves on moose and wild sheep? W1188
Between the wolves, coyotes, cougar, and bear, there won’t be much left to hunt. W1083
No wolves. They’re killing too much game. W1031
Wolves may maintain on deer, elk, and beavers and decimate moose and big horns. W1192
You need good information on how the increased number of wolves integrated with existing populations of bear and mountain lion and what effects this will have on big game populations. W515.
Do not support harvesting of wolves for the purpose of providing a harvestable surplus of ungulates. W1142
With chronic wasting disease a potential disaster for hunters, the ability of wolves to pick out and kill the weakest members of the herd could be very valuable. W775
The elk population appears to be thriving in our area, not being destroyed as some big game groups would lead us to believe. There is a need for balance and the wolves can help provide this. Do remember those wolves were here with the elk long before we ever came to Montana to build fences and block the range. All existed together just fine. We seem to be the ones to have thrown the balance out of place. We also have the ability to make it right. W800.
Funding (447) – comments address wolf management costs and the source of funding.
State should consider adequate funding as a component of the plan (federal, state, private, license places etc. S369
Concern among sportsmen that license dollars should not be used if they are shut out of a role in wolf management program. S354
All funding should be federal money. S1794
Need to find a way to get the people that want wolves to finance the management of them. S2494
Recognize the need for secure, long-term funding to address the unique challenges associated with the conservation and management techniques and sustaining an ecologically sound plan and recognizes the wolf as a species of national interest. W1142
The tri-state area encompassing Montana, Idaho, Wyoming should not alone incur the costs of managing wolves. W1144.
It is unconstitutional for the FWP to take our monies for wolf efforts when our money works to sustain our huntable big game. Let the greenies pay. W546
We believe that if wolf management is thoroughly integrated with the management of Montana’s other large carnivores, the cost would be lessened. Large parts of the budget are costs associated with demands by livestock producers and outfitters that wolves be intensively monitored and managed and not by any intrinsic needs of the species. We bring this up because these special interest groups point to the cost of intensively managing wolves as cost that should not be born by the state, yet the extreme cost would not be incurred were it not for them. W1181
Concern is that too many strings will come with the money to manage wolves. W1027
Hunters’ license fees obligate MDFWP to represent the views and preferences of hunters. W1155
The states in cooperation with the federal government need to move to establish the National Management Trust. Similar use should be made of state funds derived from CARA. W944
Livestock (414) – comments adresss Montana’s livestock industry and its importance and responsibilities; and government and private citizen actions when wolves kill livestock.
When big game become scarce, wolves will depredate more livestock. S83
Control measures should be selective against the offending wolves only. W793
Ranchers should act and make good faith effort to live with wolves just like they do with other animals. S557
How do we deal with repeat wolf offenders? Do we allow any second chances? S497
Recognize small family ranch concerns; FWP should work with ranches to reduce conflicts before they happen. S110
Livestock growers who are using public land need to be required to improve their management in order to reduce predation of their livestock and that should come first before killing the wolf is considered. S632
We need to be able to protect our property. S725
We need the ranchers around. S801
In cases of livestock depredation, non-lethal means should be considered first. S284
What about indirect losses to livestock to wolves? Abortions in cattle, livestock that can’t be confirmed, fence damage from running cattle. It will take people to patrol livestock in pastures. S421
Livestock owners need to be able to respond to wolf depredation. S325.
