Wyoming wolf hunting units

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing a 50% increase, from 34 to 51 wolves, in the 12 wolf hunt units in the state's northwest corner. 

A bump upward in Wyoming’s wolf population means the number of animals that will be targeted in the coming hunting season is climbing, trends that carry over to Jackson Hole.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department released its wolf-hunting proposal for the 2020 season this week. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the agency has increased its quota by 50%, from 34 to 51 wolves.

That’s primarily a result of wolf numbers rising to 175 in 27 packs in the “trophy game area,” where the state seeks to keep wolves on the landscape. (In the remaining 85% of Wyoming, the “predator zone,” Canis lupus can be killed without limit.)

“The long story short is that our non-hunting human-caused mortality rate was about half of what we anticipated,” Wyoming Game and Fish wolf biologist Ken Mills said. “That’s good. It means we weren’t killing wolves from causes like lethal control. And that’s really, I think, the main reason why the population increased.”

At the end of 2018, there were 152 wolves counted in the trophy game area in the state’s northwest corner, the only part of Wyoming where Game and Fish has jurisdiction over wolves.

That year-end count rose by 23 wolves as the calendar turned this year, which means the population exceeded the 160-wolf benchmark that Wyoming’s wolf management plan targets to make sure the state achieves Endangered Species Act delisting agreements.

It’s a data-driven process, Mills said, that he uses to set the wolf hunting seasons for Wyoming.

“Agencies don’t manage wolves the way we’ve committed to managing wolves,” he said. “We’ve committed to managing wolves in a way that’s much more specific and precise than other agencies.”

Wolf range is more widespread in Montana and Idaho, and those states’ larger populations are more buffered from basement levels required by the federal government.

Game and Fish is also planning on pushing back the onset of wolf hunting to Sept. 15 to cut down on the number of pups killed.

In the past two years the season has started Sept. 1, when first-year wolves are typically 4 1/2 months old and about the size of a coyote. Because of their naivety and high numbers, pups have comprised about 50% of the harvest in September and 40% in October.

Surveying hunters following last season, Mills heard from half a dozen people who were eager to delay the hunt until later in the fall. Until 2018 it began in October.

“I took that as a positive thing,” Mills said, “that there is a subset of hunters who are really thinking about the seasons and are thinking about wolves as a valuable trophy.”

The Sept. 15 start time was a compromise, he said, and was selected to align with the onset of big game rifle seasons.

Because of COVID-19, Game and Fish has for now put a stop to its normal public meetings. In lieu of a gathering, Mills posted a 16-minute video presentation of his hunting season proposal on WGFD.wyo.gov. Click on “regulations,” and then “Chapter 47, gray wolf hunting seasons.” There’s also a portal to submit comments on the same web page.

Wolf numbers in Game and Fish’s Jackson Region went up, and hunting quotas in turn went up.

The quota in the Gros Ventre and Leidy highlands area — popular for wolf hunting — increased from seven to 10.

In unit 10, hugged between the Gros Ventre Range crest and the Hoback River, hunters’ cap on wolves went from two to six.

On the west slope of the Tetons and in the Teton Wilderness, which are jointly managed, the quota rose from three to six.

In unit five, located along Togwotee Pass and north of Dubois, the proposed wolf quota is rising from one to four.

Interest in wolf hunting fell off some last year, with license sales dropping 29% between 2018 and 2019. Hunter success rates, however, held about steady, at around 2%, Mills said.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067 or env@jhnewsandguide.com.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

(3) comments

Kelly Schueman

How very sad. To think that the Tetons and Yellowstone were my favorite place on earth and Wyoming , the state that I was the most proud of up until O6 was killed. I now have a grandson, and I never would have imagined that taking him to Wyoming would not be my first dream . Summers in Wyoming are memories of a place that has proven to be very different that what a younger self believed it was. Humans can take a beautiful landscape and make it far too sad to be beautiful. Chronic wasting , the Mustang tragedy.. cows and cows and nothing but cows. Wyoming, even Yellowstone is nothing but a giant sad cattle ranch.

Konrad Lau

Human memory is a strange thing. Bad experiences, with time passing, become “adventures”.

Good experiences, with time, become embellished with rainbows, sugar crystals and marshmallows.

No one, I repeat, no one wants the destruction of our natural wonders. Cattle grazing is one way the federal government takes in revenue to support the parks effort. Everyone wants clean water, clean air and open spaces. The real pressure on our wild environments comes from city dwellers’ continually expanding their boundaries and raising property taxes. Cows are a transient phenomena. Concrete roads and buildings tend to be generationally permanent and difficult to rehab once constructed.

When I was a boy, we would ride along a road heading out of town that had meadows and fields on both sides. In the misty mornings you could see deer, birds and yes, cows in those fields. Now, there are multi-storied office buildings, a huge shopping mall and that same road has become a six-lane freeway with two-lane feeder (access) roads on either side.

I expect the deer will never return to those areas in my or my great grandson’s lifetimes.

Those ranchers and farmers sold their land to developers because they could not pay the ever-increasing taxes. They decided to take the money and move elsewhere because they were tired of fighting the government. They decided to sell when the fathers and grandfathers died and the tax bill came due.

We should all think about the reasons things change and what we need to do to stop the negative changes.

Konrad Lau

Wonderful!

Here is a report that shows State Ecology Department strategies are working.

Congratulations!

Mike,

Thanks for the report!

Welcome to the discussion.

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