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Animal activists protest wolf hunts at Capitol

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Nearly 30 people gathered on the front steps of the Capitol building Friday to protest Montana’s wolf hunts. Beartooth NBC’s Kaelyn Kelly reports one animal advocacy group wants wolves back on the endangered species list.

In its second year, Montana’s wolf hunt continues to prove divisive.

"Stop the wolf hunt immediately.  There's no need for it.  There's not too many wolves.  We know the reason why this is happening.  It's favoring the interests of hunters and ranchers,” says Friends of Animals New York director Edita Birnkrant.

"We absolutely respect the rights of and the interests of other people, the opinions, the values.  Not going to argue that those folks have that right. Our position and our job is to manage wildlife,” says Ron Aasheim of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The non-profit group Friends of Animals is supporting an economic and travel boycott of states that allow wolf hunts. Supporters of Friday’s “Howl-in” say wolves haven't had a chance to fully recover their numbers since being delisted as an endangered species.

"There's so few wolves that we're just starting to see the very beginnings of the positive ecological effects that they have on the environment,” says Predator Defense executive director Brooks Fahy

But Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Ron Aasheim says his office employs wildlife biologists who closely monitor the status of wolves and other species in the wild.

"We've had instances where wolves are certainly a contributing factor to  reductions in wildlife populations below acceptable levels, other wildlife populations, so we're managing wolves in balance with other species,” says Aasheim.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks has approved 220 wolf-kills for this hunting season. They say this is a carefully calculated number.11 of those tags have been filled so far.

Friends of Animals says they're planning more “Howl-in” events through other Montana chapters of the organization.


Story by Kaelyn Kelly, Beartooth NBC.
Copyright ©2011 Beartooth Communications Company. All Rights Reserved.

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CaptainSakonna Saturday Oct. 15th, 2011 - 11:33am
Ron Aasheim says, "We've had instances where wolves are certainly a contributing factor to reductions in wildlife populations below acceptable levels ..."

Here's my question. Who decides what is "acceptable"? Wolves have coexisted with their prey for thousands of years and will not wipe them out, but in some places there may be local prey declines. As far as I'm concerned, this is perfectly "acceptable," because it is a natural process. Predator-prey populations can achieve a balance without any help from us, but it will be a dynamic balance, with temporary dips and rises in the number of prey. On the whole, Montana's elk population remains healthy -- according to the RMEF, we have 150,000 of them in the state -- so, if a few herds are in decline, I'm not concerned, and welcome this as a normal consequence of a healthy ecosystem at work. Unfortunately, selfish hunters who want all elk, all the time don't consider it "acceptable," and MFWP is quite happy to employ their definition of "acceptable" rather than mine. This is exactly what we mean when we say that the policies of MFWP favor hunters over the general public.

And Mr. Aasheim -- stop hiding behind that nice little word "manage." When it comes to wolves, manage = kill. You're saying that the job of MFWP is to provide for the killing of wildlife; yes, it's carefully regulated killing, but it's still killing. As a resident of Montana, I define your job ... and I'm saying that I've had enough of the unnecessary slaughter of predators and the hunter-rancher gravy train. I think the job of MFWP is to protect innocent wildlife from needless harm, and if you don't do that job, I look forward to the day when you're fired.
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Fish Wildlife and Parks, Friends of Animals

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