On Monday morning, the Big Bear Tannery in Darby took in an "awesome" black wolf, says owner Donna Hellyer, giving the taxidermist four of the 12 wolves shot in the districts surrounding Darby this wolf hunting season, Montana's second.
"The number of wolves taken thus far doesn't meet our expectations," Hellyer says, "but the number we're getting of what's been taken we're happy with."
The number of wolves killed so far isn't meeting the expectations of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, either. As of Nov. 15, more than halfway through the season, 73 wolves had been shot statewide, well short of the 220-wolf quota. The discrepancy is especially stark around Darby. In Management Unit 210, which stretches from Frenchtown to southeast of Dillon, and from the Montana-Idaho boarder to Butte, nine wolves have been shot; the quota is 36. In the much smaller Management Unit 250, the West Fork of the Bitterroot, three wolves have been shot, and the quota there is 18.
"The concern is that we're not reaching the quota," says FWP Wildlife Biologist Craig Jourdonnais. "I think that's shared by a lot of folks"—including the FWP Commission, which finds itself considering extending the season by a month, to Jan. 31.
But Jourdonnais expects a turnaround. Over the last couple of weeks, as snows have come, more and more hunters passing through the Darby check station have reported spotting wolves, he says.
Hellyer's hopeful, too. "Most guys that are going out are going out looking for game, and after the season closes after Thanksgiving, there'll be going out looking for wolves," she says. "And so hopefully there'll be more taken...We have a lot, they're just very wily. They're just very good at avoiding people."
They're so good that Idaho has resorted to trapping in order to reduce wolf numbers there. Montana's wildlife officials haven't proposed trapping—yet.
Meanwhile, the Big Bear Tannery is running a special this season: $1,600 for a full wolf mount. Rugs run $120 a foot.