December 8, 2019

Public Access Secured to 41,000 Acres in Southwest Montana

Press Release from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.-The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation teamed up with a private landowner, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), US Forest Service (USFS), Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and local sportsmen groups to secure permanent public access to approximately 41,344 acres of public lands in time for Montana’s 2014 general big game hunting season.

“This strikes at the very core of our mission,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “RMEF is committed to seeking and finding avenues like this particular project to open public access for increased recreational opportunities like hunting.”

RMEF funding assisted in the purchase of a 30-foot wide permanent road easement to cross 0.66 miles, in three separate road segments, of a private ranch through two drainages in the Medicine Lodge area approximately 35 miles southwest of Dillon in Beaverhead County. The project improves access to both the Tendoy and Beaverhead Mountains.

More specifically, the easement provides 0.16 miles of motorized access to Ayers Canyon (Hunting District 328) between the Medicine Lodge Road and BLM ownership as well as motorized access to Kate Creek (Hunting District 302) through two private segments of 0.29 and 0.21 miles on the northwest corner of Ellis Peak. (These areas are also included in Hunting District 300 for antelope.) The road previously alternated between BLM and private ownership, and the public portions are designated as Road 70095 on both the BLM and USFS ownership. (See maps here.)

“These types of collaborative efforts continue to ensure that sportsmen and women have access to public lands throughout Montana,” says FWP spokesperson Ron Aasheim. “Partnerships are key to FWP’s management of resources which we hold in trust for all Montanans.”

“Improving public access to encourage the public’s responsible use and enjoyment of their lands and resources continues to be a high priority for BLM, both locally and nationally,” said Cornie Hudson, BLM Dillon Field Office Manager. “The partnerships that made this project possible could be a model for future access projects of this nature. Thank you partners!”

RMEF also partnered with the BLM Dillon Field Office in 2013 to complete construction on a road project that re-opened and improved public access to more than 9,355 additional acres at Cow Creek in the Medicine Lodge drainage.

“When you combine our work from last year with these two new projects, RMEF has now improved access to more than 50,000 acres of public lands in this drainage over the last two years alone,” said Blake Henning, RMEF vice president of Lands and Conservation.

Other project partners include the Beaverhead Outdoors Association and the Skyline Sportsmen’s Association.

Since 1984, RMEF has opened or secured access to more than 215,000 acres in Montana and 758,000 acres nationally across elk country for hunting, hiking, fishing, camping and other outdoor activities.

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Montana Releases Latest Wolf Numbers, RMEF Maintains Call for Proper Management

MISSOULA, Mont. – The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintained its call for the science-based management of wolves as Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) released its 2012 estimate of the state’s wolf population. FWP reports there are a minimum of 625 wolves in Montana, which amounts to a four percent drop since the last count in December 2011 and equates to a wolf population remaining well above the state’s management objective.

“This is a step in the right direction, but it’s a small step,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “What we need to remember is that even though hunters and trappers together had more success this season than in the past, overall wolf numbers remain well above objective. We also need to recognize that this latest calculation is a minimum estimate.”

While the new count is the first decrease since 2004, Montana’s minimum wolf pack and breeding pairs estimates actually increased slightly from 2011. The 2012 calculation does not include the 95 wolves taken by hunters and trappers between Jan. 1 and Feb. 28 of this year. Overall, hunters and trappers harvested 225 wolves during the 2012-2013 season compared to hunters alone who took 128 a year ago. With more than 650 wolves reported by FWP at the end of 2011, population data indicated a harvest of nearly 400 wolves would be required to reduce the minimum population below 500.

“The best news is that hunters and trappers, the core of Montana’s wildlife conservation program, are helping us manage Montana’s most recently recovered native species,” said Jeff Hagener, director of FWP.

Hagener also stressed that even with this season’s hunting and trapping success – and 104 depredating wolves removed from the population as a result of more than 70 control actions – Montana’s wolf population remains robust.

“There is a ‘sky-is-falling’ mindset by some who believe wolf management equates to extermination. Nothing is further from the truth. Proper management is mandatory to ensure the future of all wildlife,” added Allen. “We applaud Montana and other states for their ability to manage wolves, just as they do other wildlife, with all the tools in the management tool box.”