It’s critical that we have clear guidelines on when ranchers can kill problem wolves. S312
Ranchers must be allowed to shoot wolves at their discretion. S494
Landowners should be given kill permits – like Montana’s game damage program. S929
Need to continue to provide adequate predator control and not restrain it because of the wolf. S1056
24 hour guards on a herd is added cost, time and worry. S988
Needs to be a way that local law enforcement can react immediately to problems with wolves (killing and harassing livestock) without waiting for other agency approval. S859
Wildlife Services should use the most effective means to control a depredation problem the first time it occurs. No relocation or aversive conditioning. S970
A benefit of Delisting will be that depredation complaints will be investigated by FWP. Common sense should guide dealing with depredation issues and property loss. Respond as soon as possible to the conflict/depredation problem or area. S2371
Should we have to wait until wolves are chewing on our livestock before we can shoot? S2453
What is going to be considered wolf harassment in regard to livestock? S2500
Proactive means to separate wolves and livestock. Help with livestock herding and avoidance of wolves to make it easier for landowners to tolerate wolves. S2484
Rubber bullets etc. should be readily available to livestock producers. S1824
Studies show that actual losses of livestock are higher than what’s reported. S1255
Compensation program could incorporate best management practices like dogs and other non-lethal means. S127
Ranchers will have to modify their operations, especially during calving in March-May. S1115
Timely response to problems especially in agricultural communities. S2102
How do you prove a specific predator was involved in predation? S2016
How do we evaluate which wolf or animal in the pack actually killed the animal? S2113
Livestock owners should be allowed to defend their property without fear of criminal penalties. S1754
How does the wolf compare to mountain lions with respect to livestock? S1723
I wonder what rights wardens have with regards to wolves around livestock? S1612
Should be the private landowner’s decision to say wolf control action or no action if there is a depredation incident on their land. S1608
Ranchers should check on their livestock at least once a week. Should not assume that all losses are due to wolves. S2607
What is the responsibility of the rancher or farmer to protect their livestock? S1721
Continue research on deterrents to depredation. S2210
Strongly oppose proposed provisions that would allow private citizens to kill wolves suspected of depredation on livestock. Onus should be placed on humans to reduce the possibility of conflicts. W1150
Livestock losses are a part of doing business near public land. No wolves should be killed because they may be threatening livestock. W788
Federal predator officers (gov’t trappers) should be instructed to handle wolf predation the same as they handle coyote depredation. W885
Ranchers should be allowed to shoot wolves pursuing livestock on private land. W1190
Greater tolerance for predators such as wolves on public land even if they are killing livestock. Public lands are just that – public! Livestock users using public land should not expect to have a great deal of predator removal flexibility. W1153
Permits to kill wolf should be provided to ranchers/landowners to protect their livestock. Primary management tools should go to the hands of those affected – landowners and ranchers. W1099
Stewardship methods that reduce conflicts should be implemented before lethal control measures. FWP has a valuable role to help prevent and resolve livestock conflicts with wolves and other predators. It is appropriate for them to respond to conflicts as well as USDA Wildlife Services. FWP field operatives are in the most effective position to address these problems. W1158
I would support the ability of livestock producers to kill wolves in the act of attacking, injuring or killing their lawfully present livestock on public lands. No such ability should exist for wolves “threatening to kill” unless the meaning of the provision can be made clear. Allowing non-lethal harassment without a permit when wolves are disrupting or in close proximity to livestock is so vague and arbitrary as to invite all manner of abuse. W944
Ranchers will have more responsibility to manage wolves than most and they will have to make adjustments to their operations which will cost money. The money of having wolves around (tourism, small business) goes elsewhere, but landowners and ranchers have the potential economic liability – but we expect the ag interests to carry the financial liability. Create a baseline of losses-using records and consider compensation in greater than normal/average losses. People with the vested interests all need to be a part of the solution. W1193
With the large number of wolves, you make ranchers use the shovel and shut up method. W530
The economic problems that wolves might cause due to livestock depredation are slim compared to losses that ranchers experience for other reasons. W645
Humans create conflicts. Since the greatest conflicts exist with livestock producers, any wolf restoration plan should discuss and advocate animal husbandry practices that reduce wolf-livestock conflicts. This is no different than current requirements that seek to minimize conflicts with grizzly bears such as requiring proper garbage disposal and care of food. Strategies include… use of shepards and guard dogs, removal and disposal of carcasses. Avoidance by ranchers and their livestock of high wolf use areas, particularly known denning sites, rendezvous areas, and so forth. W 1159
Wolf Habitat / Connections /Land Management (388) – comments address the need for wolves to move freely through Montana, question how and where this will be accomplished, and how motorized travel and land use will be affected.
