Wolf hunt area boundaries are being redrawn and quotas boosted because the Gros Ventre area’s elk and Whiskey Mountain’s bighorn sheep are shifting their winter ranges.
In both cases there’s little evidence wolf predation is driving populations down, but wildlife managers believe Canis lupus is a culprit in pushing ungulates off high-quality habitat during the hardest time of year.
Partly due to this predator-prey dynamic, the maximum number of wolves that can be killed is going from nine to 15 in hunt areas that hug the Gros Ventre River. The quota is increasing from six to eight in new, realigned hunt areas that skirt the northeast slope of the Wind River Range, home to the bighorn sheep herd named after the Dubois area’s Whiskey Mountain.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department wolf biologist Ken Mills said it’s “possible” some specific packs may incur heavy losses due to the changes in the Gros Ventre, but he doesn’t expect any packs to be wiped out.
“I don’t think so, not with the pack sizes we have in the Gros Ventre,” Mills said. “One pack might be reduced significantly, but then the other packs around are going to have a much lighter take.”
One Jackson conservationist who successfully hunted a Gros Ventre elk last fall said it’s a wrongheaded approach to boost wolf hunt quotas because prey species are adapting to native carnivores’ presence and moving around.
“I think we should appreciate that predator and prey interaction on the natural landscape instead of trying to artificially manipulate it,” Sierra Club staffer Lloyd Dorsey said.
Read the whole story in this week’s edition of the News&Guide, on newsstands now.