Friday, December 12, 2014

WY can shoot wolves on private land inside Grand Teton

Thursday , December 11, 2014

"A gray wolf is seen at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. "
Casper Star Tribune
JACKSON, Wyo. -- A wolf that was preying on livestock on a ranch in Grand Teton National Park was shot in January. The shooting was legal under Wyoming state law at the time, said Brian Nesvik, chief game warden for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The problem was that the private land sits within the borders of Grand Teton National Park, where wolves are not allowed to be killed.

The incident illuminated an issue Game and Fish raised years ago with the National Park Service as wolves switched from federal to state control.

Who is responsible for wildlife roaming on more than 2,000 acres of private and state lands nestled within the national park’s borders?

The answer is Game and Fish, according to a recent letter from the Park Service’s associate regional director. “The Wyoming Game & Fish Department will take the lead in responding to wildlife management issues on privately-owned lands within the park, and will coordinate with park staff when necessary and appropriate,” states a letter by Tammy Whittington, the Park Service’s associate regional director of resource stewardship and science.

It’s a strange situation, private land within a national park, and has always been a gray area for Game and Fish concerning wildlife management, Nesvik said.

Grand Teton National Park has about 100 privately owned tracts of land totaling about 950 acres within its borders. It also contains another 1,280 acres of state land, said Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for the park.

While the recent decision no longer applies to wolf management -- a judge gave authority for that back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September -- it does lay a framework for management of other wildlife. “This is a change that is complex, and there’s some nuances to it,” Nesvik said. “It’s a change of the way laws have been applied on the ground for decades.”

It is now up to the Game and Fish Commission, with input from the public, to decide whether elk or bison hunting, for example, could be allowed on those private parcels. The land is not currently included in any hunting areas, Nesvik said.

The state Board of Land Commissioners together with the Game and Fish Commission will decide whether hunting is allowed on the state land included within park boundaries. “There are a lot of folks who need to weigh in,” Nesvik said. “Discussions about the future of what this decision means to wildlife management need to be held with the public.”