Adaptive Wolf Management: The Regulated Public Harvest Component

Scientific Disciplines
Biological Sciences - Terrestrial
adaptive management
montana fish wildlife and parks
Volume 17, No. 1-4

Adaptive wolf management: the regulated public harvest 
Carolyn A. Sime,* Montana f Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Helena, Montana 59620
Justin A. Gude, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Helena, Montana, 59620
Robin E. Russell, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Helena, Montana 59620
Michael S. Mitchell, U. S. Geological Survey, Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, 
University of Montana, Missoula, Montana 59812
Liz Bradley, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Missoula, Montana 59804
Nathan Lance, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Butte Montana 59702
Kent Laudon, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Kalispell, Montana 59901
Mike Ross, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Bozeman Montana 59718
Val Asher, Turner Endangered Species Fund, Bozeman Montana 59718
Quentin Kujala, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, Helena, Montana 59620
Kurt Alt (retired), Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Bozeman, Montana 59718
John Ensign, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Miles City, Montana 59301
Ray Mule, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Billings, Montana 59105
Mark Sullivan, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Glasgow, Montana 59230
Graham Taylor, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Great Falls, Montana 59405
Mike Thompson, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Missoula, Montana 59804
Jim Williams, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Kalispell, Montana 59901
Montana’s wolf  (Canis lupus) conservation and management plan is based on adaptive 
management principles and includes regulated public harvest as a population management 
tool. The need and opportunity to implement public harvest in 2008, 2009, and 2010 required 
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) to develop a stepped down adaptive management 
framework specific to harvest. For 2008 and 2009, FWP set modest objectives: implement 
a harvest, maintain a recovered population, and begin the learning process to inform 
development of future hunting regulations and quotas. In 2010, FWP used a formal Structured 
Decision Making Process to more clearly define priorities and challenges of setting a wolf 
season, outline objectives of a successful season, and evaluate consequences and trade-offs 
between alternative management actions. For all years, FWP used a modeling process to 
simulate a wide range of harvest rates across three harvest units and to predict harvest effects 
on the minimum number of wolves, packs and breeding pairs. Model inputs were derived 
from minimum wolf numbers observed in the field. Modeling allowed consideration of a 
range of harvest quotas, predicted outcomes, and risk that harvest could drive the population 
below federally-required minimums. It also facilitated explicit consideration of how well a 
particular quota achieved objectives and how to adapt future regulations and quotas. Legal 
challenges to federal delisting restricted implementation of the first fair chase hunting season 
to 2009. Montana’s wolf population is securely recovered, despite the dynamic political and 
legal environments. Regardless, FWP remains committed to a scientific, data-driven approach 
to adaptive management.