One needs to realize that Montana’s agricultural industry cannot afford any more additional costs and continue to be the states leading industry. If the costs are too great, forcing producers out of business, critical wolf habitat relative to their migration corridors may be diminished or lost as we lose our open space to subdivisions. … FWP needs to be reminded that it is statutorily authorized to manage wildlife and that their habitat management authority is quite limited. Some recognition of the agency’s plans to work with private landowners on habitat issues might be helpful. W1144
We must protect and manage our existing open space. We must manage development such that we don’t create further loss of habitat for both humans and wildlife. W824
What incentives encourage people to have (tolerate) wolves on private land? S245
What does FWP plan do about public land activity impacting private land and its wildlife (wolves)? S264
Protect key areas of wolf habitat during key seasons. W1158
Limit the number of wolves per year per area … explain to me why we need more than 15 packs at any time in all of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. W1192
Wolf range and habitat is currently restricted by roads and road-related development. Wildlife managers should provide the means for wolves to pioneer habitat outside of these paved barriers. States could devise standards for highway permeability which could be retrofitted into existing roads and designed into future highway projects. W1160
Since Montana hosts all of the linkage zones which would make it possible for wolves to move between Canada and Wyoming, the state bears a special responsibility to ensure that the necessary linkages are designated prior to delisting and maintained afterward. W944
Maintain large, wild areas where wolves and their natural prey are secure from excessive disturbance by people. W866
Would like to see provisions for protection from disturbance of denning areas on public lands. S402
Restore roaded areas to densities at or below 0.9 miles per square mile. S285
Would like to see wolf groups start their own habitat funding program. S294
We need the ranchers around. S801
It seems like the corridor idea isn’t necessary. S1383
Concern that state management will affect road closures and logging. Are we going to close more roads? S2539
Lines of connectivity should include Canada, especially for northern packs. S2226
Connectivity idea is a scheme to lock up the land and remove human activities on it. W1070
Compensation (287) – comments address payments to livestock producers and others who experience wolf depredation losses, and the funding and administration of a compensation program.
Are reimbursing groups willing to establish deep pocket, long-term trust funds to cover predation losses as part of management plan? If not, who will? Not the taxpayer or loss “sustainee.” S345
At what level will liability, reimbursement cease? S344
Better defined compensation plan for ranchers who loose livestock. S268
Compensation for livestock losses and also for game animals. Hunters are still paying for wolf introduction. Who administers the compensation? Will private compensation continue? Who determines the compensation criteria? S493
Should not be any compensation because there is no way to effectively fund it. S473
Recompense livestock owners for losses – require livestock owners to take proactive management measures before killing wolves. Put the onus on livestock owners first. S833
The presence of wolves should be considered in the cost of doing business – wolves were here prior to livestock. S850
If a wolf eats a pet, the owner should be reimbursed. S1803
Is livestock compensation tied to landowners taking specific actions? It should be. S2195
Wolves are a part of the cost of doing business, state should not compensate for wolf losses; state doesn’t compensate for other types of losses. S1476
Cattle ranchers should be reimbursed for cattle killed on their property, but not for cattle killed on public lands. W683
It seems highly irresponsible not to employ preventive methods and best management practices and still expect compensation for losses and the continual lethal removal of wolves. W1142
Acknowledge that not all livestock losses due to wolves are known, that there are indirect costs associated with wolves other than livestock killed by wolves and that small losses industry wide can be significant losses for an individual rancher who suffers them. Wolves are not proving to be a major threat to the livestock industry. We can figure out how to compensate for losses that affect some individuals. W1158
Every wolf pack that has come into contact with domestic livestock has resulted in killing and maiming. Compensation is not the answer to accepting these livestock losses. W835
A compensation program should be implemented for losses caused by all carnivores or none. W1181
Payment of proven damages to ranchers is reasonable. W607
I also feel that ranchers need to be more assured that their losses will be compensated both quickly and fairly and at a reasonable market price. W499
Concern with how compensation is going to be provided for livestock losses. This includes concerns about the identification of what losses are. Now there are 5-7 losses for everyone that are identified and compensated for. S888
Economics/Livelihoods (227) – comments address the economic costs and benefits of wolves in Montana, including their effect on livelihoods, tourism, and fiscal impacts to FWP.
Would like to see a cost/benefit analysis of wolf management program. S584
Generous populations of wolves benefit not only natural systems, but also the economy. S529
Loss to wolves can easily put some landowners out of business. S336
Can FWP assess and tap into economic benefits of wolf presence in tourism/wildlife viewing. S305
Overpopulation of wolves will lead to under population of deer and elk and this negatively affects our economy. S326
Wolves are a deficit to our economy at a time when the economy is hurting. S861
A lot of people benefit from wolves being restored to Montana. There are legitimate costs, but we should figure out a way to spread the cost around among all who benefit. S2364.
Primary concern should be the economic impacts to livestock, ranching, and outfitters. S1846
We might loose revenue from hunting licenses if the primary big game animals become scarce. S2671
When wolves start taking away all livelihoods, it is going too far. S1877
Local economies, recreation and wildlife observation, particularly by out of state visitors contributes balance between local ranchers who have a need to use public lands for grazing and the rest of the US populace who also own those lands and wish to see wildlife. W782
The impact wolves have on the livelihoods of our ranchers, outfitters, and hunters. W617
How do wolves affect the economics of communities near national parks? W858
Our economy sucks, and the outfitters will suffer. W489
How will the state of Montana replace the economic loss, retail sales decreases, and job losses if we don’t control the impact of wolf predation on huntable game? W553
As a rancher and a big game outfitter, I see the possibility of the wolf running me out of both of these businesses. W983
Diversity is the key to our economy. We need to be better stewards of the land and all life that lives on it. W667.
