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Endangered Species - WSGA discusses species concerns

Written by Natasha Wheeler

Casper – The Endangered Species Act was a hot topic at the 2014 Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Winter Roundup.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) presented information on Bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, ravens and black-footed ferrets during the meeting. 

Wyoming continues to work with producers and federal agencies to maintain the viability of both the natural habitat and agricultural operations.

Bighorn sheep

The WGFD has been successful in talking with the Forest Service concerning Bighorn sheep in Central Wyoming, according to Brian Nesvik, chief game warden with the WGFD. 

“The Department basically stopped all discussions and plans, indefinitely, regarding transplant of Bighorn sheep in the central part of the state,” said Nesvik. “Also, we started this discussion with the Forest Service about where they see the state’s role in conducting their viability assessments.” 

Concerns about the Forest Service’s plans were brought up at the WSGA meeting last June relating to the effects of relocation efforts on domestic sheep producers.

Ravens

Over the past 10 years, raven populations in Wyoming have increased, but unlike crows, they cannot be hunted, which has caused continued concern for Wyoming’s ag population.

“There is a lot of history here,” said Nesvik. “The raven is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.” 

The increased raven populations are a concern to some citizens. A letter drafted by WGFD Director Scott Talbott noted the predation of sage grouse by ravens and asked for more action to regulate the birds. 

Currently, according to Rod Krischke of Wildlife Services, a Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) permit is needed for raven control. Where they become a nuisance, these permits can allow for raven control through poison-laced dog food, egg removal, or shoot permits for dumpsite locations. 

Although discussions have not been successful in the past, Nesvik said that the Department of Wildlife Services would be willing to revisit the legislation for raven control.

Grizzly bears

Looking toward endangered species, another species of continuing concern for the WGFD and Wyoming citizens is grizzly bears

Both the Inter-Agency Grizzly Bear Committee and the Yellowstone Ecosystem Sub-Committee recognize that the grizzly bear population in Wyoming has been expanding in numbers and distribution. 

“Both of those committees endorsed the idea of moving forward with delisting in the Yellowstone ecosystem,” said Nesvik. 

The Inter-Agency Grizzly Bear Committee is a national organization, representing all six ecosystems that contain grizzly bears. Nesvik noted that the state has been working with federal agencies toward recovery and delisting since grizzly bears were listed by a Montana judge.

“We are at the point now,” said Nesvik, “where we are having discussions with the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) about what the rule should look like and what the state is going to manage for and to ensure that when that rule does comes out it is something everyone can live with.” 

Other states will be involved in the decision and talks are currently underway at the governors’ level.

Wolves

The WGFD is currently reviewing the options for regaining control of the wolf populations in the state. Many state agencies are disappointed with the results of the ruling, as Wyoming has shown an exceptional track record in its wolf management. 

“The state went above and beyond to ensure that they had a recovered population of wolves,” said Nesvik, “and we followed up on our commitment to ensure we had at least 100 breeding pairs and 100 wolves in the state.” 

Although the state has no authority to take lethal action against the wolves, they still plan to pay damages to land owners with the same guidelines used before federal control. 

“The one thing that the state has asserted from day one, when this decision was made public, was that our desire as a state is to return the wolves to state management as soon as possible,” according to Nesvik. “The desire and intent is to return to state management as soon as possible.”

Black-footed ferrets

“The black-footed ferret in Wyoming is a Wyoming success story,” says Clark McCreedy of the FWS. 

The 10(j) rule of the Endangered Species Act has allowed the WGFD to successfully support the reintroduction of the ferrets. 

The reintroductions have been done for two primary purposes, McCreedy commented – to promote recovery and protect the interests of private landowners. The breeding history of the original seven or eight captured ferrets is still taped to the wall at the Ferret Recovery Center. 

Once thought to be extinct, there are now thriving populations of ferrets, including one in Wyoming’s Shirley Basin. The WGFD hopes to expand the 10(j) rule across the state, giving landowners freedom to protect their own resources while continuing to allow the ferret populations to grow.

Look for more updates on endangered species in next week’s Roundup. 

Natasha Wheeler is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..