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Entries in Montana FWP (61)


Montana stays on sidelines of reviving grizzly hunts 

Dennis Bragg photo (BOISE)- While Montana stays on the sidelines, Idaho is now joining Wyoming with plans for possible grizzly bear hunts this fall.

All three states have been analyzing the options for using limited grizzly hunts adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, now that the federal government has removed threatened species protection for the big bears. State wildlife managers say the hunts would be used to control bear populations, just as is done with other game.

However, the de-listing has been challenged in federal court by conservation groups and tribes. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks leaders have already indicated they will likely not stage a hunt this year because of the pending litigation, and the complexities of taking just a handful of bears. 

Wyoming is considering a draft proposal allowing hunters to kill up to 24-bears. And yesterday, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to start collecting public comments on a proposed hunting season near Yellowstone. The plan could be finalized in May.


No grizzly hunting in Montana for 2018

Dennis Bragg photo(HELENA)- There will be no grizzly bear hunting in Montana, at least not this year. The Montana Wildlife Commission is accepting a recommendation from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff to not stage a hunt for the bears near Yellowstone, where the bears were removed from Endangered Species protection last year. 

There had been anticipation Montana may allow a limited hunt for grizzlies in the areas surrounding Yellowstone, where the grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where taken out of "threatened species" status in a controversial move by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service last year. That decision would leave grizzly management, including possible hunts to limit bear populations, up to the states, including Idaho and Wyoming. 

However, yesterday in Helena, the Wildlife Commission was told there are some problems with Montana scheduling a grizzly hunt later this year. FWP staff note there's still pending litigation challenging the USFWS de-listing. Additionally, there are issues on how to limit the harvest to just a single sow grizzly in addition to half-a-dozen males. Montana could only launch a hunt if there was a single, "independent" sow grizzly available, and FWP staff say that possibility is "very limited."

Idaho is scheduled to discuss a grizzly hunt in March. The Wyoming Wildlife Commission has already directed staff to draw up plans for a hunt this year. 


Montana's big game season gets off to a big start

(MISSOULA)- Nothing like a little fierce fall weather to stir up the game in time for Montana's hunters. 

Montana’s general big game hunting season opened on Saturday, and in the west-central part of the state, hunter check stations reports show the highest number of big game animals harvested on opening weekend since 2010.

In fact, game agents say it turned out to be the best opener for white-tailed deer in more than a decade, matching the robust hunts of the early 2000s. And elk numbers were the highest in 5-years. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reported 117 elk, 111 white-tailed deer, 15 mule deer and five black bears at its Darby, Anaconda and Bonner check stations combined.

“The check stations only sample a relatively small portion of the hunting effort and harvests across the region, and they don’t tell the whole story by any means,” said Mike Thompson, FWP Region 2 Wildlife Manager. “But, check stations do a good job of showing us trends over time, and the opening weekend numbers tell us that the hunting season is off to a stronger start than we seen in a while." 


Bison management plan meetings set

Dennis Bragg photo(BOZEMAN)- The latest effort to adjust plans for how wild bison are managed around Yellowstone National Park is being released, with interested ranchers, conservation groups and the general public being invited to view the details next week. 

The new draft plan is designed to replace the Interagency Bison Management Plan, which has been in place since 2011. Wildlife managers say the new plan is being written around the latest science and research, and what has been learned about the herd's migration in and out of the park the past several seasons. 

This plan, being developed by the National Park Service and the State of Montana uses six different alternatives that were outlined in recent public "scoping" efforts. 

The three meetings will give people a chance to review the initial work, with an open house where questions can be directed to NPS and FWP officials. 

The meetings will be held in Bozeman on June 2nd at the Hilton Garden Inn, June 3rd at the Gardiner School and June 4th at the Holiday Inn in West Yellowstone. 

The new plan could be finalized in 2017. 


Sheep deaths prompt hunting closure near Gardiner

(HELENA)- As biologists continue to struggle with the cause of a disease that's killing off sheep in the Northern Rockies, wildlife managers are closing hunting in one area near Gardiner to dave the remnants of one herd. 

The sheep pneumonia has been an increasing problem in the region over the past few seasons, killing hundreds of bighorns. Researchers are still trying to work out the exact reasons for the spread of the disease, and why some sheep are immune while others are not. 

The die-off has been particularly bad this season in hunting district 305 in Park County, where 30% of the herd and 40% of the mature rams have died around in the cliffs around Gardiner and Cinnabar since the outbreak started last year. This winter alone, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks agents have found more than 2-dozen dead sheep. 

Now, the FWP Commission has approved an emergency closure of the 2015 hunting season in that district to protect the remainder of the herd. The plan would be to re-open hunting when the sheep population recovers. 

Hunters who had already applied will be given a chance to apply elsewhere in the state, or given a refund. Last year about 100-hunters had applied for the single permit that was granted for the 2015 season.