Wolves die ‘at a trickle’
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
October 11, 2012
Wolves have been killed at a slow rate and in places officials say they expected since the predators lost federal protection Oct. 1.
In Wyoming’s “trophy game” area —about 15 percent of the northwest part of the state — 16 wolves were harvested through Wednesday. The maximum allow-able kill is 52 in a season that runs through Dec. 31.
Six wolves have been killed in Jackson Hole hunt areas.
Outside the trophy hunt area, where wolves are classified as predators and can be shot at any time by any means, just three animals have been reported killed.
The location of wolf kills roughly matches their population density, state officials said Wednesday.
“It almost exactly reflects the number of wolves in proportion to how they occur in the trophy game and predator zones,” said Mark Bruscino, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s large carnivore supervisor. “Most of the wolf population in Wyoming is in areas where they have protections as a game animal, where harvest is controlled.”
There is, however, a 10-day reporting requirement in the predator zone, so kills in most of the state could be reported slowly. In the trophy game zone, there’s a 24-hour requirement.
Wyoming had an estimated 328 wolves at the end of 2011. Game and Fish guesses just “20 to 30” reside outside of the trophy game area.
Bruscino, who heads wolf management for Game and Fish, said his department went into the hunt with no predictions for a harvest rate.
“I’m pleased that it’s going at this rate, rather than a little faster,” he said. “It’s been a real trickle of a pace over the past 10, 11 days.”
At Game and Fish’s Cody office, where Bruscino works, a handful of wolves have been inspected by Game and Fish personnel, he said.
The success doesn’t indicate hunters are actively hunting wolves, though more than expected apparently are.
“We were actually a little surprised,” Bruscino said. “The wardens reported back to me that they have encountered a fair amount of people that were doing nothing but hunting wolves.”
Wyoming’s regulated wolf hunt has 12 units that close down individually after reaching a mortality quota. It’s the responsibility of hunters to call 800-264-1280 to verify that their hunt unit is still open before they set out.
In the five wolf hunt units that touch Jackson Hole, six wolves have been harvested to date. Three of the six have been taken in unit 8, a two-part area that spans north from Highway 22 and Wilson to Grand Teton National Park, and also runs north of the Gros Ventre River just to the east of the park.
In wolf hunt unit 6, which abuts unit 8 to the north of Blackrock Creek, hunters have reported bagging two of the three wolves that can be legally killed there. Both were killed in the first 48 hours of the season.
Statutes prohibit Game and Fish from disclosing details about wolves harvested, including age, sex, body condition or pack. The location of wolves taken in the predator zone also can’t be disclosed, Bruscino said.