Friday, August 26, 2011

Wolf deal could impinge on rights of landowners--but what about the rights of the wolves?

By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
August 26, 2011

A proposed wolf plan that would allow livestock owners to kill wolves on a neighbor’s land could impinge upon private property rights, State Rep. Keith Gingery said Wednesday.

As such, it needs to be re-evaluated, Gingery said at a wolf hearing hosted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The meeting at Center for the Arts was one of several statewide to gather public comment on the proposed Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan.

The proposed plan would classify wolves as predators throughout most of the state and for most of the year in southern Teton County. State predator laws, which currently cover coyotes, jackrabbits, porcupines, raccoons, red foxes, skunks and stray cats, allow stockmen to kill them on others’ property.

County commissioners would first have to give permission, but a landowner’s consent is required only for the use of firearms, not traps, snares or other devices.

The statutes say, “Whenever predatory animals become a menace to livestock owned or controlled by any resident of Wyoming and the owner or lessee of any real estate in the vicinity where the livestock is ranged or pastured refuses permission to the owner of the livestock, his agents or employees, to enter upon the real estate for the purpose of destroying such predatory animals, entry may be obtained ... [by filing] a written application with the board of county commissioners of the county where the real estate is located, applying for permission to eradicate predatory animals.

“... After giving the owner or lessee an opportunity of a hearing, the county commissioners may grant such permission, but the person receiving the permission shall not use firearms in destroying such animals without first obtaining permission from the owner or lessee of the real estate,” the statutes continue.

In Teton County, which would become a predator zone south of Highway 22 for most of the year, the statutes could present problems, Gingery said.

“I think we’re going to have some difficulties in our particular community,” he said. “You’re taking away someone’s private property right.”

Also, there are a number of conservation easements in the southern part of county, some of which don’t allow hunting, Gingery said.

Gingery has mostly expressed support for a deal between Gov. Matt Mead’s office and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would require the state to manage for 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park. Under Mead’s deal, officials would create a trophy game management area in the northwest corner of the state that would expand south during the winter to allow wolves to disperse into Idaho.

Wolves would be hunted in the trophy game area according to season and only by those obtaining a license. In the rest of the state, wolves would be considered predators where they could be killed at any time, by any means, without a license.

Gingery and others have said they would support trophy game status for wolves in Teton County year-round.

About 100 people attended the meeting. Wolf supporters said they would prefer trophy game management statewide, while others said conservation groups and wolf supporters need to give the deal a chance to work.