Information/Education, Public Outreach (208) – comments address the need for FWP to develop information and education techniques and programs to keep Montanans informed about wolf conservation and management, including human safety and technical assistance for landowners and other rural residents.
An annual report should be made available that provides numbers and distribution of wolves. S373
Necessary that stock growers are notified when wolves are near their ranch, or spotted in their range areas. W1146
Technical assistance is needed for people who live, work or play in occupied wolf habitat. S2386
Develop an education program for the population of humans living in and around wolf habitat on how to safeguard themselves and their personal property. W798
Education programs aimed at people moving into the urban/wildlife interface should be instituted.
Homeowners should be taught what wildlife frequents their home site and how to manage their property to avoid conflicts, but they should also be taught that it is their responsibility as Montana citizens to do so. This should not focus on just wolves, but on all wildlife. W1181
FWP should be doing more to get the facts out about wolves and other predators, to counter hysteria and ignorance. Hunter education manuals and classes should include factual materials. W861
Budget for at least one full time carnivore education and restoration specialist for each of the recovery areas. W944
FWP should make a serious commitment to education, training, and open fact sharing of means to avoid conflict among those who live, work and recreate in areas where wolves are likely to reside. Rapid and open reporting of incidents involving wolves, as well as research findings. S564
There should be strong education, not just about what people can do but also about what is myth, paranoia, simply unknown or true. S559
We need to educate the public of the long-term consequences of feeding wolves in Yellowstone. S388
An annual report should be made available that provides numbers and distribution of wolves. S373
Public needs to be educated that the efforts and funding of hunters provided the large prey base that has allowed wolf introduction to be successful. S391
Why doesn’t FWP address the false advertising being putout? People think wolves are beautiful animals – no information about how they kill and live, the affect they have on other predators when wolf moves in … they eat everything. S720
Hire private citizens to be impartial information on wolves. S1835
Need education, pros and cons, to address all sides. S1786
We need timely notification to livestock producers when wolves in the area. S2440
Once wolf plan is implemented, is state going to monitor public attitudes? S1895
To be successful, plan must have public support; education is a major contributor to public support; there is going to be a certain amount of paranoia about decimation of big game populations. S1740
When hunting occurs, what education will be provided regarding identification (coyotes etc.) S1458
Follow up with reported sightings in a new area. S2645
Only way to overcome anxiety is to educate. The more you know, the less you fear. Heavy duty education programs could be direct route to the end of the controversy. W796
Support the plans proposed public education campaign to teach Montana residents about how to reduce potential wolf-human conflicts. W1150
Develop a thorough hunter education program and enforcement of appropriate hunting regulations. Also develop an education program for the population of humans living in and around wolf habitat on how to safeguard themselves and personal property. W798
FWP should be doing a much better job of educating the public. Educate people about wild wolf behavior and the importance of human conscientiousness to reduce the potential of wolf habituation to humans. W623
The MFWP must tell the public what wolves really kill throughout the year, especially during winter and the impact on the young of the year. W1192
We suggest more education to the public about wolves or have certain people raise wolf pups licensed of course to set out and educate a less knowing public of this creature. Education is the main survival tool for this animal to co-exist in man’s world. W943
Be proactive; outreach efforts to landowners ahead of time. W1193
Need to have a plan to get ahead of the “emotion” of the issue of hunting wolves to control their numbers by educating the public in general to the need. W553
Education programs for the public using scientifically based, factual information. W1155
Human Safety (162) – comments address concerns Montanans have for the safety of their children, their pets, and their livestock.
Best method to address the perceived threat wolves pose to human safety is information and education. W1158
Pet owners in wolf country have a personal responsibility to have their animals in sight and voice control at all times and it is not the government’s job to protect their dogs. W944
Provisions must be made to allow landowners to protect their animals (including domestic pets and their families from danger or harassment from wolves). W636
People should be allowed to shoot wolves in protection of life and property. W860
Manage wolves to they adapt to fear man in every situation. S1391
We have the right to protect our property and life and limb. S12
Concern over safety issue while backpacking or camping. S1884
Question whether or not wolves are truly a danger to humans or not. S1407
Be careful where we have wolves. Keep them out of residential areas. S764
Monitoring (151) – comments address how closely wildlife managers will keep tabs on wolf populations, pack sizes, and pack locations and the status of prey populations.
