Wyoming wolf pack locations

Wildlife mangers counted 347 wolves running in 53 packs in Wyoming at the end of 2017. Packs’ home ranges are displayed on this map.

Hunting’s return to the landscape slashed the number of wolves in Wyoming last year, though not to the degree wildlife managers sought.

Wyoming’s goal was to cut its wolf population by nearly a quarter in places in which the state has control, but only a 16 percent reduction was accomplished. The reason managers missed the mark, Wyoming Game and Fish Department wolf biologist Ken Mills said, is that there were more wolves than expected.

“What happened is the Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t have anyone on the ground monitoring wolves,” Mills said. “We located four additional packs. There were 19 adult wolves in those packs.”

Hunters would have been allowed to target more wolves, he said, if those animals were identified ahead of an annual report that informs hunting seasons.

The annual census of Wyoming’s wolves, published Wednesday, found that there were 347 animals thought to roam the Equality State as the calendar turned to 2018 — down 30 from a year ago. Yellowstone National Park’s population, 97 animals, remained about the same, as did the number of lobos calling the Wind River Indian Reservation home.

The most significant changes came in areas where Wyoming authorizes hunting, where the population fell from 285 to 238. A managed “trophy-game” hunting area in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s interior housed 198 wolves at the end of the year. Another 40 of the large canines roamed the remainder of Wyoming, where wolves are managed as pests and can be killed indiscriminately. In both areas combined, 77 wolves were killed last year.

Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity view the calculated, hunting-driven population decline as a travesty.

“Wolves won’t persist outside Yellowstone National Park if Wyoming continues to eradicate them at this appalling pace,” said Victor, Idaho, resident Andrea Santarsiere, an attorney with the center.

Mills sees it differently. Wyoming’s population, he said, is well above federally required “recovery” requirements: 50 wolves and five breeding pairs in Yellowstone and 100 animals and 10 breeding pairs outside the park. The wolf biologist also pointed out that the number of breeding pairs in the state increased over the last year, from 18 to 19.

“It’s recovered, and it’s functioning as a population,” Mills said. “There’s actually more wolves in 2017 in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation than there were before 2011 — before we ever managed wolves.”

The year A lawsuit caused Wyoming to lose control of its wolf population from 2014 to spring 2017, during which time the Endangered Species Act protected lobos from hunting and populations hit record highs.

2016 was the most conflict-prone one for wolves and livestock since the native carnivores were reintroduced to the region 23 years ago. Twenty-five wolf packs killed 243 sheep, cattle and horses, and 113 wolves were killed in retaliation. The numbers fell last year, with 191 wolf-suspected livestock deaths and 61 lobos killed in response.

“I think pretty much everyone can say that’s a positive, right?” Mills said. “Whether fewer wolves is a positive depends on who you are, but less conflict is a good thing.”

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

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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(9) comments

Sam Lobo

I think Mike Koshmrl should apologize for not labeling his depredations as ONLY the confirmed depredations!

Sam Lobo

"Twenty-five wolf packs killed 243 sheep, cattle and horses, and 113 wolves were killed in retaliation." The truth is those 243 livestock are JUST CONFIRMED depredations. Those that try to get you to think the only damage done by wolves is the confirmed depredations that’s blathered in propaganda posts need to be held accountable. Don’t let them try to hoodwink you...... confirmed depredations are only a small fraction of true depredation. Dr Mech puts it at only ONE in six...... THAT’S right only one in six, that means that the ranchers are taking a hit on FIVE livestock for every confirmed wolf kill. Rancher records have said this is much higher & they say it’s more like one in twenty. THAT means that the ranchers took a HIT of well over a THOUSAND animals!

