The impact of wolves on the 'market' for elk hunting in Montana : hunter adjustment and game agency response
Batastini, John Walter
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The gray wolf has become a symbol of controversy in the American West. Hunters, however, are one group that has diverse attitudes toward wolf recovery stemming from the conflicting impacts the presence of wolves creates. Impacts on hunters and big-game populations also affect state game agencies. As of 2005, wolves are still managed by the federal government, so the impact of wolves is exogenous to state game agencies. However, state game agencies can exert control over how wolves affect hunters by adjusting management of big-game hunting. The purpose of this thesis is to develop a method to analyze the impacts wolves have on the big-game hunting βmarketγ in the NRMRA, and to use this method to estimate the short-run impacts of wolves on elk hunting in Montana. A hunter choice model and a game agency model were used to form the basis of the empirical models. The dependent variables developed assess the impacts of wolves on the quality, quantity, and demand for limited elk hunting permits, and the quality of general license elk hunting in Montana. The wolf variables included in the models capture the initial elk distributional effects of wolves, the intensity at which wolves inhabit a hunting district, the level of wolves, and the longevity of wolves within a hunting district. The time period considered was limited by hunting and harvest data availability to 1999 to 2002. The results from the empirical estimations suggest that the state game agency and elk hunters are effectively adjusting to wolves in areas of Montana where wolves prey primarily on deer. In other portions of Montana where naturally occurring wolves prey primarily on elk, the results suggest that the state game agency and hunters are not adjusting to wolf predation as to maintain hunter harvest rates in these areas. Finally, in portions of Montana where reintroduced, high-profile wolves prey primarily on elk, the model results suggest that hunters and the state game agency is adjusting to wolf predation. However, despite the adjustment of the game agency hunter harvest is being affected in these districts.