Friday, January 11, 2013

Bounty offered in cases of two poached wolves

By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
January 11, 2013

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is offering up to $10,000 for information leading to the prosecution of those responsible for poaching two gray wolves in the Gros Ventre drainage.

No tips have come in on the two cases, the only wolf poachings that have been reported in Wyoming this year. They are being investigated by North Jackson game warden Bill Long.

The wolves were discovered before Dec. 21 and within “several miles” of each other, but it’s not known if the incidents are related, Long said. Up to $5,000 is available in each case.

“If the public is aware of anything or heard of anything, please let us know,” Long said. “This is wanton destruction.”

The game warden was confident that the offenders would be brought to justice.

“I’ve got a pretty good track record of making [poaching] cases,” Long said. “It’s probably less than 5 percent of cases in the last 35 years that we didn’t bring to closure.”

Tipsters can remain anonymous and still be eligible for the hefty reward.

Ten wolves have now been shot in the closed hunt area, gray wolf area 8, where the poached wolves were found frozen solid and dead from gunshots, Long said. The area has a hunt quota of seven animals.

Months ago, two wolves were shot on the same day when the hunt area was one wolf away from the limit. That double killing pushed the zone over the quota to eight wolves.

Gray wolf area 8 runs east of Grand Teton National Park and is bordered on the north by Blackrock Creek and the south by the Gros Ventre River. A noncontiguous portion of the hunt area spans private land between Highway 22 and Grand Teton National park.

Four wolf packs that regularly use the park — the Pinnacle Peak, Lower Gros Ventre, Phantom Peak and Pacific Creek packs — have home ranges that also tread inside of area 8.

Because the incidents are under investigation, Game and Fish officials are withholding details about which packs the wolves belong to, along with other information such as the wolves’ ages and sex and the specific locations of the carcasses.

The higher-than intended harvest of wolves in area 8 will be accounted for when wildlife managers are setting quotas for the 2013 hunting season, Game and Fish large carnivore supervisor Mark Bruscino said.

“[Poached wolves] are taken into account,” Bruscino said in a December interview.

B.J. Hill, an outfitter who guides in the Gros Ventre area, disapproved of the wolf poachings.

Two guides with Swift Creek Outfitters, Hill’s business, legally harvested wolves in area 8 earlier during the hunting season, he said.

“You have to go by the law,” Hill said. “It’s not a good thing, because we’re trying to keep wolves well-managed to keep them from getting re-listed [under the Endangered Species Act].”

One local environmental activist was hopeful that the poachers would be brought to justice.

“Wolf poachers and poachers in general are the worst kind of wildlife criminals,” said Cory Hatch, wildlands director for the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance. “They need to be held accountable for their actions by the public and the hunting community.”

Game and Fish officials are encouraging the public to call the department’s “stop poaching” hotline at 877-943-3847 with any information.