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Wolf hunting in Montana closes with fourth highest number killed in past dozen years

alpha wolf yellowstone national park.jpg
Jim Peaco

This hunting season Montana saw its fourth highest number of wolves killed in recent years.

The season closed Tuesday with 272 wolves killed out of the state’s total threshold of 450.

In the past 12 years, wolf deaths from hunting and trapping in Montana have never exceeded 400, according to data from Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. The 2020-21 season saw the highest number of total wolves killed statewide at 329.

The hunting season this year ended early in only one of the state wildlife departments' seven wolf hunting regions. In February the threshold of 82 wolves was exceeded by three animals in southwest Montana’s Region 3, a portion of which borders Yellowstone National Park.

Wolf hunting in Montana has drawn criticism from environmental groups after state lawmakers last year loosened hunting restrictions and legalized new hunting methods, and FWP voted to allow night hunting on private land and the use of bait to lure wolves.

Earlier this month, environmental groups requested an emergency re-listing for gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, which includes Montana. The request seeks to add protections while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts a biological review of the wolf population in the region. The review was prompted by two other petitions filed.

State wildlife commissioners will meet in June to review wolf regulations for the next hunting season, which starts again in the fall.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.