Montana wildlife commissioners have initially approved a proposal allowing landowners to kill up to 100 gray wolves annually if the predators pose a perceived threat.
Thursday's action significantly expands the circumstances under which wolves can be killed without a hunting license. In the past, that was largely limited to instances in which wolves attacked livestock.
Under the new rule, shooting wolves would be permitted whenever they pose a potential threat to human safety, livestock or domestic dogs. State lawmakers last year passed a law requiring the expansion.
Critics say the proposal is excessive and equates to a year-round wolf hunting season.
Separately, commissioners approved hunting regulations that reduce the annual wolf quota from four animals to three in an area near Yellowstone National Park.