Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Will wolf hunt see ‘shadows’ involved?

Helena, Mont. — “Far and away the most contentious issue we’ve had,” Ron Aasheim said of Montana’s wolf season.

Aasheim is administrator of communication and education for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Now in its fourth year of wolf hunting, Montana has survived withering criticism from anti-wolf hunting and trapping advocates.  

However, groups opposing the hunt have been unable to gain traction with the general public in terms of ending the season, according to Aasheim.

“Efforts to get a ban on hunting wolves on the ballot have had a slow start,” he said.

Montana officials are now cautiously optimistic the furor has waned.  

“It’s been a wild ride,” Aasheim said. “We’ve set (harvest) quotas in two management units around Yellowstone National Park.”

Otherwise there is no quota in Montana, but officials have the option of closing the season if necessary, he said. Montana sportsmen and women harvested 225 wolves in 2013 and a similar number in 2012.

Like Wisconsin, the Montana wolf population is stable and growing.

“We have plenty of wolves,” Aasheim said. “We’re two to three times the recovery goal. It’s not a problem with having enough wolves to have a sustainable and viable population. We’re somewhere between 600 and 1,000.”

Others disagree, according to an Associated Press article published in the Flathead Beacon in Kalispell, Mont. Even though the season is now well established, a group of animal rights activists claim they will shadow two groups of Montana backcountry outfitters and wolf hunters in a wilderness area bordering Yellowstone this fall. Hunting of wolves in the park is not allowed, but there is no protection for wolves outside of the park boundaries.

The activist group’s leader is Rod Coronado, a member of the newly formed Yellowstone Wolf Patrol. Coronado said he and other volunteers will use video equipment to document the killing of any wolves. According to the article, Coronado said they would not directly interfere with hunting in order to stay on the right side of the Montana law that makes hunter harassment illegal.

“We’re hoping our presence here and taking video of it and photographing evidence can persuade Montana citizens to ask their governor to shut down the hunt outside the park,” Coronado said in the article.

The impact of this band of protesters appears to have limits, however. Coronado said his group plans to remain in the Absaroka-Beartooth wilderness area outside Yellowstone for about 10 days or until their food runs out.
Wisconsin activism?

In the midst of the publicity surrounding the Montana protest activities, Coronado noted that similar actions also are planned this fall to protest wolf hunting and trapping in other parts of the country, including Wisconsin and Idaho. Coronado said his group could appear in Wisconsin in time for the Oct. 15 wolf season opener, or sometime after the opener.

Wisconsin officials are aware of Coronado’s history of animal rights activism and also know he has mentioned making an appearance in Wisconsin this fall. However, Wisconsin DNR officials do not expect a major problem with hunter or trapper interference, according to DNR chief warden Todd Schaller.

“We know there are people out there with a different point of view,” Schaller said. “We haven’t had a lot of problems.”
Aasheim echoes that assessment.

“We’ve found that people have been civil despite their differences,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate we haven’t had any violence.”

Wisconsin statutes (Wi St.Stat. 29.083) prohibit the interference with hunting, fishing, or trapping, including travel, camping or other acts that are preparatory to lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping, and that are done by a hunter, angler, or trapper, or by a member of a hunting, fishing, or trapping party.

Actions that could be considered harassment and are prohibited include:

• Harassing a wild animal or by engaging in an activity that tends to harass wild animals;

• Impeding or obstructing a person who is engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping;

• Impeding or obstructing a person who is engaged in an activity associated with lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping;

• Disturbing the personal property of a person engaged in lawful hunting, fishing, or trapping;

• Disturbing a lawfully placed hunting blind.
  DNR conservation warden Ryan Caputo, of Green County, offered the following suggestions for enjoying a safe and rewarding experience in the outdoors:

• Talk to neighbors on surrounding properties and let them know you will be hunting or trapping in the area;

• Carry a cell phone with video capability to document what happens;

• Avoid contact with protesters if possible;

• Call 911 if you feel you or your property are in danger.

The same statute also declares that interference with hunting, fishing, or trapping is limited to physical interference, which does not violate freedom of speech.

The Wisconsin wolf season opens Oct. 15, which coincides with the celebration of National Wolf Awareness Week, Oct. 12-18. Activities commemorating the observance include a presentation by Dr. Erik Olson, of Northland College, on wolf management and ecology at the North Lakeland Discovery Center in Manitowish Waters on Oct. 14.

Also, artist Aaron Yount will sign his award-winning 2014 Wolf Awareness Week poster at the Manitowish Waters Koller Library on Oct. 16.

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