Then you have fixing fences, lacerated livestock from running through those fences. Lost sleep thinking about what the morning will bring.... Those that fall for the "confirmed" depredations as being true rancher loses are either gullible OR the one spreading such nonsenses. A many of ranchers have been told that a wolf had ate their pet or livestock .... BUT, did it kill it? They must prove signs of struggle in order to have a depredation "confirmed". States like Oregon and Washington have put even STRICTER rules to follow in order to get a confirmation. When calves are ate from head to tail..... it’s hard to confirm a dead calf when a pack of wolves ate everything and all you have left is an angry mother cow with lacerations from running through fences and the loss of the dead calf AND their current pregnancy. Yes, cows will abort their pregnancy when they are running for their lives and complete stress and panic from the bawling of the calf as it is ate alive. This is how the HSUS loves animals. These same people expect ranchers to absorb the costs to move cattle to safer places NIGHTLY. Only ranchers understand how edgy and hard to work with cattle that have been stressed by wolves can be…. this does not only affect the dead ones! General Lose of weight for yearlings that are raised in a wolf saturated environment is common knowledge

Sam Lobo

The abuse of the ESA by the radical "environmental" groups with regards to wolves is the sole reason there is resistance to wolves. To this day they STILL wheeled that abuse in the Great Lakes weakening the Act itself. THEY are to blame for weakening of the act! Absolutely no reason why states in the Great lakes should not be managing wolves! Support congresswoman Baldwin in stopping the abuse!

William Huard

Another 40 of the large canines roamed the remainder of Wyoming, where wolves are managed as pests and can be killed indiscriminately. In both areas combined, 77 wolves were killed last year.

This is one of Wyoming’s problems.
They are thugs who don’t even post details about wolves killed in their “hunts”
There is no state less deserving of Wolf management authority than Wyoming.
They feed elk like cattle- 21-23 counties have CWD-
The thug solution-
Kill more wolves!

Jay Westemeier

Mr. Huard, Although I agree with the premise of your post, I think "thugs" might not be an accurate description of the people involved with Wyoming's wolf management. I believe Wyoming has an internal problem that starts at the highest levels of their governing body. The majority of Wyoming's Game and Fish personnel surely have their hands tied when it comes to doing the job they were trained and paid to do. I don't think those people would have chosen their career if they didn't have an overall concern for the well being of all Wyoming's wildlife, including wolves and bears. The problem lies with the Governor who grew up as a rancher and has personal ties to the ranching industry. His high level department appointees are also aligned with his agenda and don't appear to have any real commitment to what is truly one of the state's most valuable assets, its diverse wildlife. When you have people running the show who still believe it's smart to let livestock wander unprotected from the surrounding environment, you have a big problem. And the problem gets even bigger when these same people believe that they are actually protecting the majority of Wyoming's interests by killing off a critical part of its most valuable asset. It's all part of the long standing belief that if you feel something to be a pest, you instantly eliminate it, regardless of future consequences.

Byron Baker

Looking forward to the day when Wyoming has zero wolves. We can shoot them as they leave Jellystone to poach wyoming farmers cattle.

Ken Chison

Why does Wyoming not manage the wolves at the number that the feds set? This would allow much more opportunity for hunters. If the feds said 50 breeding pairs, then the state should manage for 50, give or take 10 percent. It would help to ensure a stronger overall wolf population without fear of canine diseases which will ultimately infect a larger population.

Chad guenter

100 total wolves is fine with me, Mr. Chison. That was the Feds original number.

Ken Chison

Chad. I just threw that number out there hypothetically. Sorry for the confusion. An overpopulation would be detrimental to a healthy base that we already have. The same theory used by many about the large number of elk that concentrate together in the winter. When I first started hunting wolves in Alberta, years back, the overpopulated areas were riddled with sick wolves. Mange, distemper, mites and every possible canine disease known was present on several wolves I harvested. Some believed that much of it was caused be domestic dogs intermingling with wolves. After the numbers were brought back in check, the overall health of the animals improved dramatically. My point being that the game and fish need to manage for the numbers set forth by the feds. Which means more wolves harvested.

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