FWP Update on Wolf Hunting – Mussel Invasion Into Montana Waters
Education and Public Information specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Ron Aasheim, provided an update Friday on wolf hunting numbers, and the alarming prospect of invasive mussels coming into the state.
"Right now, as of Friday morning, we've taken 85 wolves with hunters, and that hunting season continues, but trapping season has not yet begun," Aasheim said. "We're about 10 or 12 above where we were last season at this time."
The wolf trapping season opens December 15 and runs through the end of February. Aasheim said hunting and trapping wolves helps provide balance in the wild.
"What we're trying to do is get to a balance," he said. "Hunting and trapping are two of the tools we use to manage wildlife in Montana, it's our primary tool and if you look at the numbers in the past two years we're pretty close. The minimum counts have leveled out, and it's just a tool that we use. Some hunters enjoy it and taking a wolf is something different and relatively new in Montana."
Aasheim said the mild weather will not necessitate the lengthening of the general rifle season that closes at the end of Thanksgiving weekend.
"The reason why not, particularly with elk, is that we have 43 shoulder seasons and most of those will continue after the end of the general rifle season," he said. "Those are areas where elk numbers are usually above objective and where we need to get some elk harvested.As for deer, there may be some damage hunts or management seasons later, but as far as I know, there won't be a season extension."
Aasheim said he was particularly concerned about invasive mussels being introduced to Montana's waterways.
"They can be a real big deal," he said. "What they do is create a kind of a mat or a crust if they really take off. We haven't found any adults yet, but since we've found what they call 'villagers' , that's the intermediate stage, either there are some adults around, or they came in on a boat from somewhere, they can clog irrigation systems and pipes, they can infest boat docks, they can basically change the aquatic ecosystem, dramatically affecting the food chain for trout, walleye and other species. It's a big deal, and that's why this "Clean, Drain and Dry' campaign is so important. Prevention is almost impossible if people don't comply with the law that says you have to stop at these check stations. We have to stay vigilant and determine just how extensive the infestation might eventually be."
Earlier this month, Glacier National Park closed all their waterways to boats and canoes, because there had been reports of invasive mussels in other parts of Montana, in order to prevent their spread into the park.