How will you keep track of numbers of wolves when you can’t count them? S1968
Monitoring should be done by a non-biased group. S131
Support volunteer carnivore survey program. W1142
Make sure we know how many wolves are out there and where they are. S766
Wolf surveys need to be accurate. We need various tools to keep track of wolf numbers. S1857
A more timely monitoring of wolves in the area for the awareness of livestock producers. S2504
What population monitoring protocols will be used and how fast can they detect changes in wolf numbers? S1360
How do we count boundary-crossing packs state to state. USA to Canada, and Yellowstone
National Park to Montana? S208
How do you accurately census wolves? S2158
Hunter/recreationists should report sightings, check out tracks etc; it’s more cost effective than aerial surveys. S2278
Once wolves are established, get rid of the radio-collars. We don’t know where all the deer/elk are all the time. S1488
Plan for public assistance to help monitor wolf packs. S1437
What about DNA? S2712
Wolves cannot be managed by the number of packs. Individual counts are the only logical way to keep track of how many wolves we have now. W935
Do not spend untold thousands of dollars monitoring and studying wolves. W859
Feds or the greens should fully fund an extensive monitoring program for the first five years. After that time, incidental monitoring and observation by FWP personnel during conduct of other duties would suffice. W1071
Wolves need to be managed the same way that we manage other big game species. That is, numbers need to be constantly monitored so that all species remain in balance in the range that they reside in. W894
Plan should include allocation of funds and resources necessary to effectively monitor the Montana wolf populations. W1078
Other Wildlife (80) – comments generally address concerns about non-ungulate wildlife species (e.g. listed species, other carnivores)
How many large predators overall? One issue that is not addressed adequately in the Plan is how wolf management fits into overall management of large predators, and how wolf management decisions will relate both to large predator impact and to management prerogatives related to other large predators. W1168
Protecting wolf habitat will also protect other species. W620
These wolves need to go. Wolves will greatly reduce wildlife numbers and I would be happier to see more wildlife. Wildlife should be protected from people and wolves during late winter months. Wolves should be removed that may kill or harass endangered species like trumpeter swans. W1190
Impacts of funding wolves needs to address how this will impact non-game and other endangered species. W521
Mange and possibly other canine diseases in fox and coyote could spread to wolves. Has disease issue been taken into account when the minimum pack levels are set? W585
Wolves are an important link in the food chain and are vital to a well-balanced, healthy, and “normal” ecosystem. W586
The carcasses of wolf-killed ungulates also support a number of other wildlife species including eagles, wolverine, bears, and a wide variety of smaller birds and mammals. W1161
Feel that mountain lions have been impacted by wolves. S1322
What about sage grouse? S1143
How are we going to determine the impact on other endangered species such as grizzly bears? S2170
Manage all predators in the same plan or at least consider all predators when making this plan. S1216
Wolves eat beavers. FWP needs to collect data on beavers. S1834
Private Property ( 77) – comments generally capture the sentiment of “private property rights” in regards to wolf presence on private property, protection of private property etc. Some comments assert landowner’s “right” to allow wolves on their private property. Other comments assert landowner’s “right” to control or manage wolves on their private property.
Livestock producers need greater flexibility in resolving wolf conflict situations. Additional flexibility should include authority to protect private property on public, as well as mixed land ownership, and private lands. W1144.
