A panel of state lawmakers rejected a bill that would have barred the recreational killing of wolves in two hunting districts that border Yellowstone National Park.

The Senate Fish and Game Committee tabled Senate Bill 185 on Tuesday. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman, would have banned hunting and trapping wolves in wolf management units 313 and 316 near Cooke City and Gardiner.

During a hearing last week, the bill received support from many wolf advocates who argue the wolves that wander into those areas are naive and unafraid of people, making them easy targets for hunters. But agriculture organizations and groups representing hunters opposed it, arguing that it wasn’t the Legislature’s place to decide hunting regulations.

The committee voted 9-1 to table the bill. The only person who voted to keep it alive was Sen. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte.

Before the committee’s vote on Monday, Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R-Thompson Falls, said any buffer zones for those wolves should exist inside Yellowstone, and that the park should consider doing something to help the animals.

“Maybe there’s some things to look at there to teach the wolves a little about human interaction in a way that maybe sets them up so they aren’t so vulnerable when they leave the park,” Fielder said.

Sen. Pat Flowers, D-Belgrade, said Phillips offered good rationale for passing the bill but that he couldn’t support it because it goes around the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission, which sets hunting and fishing regulations. Flowers said it “supersedes their season setting authority.”

Phillips introduced the bill after a hunter killed a famous wolf known as Spitfire near Cooke City. Reached by phone Wednesday, Phillips said he was disappointed in the committee’s decision, and that arguments that the Legislature shouldn’t consider laws that fall within the commission’s authority doesn’t make sense because the Legislature grants authority to the commission.

“If that’s why you voted against the bill, that’s misguided rationale,” Phillips said.

He said he will consider trying to revive the bill.

Michael Wright can be reached at mwright@dailychronicle.com or at 406-582-2638. Follow him on Twitter @mj_wright1.

Michael Wright covers the environment and wildlife issues for the Chronicle.

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