“We need to achieve a reduction,” Hagener said. “Montana has made room for wolves, we are long past the period of recovering wolves, and we are committed to managing for a recovered population. We also need to remember it is FWP’s responsibility to manage with an eye to how all of our special wild resources affect each other and address issues such as public tolerance, including that of landowners. That is what we continually hear the public asking us to do. FWP is working to manage wolf numbers and will continue to use reasonable tools to maximize harvest opportunities.”

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Montana Wolf Hunt Season Closes – Fails to Meet Kill Quota

In my selfish gloating I am proud to state: “I told you so!“. Over three years ago I predicted that with the wolf hunt plans being discussed for Montana and Idaho, the fish and game departments would fail miserably in any quest to control wolf populations.

We find out today that as Montana closes this year’s wolf hunting season, they failed to reach the quota of killing 220 wolves. What they recorded was 162 wolves tagged, even after extending the season. This equates to a success rate of less than 1% according to KFBB.com.

And of course the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) have all the excuses why the quota wasn’t met.

Officials say the hunt has been slow for a variety of reasons. Wolves naturally try to avoid humans and they are so widespread across the region. With the lack of snow, they can be harder to track.

While these excuses hold some truth, hunters are restricted in tools necessary to kill wolves, and they’ll never accomplish the task of “control” this way. Readers should be reminded that last spring, Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) put helicopters in the sky to kill wolves in the Lolo Region. Lack of snow made spotting wolves difficult and officials only killed 5 wolves.

C. Gordon Hewitt in, “The Conservation of the Wild Life of Canada“, over one hundred years ago told us what was the most effectual way to kill coyotes and wolves.

The most successful method of destroying coyotes, wolves and other predatory animals is by the organization of systematic hunting by paid hunters, receiving no bounties and working under government control. This policy is giving excellent results in the United States, as will be shown presently.

The problem is by no means a local one, nor even a provincial one; it is both interprovincial and international in character, and it is only by organization along these lines that ultimate success will be obtained. What we need is co-operation among all concerned: individuals, live-stock organizations, and governments; all of them should contribute to the funds that are needed to carry out the work after a broad policy has been formulated.

Will Graves, author of “Wolves in Russia: Anxiety Through the Ages“, gave his readers a laundry list of all the methods, tactics and tools the Russian Government used in an attempt to control wolf populations.

1. Drive Hunting with Flags – Large squares of cloth tied a couple feet apart and strung by rope was used to force wolves to specified areas where hunters waited in ambush.
2. Drive Hunting Without Flags
3. Hunting Over Bait
4. Call Hunting – Use of man made calls that imitate sounds that will lure wolves.
5. Scouting for and Finding Dens – This is a method used by natives in Alaska and other parts of the world. Wolves often return to the same denning areas each year. Hunters would locate these dens, remove the cubs and kill them.
6. Hunting With Russian Wolfhounds
7. Hunting on Skis
8. Hunting From Horseback
9. Trapping
10. Using Poison
11. Hunting with Eagles and Falcons
12. Hunting From Light Aircraft
13. Hunting From Helicopters
14. Hunting From Snowmobiles and Vehicles

While employment of all these methods yielded good results, Graves points out to readers that without a sustained wolf control effort, problems would persist.

Dealing with wolves worldwide over the years has always been a struggle. In my series “To Catch a Wolf“, there are numerous accounts of the ways in which people crafted tools and tactics to kill wolves.

So, what is it that wildlife officials expect? They themselves, with the assistance of helicopters can’t kill enough wolves to make it worth the effort. We have read often of efforts by game biologists trying to trap and collar/tag wolves and can’t get the job done. Yet even with that knowledge and their choice not to seek historical facts on the difficulties in controlling wolves, they somehow think a hunter, willing to contribute a few dollars, is going to take his gun and be successful in killing him a wolf? I remind readers of the less than 1% success rate.

As long as states insist that wolves and coyotes will be “big game” animals, hunted for sport by one man and one gun, citizens can expect no changes in the reduction of wolf/human encounters or any increases of game animals in areas where wolves have destroyed them.

One has to question the real goals behind wolf hunting. It certainly doesn’t appear to be population reduction to protect private property and salvage other game animals, such as deer, elk and moose.

Perhaps officials are waiting for Nature to balance itself out! Yeah, that must be what it is. Now, how does that work?

Tom Remington

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