The wolf is a truly majestic animal and I’m glad they are here. I enjoy seeing them on my ranch in the lower Ninemile Valley. W594
Private landowners need to be able to deal with wolves as they do other predators. W1152
Private landowners or their agents should be given the right to shoot on sight any wolf on their private land. W1071
The idea put forth that wolves should have a free roaming corridor from Wyoming to Canada really bothers me. It sounds like it could be infringing on private property rights. W1026
We own a ranch in the Madison Valley. We are privileged enough to have a large number of elk winter on our property. Along with these beautiful animals, we have now been blessed with the addition of a pack of wolves. All are co-existing just fine. W800
Private property rights should not be compromised to accomplish the proliferation of wolves. S1754
Should be the private landowner’s decision to say action or no action if there is a depredation on their land if loss is confirmed as a wolf. S1608
What rights will landowners have to respond to wolf depredation and how is that linked to compensation? S1450
Hybrids (22) -- comments generally address concerns about the degree of regulatory oversight by FWP of captives and wolf-dog hybrids; whether these animals could be released into the wild; no comments were received in support of minimal regulation of captives and hybrids – all favored increased regulation
Wolf-dog hybrids can be really dangerous and make people fear wolves. Prevention of such interbreeding should be prominent in your public education efforts. W654
Montana plan should include a provision to outlaw the release of captive wolves and wolf-dog hybrids and to discourage the ownership of such animals. W801
Hybrids should be removed from the wild. W1190
The state must move immediately to ban the keeping of wolves and wolf-dog hybrids. W944
Private citizens should be prohibited from capturing wild wolves and maintaining them in captivity. W1181
Should be strict and high fines for people who raise wolves and turn them loose. Include cross-breeding with dogs, too. S2667
Wildlife Management Areas (13) – comments generally address wolf presence on FWP Wildlife Management Areas
What can be done to control wolves that get on our game ranges – we have spent a lot of money on game ranges and without them, big game will be on private land. S714
For more than 100 years, sportsmen have contributed to habitat programs to create a favorable environment that was sold to us as a benefit to our wildlife management areas. For habitat that ultimately improved hunting conditions that increased the herd sizes, this shouldn’t be wiped out to create a park-like environment. S625.
The report has totally neglected the bad impacts wolves will have on ungulate and beaver populations, the effect on established big game winter ranges and the problems wolves will cause for hunters. W1070
WMA’s were paid for with sportsmen dollars, no predation by wolves should be allowed. W992
Anti-hunting groups do not contribute a dime to purchase wildlife habitat in Montana. They do however, help wealth, out of state landowners… to privatize Montana’s wildlife and lock up public access to public land. None contribute a dime to purchase elk winter range, but want wolves on our elk winter ranges. W1168
Questions & Answers
Q. What is the wolf conservation and management effort all about and why are Montana, Idaho and Wyoming involved?
A. Among the federal requirements for removing the gray wolf from the endangered species list, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming must have management plans and other regulatory mechanisms in place to maintain the recovered population within the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Area.
Q. Are the states fulfilling their federal requirements?
A. Yes. All state plans are now complete. Montana's effort was recently characterized as "a class act" by federal authorities. Now that each state has management plans in place, federal officials say they will take the necessary legal steps to officially delist the gray wolf. Once delisted, the states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming will each be legally required to sustain a viable population of wolves.
Q. The USFWS recently downlisted wolves in the Northwestern Montana Recovery Area from endangered to threatened. How does that affect Montana's wolf conservation and management effort?
A. This is terrific news for Montana. Downlisting the gray wolf to threatened brings Montana one step closer to the full recovery of the gray wolf and its eventual delisting. Montanans have made important contributions towards this wolf recovery. In the interim, while the wolf is still a federally protected species, the new rule enhances management flexibility for agencies and private landowners to resolve conflicts on private land and offers agencies additional help to address wolf-livestock conflicts on public lands.
Q. What issues have emerged in Montana?
A. Through the work of the Montana Wolf Management Advisory Council-and subsequent community work sessions throughout Montana in 2002-03-Montanans identified issues related to: wolf management, numbers and distribution; social factors; administration and delisting; prey populations (deer, elk and moose); funding; livestock; wolf habitat; compensation for livestock losses; economics; information and education; human safety; wolf monitoring, and others.
Q. What does the recommended Montana's wolf conservation and management plan seek to establish?
A. The recommended plan, which is an updated version of the Montana Wolf Management Advisory Council recommendations, would create a wolf conservation and management program similar to that for black bears and mountain lions. It would be based on numbers, distribution and public acceptance. Wolf management techniques, and the methods used to resolve conflicts, would be based on a benchmark of 15 breeding pairs in Montana. The plan considers the spectrum of management activities-from simple harassment techniques to chase wolves away, to lethal control measures, like offering kill permits to landowners and regulated hunting or trapping. The aim is to sustain the wolf population, Montana's deer and elk populations, and to help resolve wolf-human and wolf-livestock conflicts.
Q. Why did FWP FWP choose to recommend the Updated Council Alternative as the final plan?
A. To best balance the diversity of public interests and desires about wolf conservation and management. The recommended plan is based on the consensus recommendations of the Montana Wolf Advisory Council, a broad array of public comments gathered throughout this EIS process, and advice from wolf experts. It seeks a balance between the biological needs of wolves and the concerns of people.
