Monday, April 16, 2012

G&F targets 98 wolves

By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole Daily
April 12, 2012

Hunting and other causes of death should reduce Wyoming’s wolf population outside Yellowstone National Park to roughly 170 wolves and 15 breeding pairs by next December, officials said Tuesday.

That computation assumes the predator is removed from Endangered Species Act protection in the state next fall as planned. Wildlife managers say there are currently about 270 wolves and more than 19 breeding pairs in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone.

Wyoming Game and Fish officials made the comments before a crowd of about 100 people at a meeting about proposed wolf hunting regulations.

Hunters would be allowed to kill 52 wolves in Wyoming’s trophy game area next fall under hunting regulations proposed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Other mortality, including management removals, poaching and vehicle collisions, would bring the total to 98 dead wolves.

About 10 percent of Wyoming’s wolf population lives in the state’s predator zone where they could be killed at any time without a license.

Harvesting 52 wolves is a conservative approach that ensures the state will keep its commitment to managing for a minimum of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone, biologist Ken Mills said.

“Our objective is to manage for wolves with a buffer,” Mills said. “What we’re are doing is managing the population high enough over the minimum recovery level so that we can account for unanticipated mortality. There are very serious implications for us falling below 10 [breeding pairs] and 100 [wolves].”

Population data show that the requirement to maintain 10 breeding pairs likely will require more than 100 wolves.

“We’re not going to be able to manage for 105 wolves and have 10 breeding pairs,” Mills said. “We have start conservative because we know that 100 wolves does not always equal 10 breeding pairs.”

Some members of the audience said the state should kill more wolves in the 12 hunt areas clustered in the northwest corner of the state, especially in hunt areas north of Jackson where some blame wolves for a declining ratio of elk calves. But most said they supported Wyoming’s wolf management plan and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“I do have concerns about that quota,” said Jesse Rodenbough, an outfitter and ranch manager based out of Moran. “I have great confidence in you, the red shirt team, managing these wolves and I support you 100 percent.”

Other outfitters said the wolf’s return is hurting the local economy.

“Since the gray wolf has arrived, it’s been going downhill,” Gros Ventre outfitter Glenn Taylor said. “The first thing I do when I get up in the morning is check to see if my dog is still alive. Game and Fish, they’re the best neighbors we have and we need to get behind them and move forward.”

However, conservation groups raised a number of issues with the hunting regulations and Wyoming’s wolf management plan.

Language in both documents that seems to give the state jurisdiction over wolf hunting in the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway — a National Park Service unit — is likely illegal, said Sharon Mader, Grand Teton program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. Game and Fish officials included the parkway as part of a hunt area, but said hunting would not be allowed on the 24,000-acre park unit in 2012.

“It appears that the state of Wyoming and the Game and Fish Commission has acted beyond their authority in terms of including the JDR specifically in the trophy game management area,” Mader said. “The National Park Service has management authority for wolves within the parkway.”

Grand Teton National Park and the parkway “should be removed from the trophy game management area,” Mader said.

Wolves that reside in Grand Teton National Park for part of the year also could be killed, said Chris Colligan, a wildlife advocate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.

“It would be a good addition to this wolf management plan to have a subunit with a minimum number of wolves that helps protect some of those park wolves that would leave the park and would be subject to hunting,” Colligan said.

Visit to see the draft regulations. Public comments will be accepted until April 23. Comments can be submitted to Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Attn.: Wolf Regulation Comments, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY 82604.