Flathead Indian Reservation wolf behavior watched

POLSON, Mont. (AP) 11-09

Wildlife officials are watching the gray wolves living on the Flathead Indian Reservation and plan to leave them alone, as long as they don’t kill a lot of livestock or big game animals on the tribal lands.

The approach is part of a new management plan on the western Montana reservation that was approved by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council in June and went into effect this month.

Germaine White, information and education specialist with the CSKT Natural Resources Department, said the wolves’ future will depend largely on whether they’re a threat to other animals.

“The council realized the cultural and ecological significance of wolves to many of its constituents and acknowledged the potential for conflicts between wolves and local populations of big game and other wildlife, as well as the potential for conflicts between wolves and domestic livestock,” White said.

Tribal leaders wanted a balanced plan that gives the wolves a chance to prosper but allows for some control if the threat to livestock or prized game becomes too great.

CSKT’s Wildlife Management Program will work closely with managers of state and federal agencies that also manage wolves to monitor wolf numbers and livestock conflicts.

White said four management plans were considered after input from tribal elders and culture committees, hunters, ranchers and others.

If the wolves are deemed too much of a threat to livestock or game, wildlife officials can resort to lethal control. But initially, the wolves will be left alone so wildlife managers can see how the population does with the other animals living on the land.

A large population of wolves with little or no conflicts will result in “no excessive effort to reduce the wolf population,” White said.

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