FWP's Role
Q. Will FWP now begin to manage wolves?
A. No. Even after the Record of Decision is signed by FWP Director Jeff Hagener in September, a state plan is just one step FWP and Montana must take in what is expected to be a longer federal process that includes an evaluation of each state's plan and regulations that must together maintain a secure wolf population.
Q. Is FWP going to manage wolves?
A. That is the agency's hope. But FWP won't obtain management authority until wolves are officially delisted. In addition, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service must approve Montana's, Idaho's, and Wyoming's management plans. FWP, however, firmly believes a state-administered conservation and management program can best address the diverse expectations of Montana's citizens.
Q. What are the legal aspects of state-run wolf management?
A. Upon delisting, the gray wolf will be reclassified under state law from "endangered" to a species "in need of management" which establishes the legal mechanism to prevent intentional human-caused mortality outside the immediate defense of life/property. When it becomes clear that the management program is maintaining a secure, viable population, reclassification to big game or furbearer may follow.
Q. Would any other state agency have any legal obligations regarding wolf management?
A. Yes. Montana law assigns joint responsibility to FWP and the Montana Department of Livestock to manage wildlife that can cause damage to livestock. FWP and DOL will work together with federal Wildlife Services (formerly Animal Damage Control) to resolve wolf-livestock conflicts.
Montana Wolf Numbers
Q. How many wolves are there in the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Area?
A. An estimated 660 wolves, in about 80 packs with 43 of those qualifying as breeding pairs, inhabited the northern Rockies recovery area at the end of 2002
Q. How many wolves are in Montana?
A. Federal officials estimated that 183 wolves, in 35 packs, and about 16 breeding pairs inhabited Montana. These estimates were made in December 2002. Additional wolf packs-and dispersing wolves-may exist but have yet to be confirmed.
Funding Wolf Management
Q. What will it cost to manage wolves in Montana?
A. FWP's best estimate for the preferred alternative suggests that it will cost from $913,000 to $954,000 annually. Cooperating federal agencies are expected to incur some expenses through the federal budgetary process.
Q. Can FWP fund wolf management in Montana?
A. Not at this time. It is clear existing financial resources are not adequate to manage wolves in Montana. Additional funding will be required to implement all elements of a wolf management program.
Q. How will state wolf management be funded?
A. The recommended plan directs FWP to seek additional funding from special state or federal appropriations, private foundations, or other private sources to supplement funds committed by FWP in amounts similar to those for other native carnivores like black bears and mountain lions. The governors of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are pursuing a program called the Northern Rocky Mountain Grizzly Bear and Gray Wolf National Management Trust to help the states fund the management of recovered threatened and endangered species. The idea originated in Wyoming. In light of local funding and resource shortfalls, the states hope Congress will recognize the significant national interest in the conservation and management of these species. In the interim, the three states may seek special Congressional appropriations to fund state activities during the transition of management authority.
The Prey: Deer, Elk & Moose
Q. Will wolves impact game populations like deer, elk and moose?
A. Yes. How much of an impact is uncertain at this time. Wolves-like mountain lions, coyotes, and bears-eat deer, elk, moose and other game animals. All wildlife populations are variable through time and across a diversity of habitats. Population numbers fluctuate. It won't be the same everywhere all the time. Research in Montana and elsewhere has shown that predation may influence deer, elk and moose populations through changes in the survival of young, the death of adult animals, or a combination of both. For example, a higher than normal number of female deer die in any given year from things such as hunting or a severe winter, local conditions could be ripe for wolves and other predators to keep that deer herd's numbers suppressed or slow its population growth.
Q. Will wolves affect hunting in Montana?
A. They probably will in some places. As with other population effects, however, there is no clear answer except that wolves will add another factor to consider among all the environmental and social factors wildlife biologists wrestle with every year. Hunting opportunities are then adjusted in response to all factors combined. Wolves may affect some local, deer, elk or moose populations. When predation is combined with unfavorable environmental conditions-like drought or a severe winter-it may affect hunter opportunities in that area.
Q. How will FWP assess whether wolves are adversely affecting a big game population and how will it respond?
A. Monitoring programs will help FWP detect changes in both wolf and prey populations. While a direct cause/effect relationship between wolf predation and prey-population decline is difficult to pinpoint with certainty, in light of other environmental factors, FWP would consider reducing the size of the wolf population in a localized area. Wolf management decisions would also be paired with other management actions to reduce prey mortality - like adjusting hunter opportunity or more aggressive management of other predator species such as mountain lions. Parallel management efforts for predators and prey would continue until the deer, elk, or moose population rebounded and environmental conditions are favorable.
