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BIG SKY -- Montana will allow hunters to take 220 wolves during the fall hunting season, the state's wildlife commission decided this morning.


During its meeting at this mountain resort south of Bozeman, the five-member Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commission voted unanimously to approve the hunting quota that would reduce Montana's gray wolf population to at least 425 during what one FWP official called the state's "first full-fledged wolf hunt."


Currently, at least 556 wolves live in Montana, though the actually population is believed to be as much as 30 percent higher than that.


After the wolf was taken off the endangered species list in 2009, the state had a hunt that allowed 75 wolves to be killed. But a successful lawsuit opposing the delisting prevented a 2010 hunt. An act of Congress this year has taken Montana wolves back off the list, opening the door to the hunt.


Most of the hunting will occur in northwest Montana, where as many of 123 wolves will be allowed to be killed. In southwest Montana, 43 wolves will be allowed to be killed. The remainder will be allowed to be killed in the Dillon and Bitterroot areas.


Before approving the 220 wolf quota, commissioners tweaked the plan in hopes of reducing the toll the hunt would take on two packs in the Gardiner area that split their time between Montana and Yellowstone National Park. The park had requested that FWP design the hunt to minimize the number of Yellowstone wolves killed.

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