Wolf management

National Elk Refuge biologist Eric Cole checks a sedated wolf in 2013. Jurisdiction over wolves has been returned to the state.

The stroke of a court clerk’s pen on Tuesday put into action a federal panel of judges’ March decision that returned jurisdiction over wolves to the state of Wyoming.

The announcement didn’t come until after the close of business hours, and had immediate implications for wolves across the vast majority of Wyoming and as near to Jackson as South Park. Where they were a federally protected “threatened” species on Monday, wolves on Tuesday could be shot on sight in a “predator zone” that begins just south of Highway 22.

“Wolves outside the trophy game management area are now considered predatory animals,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Renny MacKay said shortly after the news fell.

Rules on killing predator animals are few, and there are virtually no restrictions on tactics that can be used. Any wolf killed in the predator zone, however, must be reported to authorities within 10 days.

In most of Jackson Hole the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ order has less of an immediate effect on wolf management. Most of the valley and the larger Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is a “trophy game” area where wolf hunting is managed, season dates are instituted and licenses must be purchased.

“For us to go forward with a hunting season in 2017,” MacKay said, “the necessary steps are drafting regulations, taking public comment, holding public meetings — and then it will all go to the commission.”

Given 2016’s record levels of wolf-livestock conflict — and approximately 115 of Wyoming’s 300-some lobos being killed in response — MacKay anticipated limited hunts in the trophy game area.

“If Wyoming does have hunting seasons,” he said, “they will be very conservative, reflecting the number of wolves removed over the last two years.”

Statewide, hunter-killed wolves in 2012 and ’13 amounted to 66 and 63 animals. Approximately half of those killed were in the predator zone and half in the trophy game area.

The most recent population estimate dates to April 2016, when a record 382 wolves were estimated in Wyoming — the highest number since reintroduction into the ecosystem in the mid-1990s. Wolves were extirpated from the Equality State in the early 20th century, unable to survive the pressure of market hunting and trapping incentivized by government eradication programs.

The 2017 monitoring report that will provide the most recent picture of the Wyoming population is due out any day, said Tyler Abbott, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s state field supervisor.

Ken Mills, a Game and Fish large carnivore biologist who will lead Wyoming’s wolf program, said he anticipates a wolf population similar to the one under his guidance 2 1/2 years ago.

“Wolf packs have been stable, and they’re pretty much the same packs that were there when we were managing them,” Mills said. “There hasn’t been a lot of change in distribution.”

Wyoming lost control of its wolf population in September 2014, when Washington, D.C., Judge Amy Berman Jackson agreed with conservation groups’ argument that a lack of a mandatory population buffer in Wyoming’s plan was illegal. On March 3 federal appellate judges Judith Rogers, Nina Pillard and Janice Brown reversed that decision, determining that agreements about population buffers had “the force of law.”

Environmental attorneys elected not to seek a rehearing but were given 45 days to make a decision, delaying the swap of jurisdiction.

Wyoming congressional delegation cheered the finality of the appeal’s courts ruling, as did Gov. Matt Mead, who said in a statement he’s “delighted.”

“We recognize the need to maintain a healthy wolf population,” Mead said. “I thank former Secretaries of the Interior Ken Salazar and Sally Jewell as well as former Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for their commitment to getting this done.”

Sen. John Barrasso said in a statement that the court’s mandate puts wolf management “where it should have been all along, under the control of Wyoming, not Washington.” Sen. Mike Enzi, in a statement, echoed the thought.

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 since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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(4) comments

Brice Hemming

Wolves are worthless vermin pest equal to sewer rats. The only people that claim wolves are important to the ecosystem normally live 10 states away and are not qualified to talk about vermin like wolves.
PDF]Is science in danger of sanctifying the wolf? - International Wolf Center
This exposed a lot of the wolf fraud. From the NPS hiring trappers to live trap beaver so Dougy Smith could pass his fraud on to the public. You see Dougy is a con artist fraud. He had trappers live trap 129 beaver and released them into the Yellowstone ecosystem. When they build a dam he held a press conference and said see wolves are magical the beaver returned. You know in the old days a fraud like Dougy was the type to put gold flakes in a creek and than have new greenhorns pan for gold. When they find some gold the land would be sold for 5 times it real value.
All the paranoid lies that the wolfaboos posted about wolves being wiped out has been exposed as fear mongering, paranoid, lies. They said the same thing about Montana and Idaho and guess what there is still plenty of wolves in both states.
Put on your tin foil hat get ready the wolfaboos will be spinning the biggest lies in history over Wyoming decision. Fear mongering, paranoid, frauds with a donate now button for the gullible suckers living in big cities 10 states away.

Dylan Spence

"Wolves are worthless vermin pest equal to sewer rats."

I find it interesting that you are quoting an article aiming to look at the issue without bias, yet you take such a strong stance. I think your argument loses its backing under the tone you give considering, even if the article you provided does expose some misinterpreted information, its end claim is that "The wolf is neither a saint nor a sinner except to those who want to make it so."

You are basically backing up your claim with an article that is claiming something entirely different.

Jay Westemeier

Instead of being content with a ruling that he obviously supports, Mr. Hemming is compelled to spew divisive vitriol. His rants remind me of a quote from Abraham Lincoln that I always admired..."It's better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt". I also find it hilarious how someone from the "wolf haven" of Nebraska can consider himself more qualified to talk about wolves than anyone else.

Gary Humbard

Ecologically, it makes no sense to hunt and trap wolves nor classify them as predators. As the article noted, the population has been stable with the essentially the same packs and distribution since the state lost management in 2014. Wolves are territorial and family oriented (only alphas typically breed) and if given the chance (which they just lost) will remain stable in regards to population and distribution.

Now, with hunting and trapping in the trophy area plus shoot on site within 85% of the state, alphas will undoubtedly get killed, thus resulting in more population and distribution instabiity . BTW, wolves being near the top of the predator apex have been known to kill coyotes which ranchers are always complaining about, so kill a wolf and feed a coyote.

This is about pleasing human hunters who don't like to compete with wolves and ranchers who want a sanitized landscape. So re-load the ammo and pile in the pickups and go get that wolf you've been salivating over for the last 2+ years. One more BTW Gov. Mead, I don't think wolves got the memo that state control is in their best interest!

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