Here’s an interesting peek behind the curtain at the problems Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks faces in covering a large state with a fairly small staff . . .
Management of grizzly bears, mountain lions, wolves, bison and wildlife diseases require more manpower in Montana.
That’s the case Ken McDonald, Wildlife Division administrator for the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, made Tuesday. McDonald’s presentation to the Joint Subcommittee on Natural Resources and Transportation in Helena was one of many hearings that FWP’s proposed 2020-21 budget will face . . .
The ongoing mule deer study is turning up some interesting data . . .
Preliminary data from a 2-1/2-year long mule deer study is showing some interesting facets in the animals’ behavior and movement across the landscape in Northwest Montana.
Researchers from the University of Montana in cooperation with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, radio collared 44 mule deer on the Rocky Mountain Front near Augusta, 26 in the Fisher River drainage and 31 in the Whitefish range.
Currently, of those deer, 26 are still “on air” along the front, 21 near the Fisher and 19 in the Whitefish Range.
Here’s a good article on the wolf management difficulties faced by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks . . .
Wolves are complex critters that for centuries have inspired myths and legends while generating fierce controversies, an animal whose presence on the landscape is at once magical and maddening, captivating wildlife lovers while commanding condemnation from hunters who say the population of predators is decimating the bounty of big game in Montana.
Livestock producers living on the wild edges of wolf country have their own set of challenges, forced to keep constant vigil over calving pastures that serve as a veritable beef buffet for a pack of predators.
And wildlife managers with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP), the agency tasked with implementing regulatory mechanisms to manage wolves following delisting of the species from the Endangered Species Act in 2011, which granted the state full management authority of its wolf population, are caught in the middle, seeking to strike a delicate balance amid competing interests that remain bitterly divided.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Biologist Tim Thier has had a distinguished career working with animals and birds in the western United States, but when he approached a impromptu checkpoint manned by Mexican Federal Police in Chihuahua while searching for grizzly bears nearly 40 years ago, he wasn’t sure how long, or if, that career would last.
Thier recently retired from the state agency, capping a 30-year career with it. But Thier’s career studying and working with wildlife dates back much further than that.
He first worked in Northwest Montana in 1976 with famed bear biologist Chuck Jonkel. Jonkel, who died nearly three years ago, was a pioneering bear biologist who spurred the careers of many who studied bears and other wildlife. Thier also worked with Chris Servheen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the first grizzly bear recovery coordinator, who retired in 2016.
Assuming grizzly bears are delisted in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE, essentially Northwest Montana), Montana would take over management of the bears. The Montana department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is holding a series of meetings to discuss management objectives, including one in Kalispell at 6:30pm on September 27 at the Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building, 777 Grandview Drive . . .
Public meetings on how the state will deal with the growing number of grizzly bears around Glacier National Park if they’re removed from the endangered species list begin this week…
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) spokesman Dillon Tabish says the meetings are not meant to address the question of whether or not to delist the bear, and are not related to a separate population of grizzlies around Yellowstone National Park, whose federal protections are currently tangled up in federal court.
“Are we comfortable with a minimum of 800 grizzly bears on the landscape? Is that too many? Is that not enough? We really, genuinely want to hear Montanans’ input on that question and that question alone.”
The meetings will feature presentations on the grizzly population by state biologists and the opportunity for Montanans to voice their opinion on the rule.
Here’s a good overview, with useful links, of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s proposed grizzly bear conservation strategy . . .
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is taking the next step toward delisting grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem by formalizing how the agency will manage the population.
On Thursday, the FWP Commission will decide whether to give initial approval to a new administrative rule that would set state grizzly population objectives for the 16,000-square-mile area, which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness complex. If approved, the rule would go out for public comment, then final approval in December.
In mid-June, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee released a conservation strategy for the northern population, which depends on cooperation between federal, state and tribal entities. However, the executive committee delayed its decision to endorse the 326-page document until members had a chance to review it. A vote is expected by the end of summer, and an initial delisting proposal is expected sometime this fall.
Here’s the official Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks press release announcing their proposed “administrative rule” for managing grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem . . .
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is proposing an administrative rule to codify the population objectives detailed in the conservation strategy for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will vote on the proposed rule during their Aug. 9 meeting. If the proposed rule is approved by the commission, it will move into a public comment period by late August and ultimately go back to the commission for final approval in December.
“By proposing this administrative rule, we are committing to keeping a viable and healthy population of grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “It’s an important step toward federal delisting of the bears, as well as an important piece for the future of grizzly bear conservation and management in Montana.”
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks released its annual wolf population estimate recently. Short version: They think there are abut 900 wolves in the state now, up from 851 a year earlier . . .
There are roughly 900 wolves in Montana according to the 2017 Montana Gray Wolf Program Annual Report, the 13th consecutive year that Montana has exceeded wolf recovery goals.
FWP now estimates wolf numbers using a method called Patch Occupancy Modeling. The old way of trying to count wolves from an airplane became a less accurate picture of wolf numbers as the wolf population grew beyond the agency’s ability to count them. Additionally, the old method was expensive and took a lot of staff time.
FWP has used POM estimates along with the old minimum counts for several years. POM uses wolf sightings reported to FWP during annual deer hunter surveys, known wolf locations, habitat variables and research-based wolf territory and pack sizes to estimate wolf distribution and population size across the state. The most recent POM estimates were 961 wolves in 2015 and 851 in 2016. Data has been gathered for 2017 estimates and analysis will take place during summer 2018.
FWP fisheries biologists received well-deserved recognition for their efforts to restore the cutthroat trout population in the South Fork Flathead drainage . . .
The largest conservation project in the country aimed at restoring native westslope cutthroat trout has successfully reached its conclusion in the region, replenishing the waters of the South Fork Flathead River drainage upstream of Hungry Horse Dam with genetically pure populations of Montana’s state fish.
In doing so, the architects of the project, a band of dedicated state fisheries experts from the region, earned high honors from Montana’s governor, who this summer had occasion to ply some of the alpine lakes that now contain biologically superior populations of cutthroat.
On Sept. 25, Gov. Steve Bullock presented the Award for Excellence to Montana Fish Wildlife and Park’s Region One fisheries crew for their efforts to protect Montana’s last best stronghold for westslope cutthroat, a massive undertaking that began a decade ago under a cloud of controversy but emerged a resounding success.