BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana landowners could kill a combined 100 gray wolves annually if the predators are perceived to pose a threat to humans or domestic animals, according to a rule that received initial backing from state wildlife commissioners Thursday.
The proposal significantly expands the circumstances under which wolves can be killed without a hunting license.
The Montana Legislature passed a measure last year requiring the change. The legislation didn't define what qualifies as a "potential threat" so the Fish and Wildlife Commission didn't detail it either, spokesman Ron Aasheim said.
Previously, landowners were largely limited to shooting wolves that had attacked or were attacking livestock. Under the new rule, shooting wolves would be permitted whenever they pose a potential threat to human safety, livestock or domestic dogs.
Critics say the proposal is excessive and equates to a year-round wolf-hunting season.
A final vote is scheduled for July.
Between 2005 and 2013, landowners killed 69 wolves in response to livestock attacks. Over that same time period, hundreds of the animals were shot by government wildlife agents.
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