Friday, April 12, 2013

Wyoming wolf hunting quota may be halved

Thursday, April 11, 2013
CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing to reduce wolf hunting quotas by half this fall because of the state's successful first hunt last year.

The wolf population could not withstand another 52-wolf quota without coming dangerously close to the required minimum set in Wyoming's delisting plan, said Mark Bruscino, the department's large carnivore program supervisor.

If wolf numbers drop below the minimum requirement, it could lead to re-listing the wolf as an endangered species, which results in special federal protections.

"Our intent the first year was to reduce the population," Bruscino said. "We estimated we would reduce it in the trophy game area and seasonal game area by 11 percent and we actually reduced it about 12 percent."

Hunters killed 42 wolves during the trophy and seasonal trophy hunting seasons from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31. The overall population in the trophy areas dropped by about 20 wolves because of pups born in 2012, Bruscino said. The proposed quota of 26 wolves this year will likely cut the number of wolves in the trophy areas by about nine at the end of 2013, Bruscino said.
Some hunters disagree with the proposed quota of 26.

"They should have added 26, is my feeling, rather than subtracted," Fritz Meyer, a Dubois outfitter, told the Casper Star-Tribune ( ). "I don't think they're in any danger of going under the minimum."

Wolves might be a little tougher to hunt this year because the ones that survived last year will be wiser, he said.

Game and Fish will hold public meetings on the proposed quota.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed Wyoming wolves from the endangered species list last fall, allowing the state to institute its first wolf hunt season.

Game and Fish officials had hoped to use the 2012 hunting season to lower wolf numbers from 192 to 172 in the northwest corner of the state outside of Yellowstone National Park, said Brian Nesvik, the department's chief game warden.

Final estimates show 169 wolves and 15 breeding pairs lived in that area after the hunting season, he said. About 90 additional wolves and six breeding pairs lived in Yellowstone and on the Wind River Indian Reservation at the end of 2012, according to estimates.

Under the delisting agreement, Wyoming must keep a minimum of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in the state outside of Yellowstone and the reservation. Wyoming needs to maintain 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs in the entire state, including the park and reservation.

Several lawsuits are pending that argue Wyoming's wolf plan will not protect the animals.
Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune,