- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2016

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A proposal to triple the number of wolves that hunters and trappers can kill just outside Yellowstone National Park was rejected Thursday by Montana wildlife commissioners.

Wildlife managers had recommended increasing the 2016 wolf quota for a hunting district near Gardiner from two animals to six. Agency officials had cited complaints from hunters and outfitters that the predators were eating too many elk.

Spokesman Ron Aasheim says the quota won’t be final until the wildlife commission votes again in July.

Park officials and wildlife advocates have argued that wolves spending much of their lives inside Yellowstone should be given special protections. Even under smaller quotas, they’ve said too many wolves were being killed once they stepped into Montana.

No hunting is allowed in the park, but wolf hunting has been legal in neighboring Montana since 2011 when the animals lost their endangered status.

Under pressure from the park and advocacy groups, Montana wildlife commissioners tried to set up a no-kill buffer zone east and west of the town of Gardiner in 2012. A state judge struck down those restrictions after ranchers and property rights advocates sued.

A quota of four wolves in the Gardiner area was established in 2013. That was reduced to three animals in 2014 and two last year.

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