Earlier this month, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service approved Montana's request to start issuing internationally recognized export tags for wolf-pelts, making it the second state in the country behind Alaska to allow hunters and trappers to sell wolf-pelts directly on foreign markets. It's a direction Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has been moving in for several years, says Brian Giddings, the agency's statewide furbearer coordinator, and could help stabilize seasonal wolf harvest totals moving forward.
"Hopefully that will enable us to continue a relatively stable harvest level," Giddings says, "because after a while, if people can't do something with the pelts, they're going to lose interest in the season ... and that would hurt our management."
FWP obtained the tags through the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, an international agreement designed to ensure that trade in plant and animal products does not threaten the species' continued survival. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, any state or tribal governments seeking to issue those permits "must set up and maintain management and harvest programs designed to monitor and protect CITES furbearers from over-harvest." Giddings admits the demand for CITES permits for wolf-pelts in Montana probably isn't "huge," but adds his agency's decision to pursue FWS approval stemmed largely from public feedback.
- photo courtesy of Emmanuel Keller
"We've heard for a number of years, since we started our seasons I think three or four years ago, that [hunters and trappers] would like to have that ability to export the pelts," he says.
Montana has already been issuing CITES export tags for bobcat and river otter pelts for decades. FWP believes the addition of wolves to that list will be of interest primarily to Montana trappers, who have increasingly taken to selling various pelts through major Canadian venues like the North American Fur Auctions in Toronto.
"That's something that's changed over the years," Giddings says. "In the old days they'd kind of just sell things locally or regionally, and now most of them ship or sell things directly to those fur auctions where they usually bring in more dollars."
North American Fur Auctions this week released results from its January event. While the notice did not include any figures for wolf-pelt sales, it did mention that coyote-pelt values had "pushed well beyond" industry highs recorded last spring.