Commission to consider adjustments to wolf trapping, snaring regsThe Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission is considering adjustments to wolf trapping regulations for the 2021 season at its Oct. 28 meeting.

The proposed changes are aimed at minimizing the possibility of non-target capture of lynx and grizzly bears. Both species are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The proposed changes look at more clearly identifying occupied grizzly bear habitat and adjusting the season dates for trapping and snaring in these areas. The proposed default opening day in areas likely to have grizzly bears would be Dec. 31. However, this date could move earlier if the department determines most grizzly bears are denned for the winter.

The proposal would also close snaring for wolves on public land within Lynx Protection Zones. These zones have long been established in Montana trapping regulations and are generally in the greater Yellowstone area and northwest Montana.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks took ample public comment on wolf regulations during this past summer. The commission set the current season dates and regulations in August. The public will be able to comment on these potential adjustments during the Oct. 28 meeting, which will be held at the Montana State Capitol, room 303, or on Zoom.

To testify on items on the commission agenda, people must sign up by Oct. 27 at 12 p.m.

FWP proposing grizzly bear release sites for commission, public reviewMontana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is proposing a wide array of grizzly bear relocation sites to the Fish and Wildlife Commission following new statutory requirements set by the 2021 Montana Legislature.

The proposed relocation sites provide options for relocating grizzly bears both inside and outside of three of Montana’s federally designated recovery zones – the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, said FWP wildlife division administrator Ken McDonald.

“The idea is to have the commission and the public review several release sites so our staff have options once it’s been decided to trap a bear, whether it’s a conflict situation or not,” McDonald said. “The last thing we want is to have a grizzly bear in a trap approved for relocation but no approved release site within a reasonable distance.”

Since grizzly bears are listed at threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that agency must approve all relocations. The proposed relocation sites are all within current occupied grizzly bear range, even if many are outside of recovery zones.

“We’re not proposing to use these sites to expand bear populations, but simply to give our staff options for relocation within current occupied habitat,” McDonald said.

All proposed release sites were developed collaboratively with other land management agencies, like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

Senate Bill 337 requires FWP to have all grizzly bear release sites approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission. The commission will review the sites proposed by the department and then make a final decision on which will go out for public comment. A final decision on the release sites is expected in December.

SB 337 also prohibits the department from relocating conflict grizzly bears that are located outside for recovery zones.

Relocating grizzly bears can occur for a variety of reasons. In some areas, like the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, bears are relocated from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem to help supplement the population. Bears can be relocated in response to conflict. They can also be relocated pre-emptively if the potential for conflict is high.

To see the proposed relocations sites, look on the Fish and Wildlife Commission agenda page for Oct. 28. The commission meeting will begin 8:30 a.m. and will be held on Zoom and in person in room 303 at the state Capitol in Helena.

At the commission meeting, public comment via Zoom will be managed with the system utilized by the Legislature. If you are interested in commenting, you must register online via the Fish, Wildlife & Parks website by noon, Oct. 27. The public will also be able to comment in person at the meeting or at any FWP regional office. To sign up to comment by noon on Oct. 27, go to https://tinyurl.com/ytp2ud9y

Licensing rules to be considered by Fish and Wildlife CommissionThe Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission will consider one new administrative rule and several rule amendments at their meeting Oct. 28.

The new rule and amendments are the result of a statutorily required review process. These proposed changes are also happening concurrently to FWP’s response to Gov. Greg Gianforte’s first executive order from earlier this year, which created the Red Tape Relief Advisory Council and directed all state agencies to identify excessive, outdated and unnecessary regulations.

The new rule and amendments that are coming before the commission simply clean up unnecessary, outdated or repetitive rule language and will make rules current with FWP’s long-standing practices.

The new rule and rule amendments will not change things for FWP customers, who will still have the same process for buying and applying for licenses and permits.

“This really jump starts FWP’s work in executing Gov. Gianforte’s Red Tape Relief order,” said FWP director Hank Worsech. “Our customers won’t see any changes to how we operate. This is just to streamline our administrative rules.”

The commission will consider the rules during its Oct. 28 meeting. If commissioners approve the draft rules and rule amendments, they will be filed with the Montana Secretary of State’s office. The next step will be public hearings on the rules followed by a final approval by the commission.

For more information on the rules and to read the proposals, please see the Fish and Wildlife Commission webpage

Bighorn sheep season closes in HD 501By order of the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, hunting district 501 as described in the current Moose, Sheep and Goat regulations legal descriptions shall be closed to hunting of all bighorn sheep, effective one-half hour after sunset on Sunday, Oct. 24.

The order halting the hunt came after the pre-established harvest quota for the district has been met.

For more information, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov/hunt/by-species, to check the current quota status, or call the toll-free number at 1-800-385-7826.

WHIP accepting grant applications through WebGrantsThe Montana Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program (WHIP) is currently accepting grant applications. The application process for this year was initiated in a grant administering system that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has decided to replace due to software issues. WHIP applications will instead be offered through the WebGrants system for the current application period.

Grant applicants can find the FWP WHIP Grant Cycle 2022 funding opportunity at https://funding.mt.gov. Applicants new to WebGrants must register prior to accessing the application forms. For more information about WHIP and grant application instructions, visit the WHIP webpage at https://tinyurl.com/vyv3h7wt.

The WHIP application deadline has been extended to 5 p.m. on Dec. 3, 2021, to give applicants additional time to switch their applications over to WebGrants. If you have questions about applying for a WHIP grant or accessing WebGrants, contact Kim Antonick, WHIP coordinator, at kim.antonick@mt.gov or 406-444-7291.

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