Wolves and Livestock
Q. What will livestock producers be able to do to protect their livestock under state management authority?
A. Under the recommended plan, management tools are intended to decrease livestock depredations. Livestock producers would be offered assistance to reduce depredation risks, and they would be allowed to harass wolves, or to kill wolves caught attacking, killing or threatening their stock. In addition, to remove a wolf causing chronic conflicts, a livestock producer could receive a special kill permit. All such incidents must be reported to FWP and an investigation would follow. This is consistent with current state laws that address the protection of human life and private property when they are in imminent danger.
Q. What impacts will wolves have on livestock or stockgrowers?
A. From 1995-2002, authorities confirmed 108 cattle, 220 sheep, 21 dogs and nine llamas were lost to wolf depredation in Montana. Some stockgrowers, however, have experienced other "unconfirmed" losses they suspect were due to wolves. So far, most depredation incidents investigated by Wildlife Services within Montana occurred on private land. Although wolves cause a small number of the total livestock losses in Montana compared to other sources of livestock mortality-like weather, disease, and reproductive problems-personal financial losses may result directly from wolf depredation. Indirect costs may accumulate because of increased management activities, changes in husbandry practices, injured livestock, or uncompensated losses. These financial hardships accrue to individual farmers and ranchers and may be significant to them.
Compensation for Livestock Injuries and Losses
Q. Will farmers and ranchers get compensated if wolves injure or kill livestock when wolves are managed by Montana?
A. The recommended plan directs the State of Montana to develop, in cooperation with livestock producers and private groups, an entity to administer and fund a compensation program for damages caused by wolves. Compensation is critical to maintaining tolerance for wolves by livestock producers who experience financial losses due to wolves.
Q. How will this program be funded?
A. That will be determined by the work accomplished by the State of Montana, livestock producers and private groups who will seek to create an entity to administer and fund a compensation program for damages caused by wolves.
Q. Doesn't the Defenders of Wildlife already have a program to compensate farmers and ranchers when wolves injure or kill livestock?
A. Yes, but Defenders of Wildlife may end the program when wolves are delisted. Livestock producers have been compensated for confirmed losses at fair market value and 50% of market value for probable losses at the time of death and at fall value for young of the year. Between 1987 and 2001, Defenders of Wildlife paid more than $81,000 for all confirmed and probable wolf-caused losses in Montana.
Public Safety
Q. Should Montanans be concerned about public safety?
A. Wolves generally fear people and rarely pose a threat to human safety. In the past 100 years, there have been several published accounts of human injuries, but no fatalities, due to wolves. It is, however, unusual for a wild wolf to associate or interact with people, linger near buildings, livestock, or domestic dogs. This behavior is more typical of a released captive wolf, a wolf habituated to a domestic food source or wolf-dog hybrid. Wild wolves generally have some place to be and something to do and do not seek out or loiter around areas of human settlement.
Q. What should Montanans do if they see a wolf?
A. You can report wolf sightings to your local FWP office or to the US Fish and Wildlife Service at 406-449-5225. Despite their wariness of people, wolves will still use natural habitats in close proximity to humans, particularly in forested and other settings that have come to be called "urban-wildland interface." For this reason, we are more likely to see gray wolves than other large carnivores such as mountain lions or black bears. Wolves will commonly use roads, utility corridors, and railroad rights-of-way as travel routes. Tracks and scats are often found on roads. Wolves also feed and rest in open areas with good visibility, whereas lions tend to hide their kills and feed or rest in dense vegetation. Wolves will also travel across openings in forest cover or natural meadows in ways that mountain lions or bears do not. And because wolves live in packs, more than one may be seen at a time
Montana Wolf Management Advisory Council
Chase Hibbard (Chair); sheep and cattle rancher; Helena.
Terry Beaver; educator; Helena.
Dr. Charles Buehler, M.D.; orthopedic surgeon; Butte.
Darlyne Dascher; FWP commissioner and cattle rancher; Fort Peck.
Hank Fischer; former Defenders of Wildlife Northern Rockies representative; Missoula.
Robin Hompesch; educator; Bozeman.
Jay Kirkpatrick; conservation program, Zoo Montana; Billings.
Bruce Malcolm; cattle rancher and outfitter; Emigrant.
Dan Carney; wildlife program, Blackfeet Nation; Browning.
Bruce Tutvedt, cattle rancher, Kalispell.
Dr. Nelson Wert, DVM; veterinarian; Townsend.
James Cross; hunter and wildlife biologist; Kalispell.