FWP Commission Seeks Comment On Bison Hunt

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The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission agreed Thursday in Great Falls to tentatively approve a bison hunt to open this fall, confirming its intent to create a 90-day hunting season over a large area of southwestern Montana for the 2005-06 season.

In January, the commission delayed the implementation of a 30-day bison hunt that was to open near Gardiner on Jan. 15. At the time, commissioners said they wanted to ensure fair-chase circumstances and a longer hunting season with broader hunting opportunities to include more than 28,000 acres near West Yellowstone, in addition to the area near Gardiner.

For the 2005-06 hunt, the commission tentatively approved the sale of 25 either-sex bison licenses for use between Nov. 15 and Jan. 15, 2006; and 25 either-sex licenses for use between Jan. 16, 2006 and Feb. 15, 2006. In accordance with a new state law, one of the licenses for each time period would be allotted to each of Montana’s eight Indian Tribes.

The licenses would be valid on private lands with landowner permission, and on those public lands specifically defined as bison areas outside the northern and western boundaries of Yellowstone National Park where active hazing of bison is not being conducted.

In 2003, Montana’s Legislature passed a law giving the FWP Commission authority to establish a bison hunt in Gallatin and Park counties. The intent of the law is to allow Montana hunters to harvest wild, free-roaming bison under fair chase conditions and to reduce damage to private property by altering bison behavior and distribution. Officials said the proposed hunt is not expected to regulate bison populations. Population regulation will continue to be addressed through the Interagency Bison Management Plan that was approved several years ago.

Last winter, about 8,300 people applied for 10 bison hunting licenses issued through a drawing. Should a 2005-06 bison season be officially adopted by the FWP Commission at its September meeting in Billings, the 10 licenses drawn earlier this year would be among the 50 valid for the 2005-06 hunts. With 16 licenses allocated by law to Montana’s Indian Tribes, the remaining 24 bison-hunting licenses available to the public would be offered through a special drawing that would likely be held in October. Drawing applications could be available by mid August and would be due by Sept. 30.

Public bison hunts are established in several western states, including Alaska, Arizona, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. In Montana, the last public bison hunt took place in 1990.

Comments must be received by Aug. 15 to: Attn. Bison Hunt Regulations, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, 1400 S. 19 th Ave., Bozeman, MT 59718, or via Email to: fwpwld@mt.gov.