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The Sublette County Predator Board just updated its aerial gunner and pilot permit policy to decline general requests that might lead to commercial or illegal aerial hunting of wolves – or any predators -– from private airplanes over land where the board has permission to assist with predator control.

Wolf authority

With wolves delisted again, the predator board deals with wolf complaints only in the predator management area – outside the state’s wolf trophy game management area – where anyone can shoot a wolf at any time.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department holds sole authority over wolves in the trophy game area and sets hunting seasons that require wolf licenses. The predator board has no authority there.

The predator board also voted to not keep wolf skulls or pelts gathered after a producer asks the board for lethal control, instead approving the new policy of “leaving them where they lay.”

Board President Pete Arambel, Treasurer/Secretary Cat Urbigkit and members Clay Olsen, Kevin Campbell, Pete Steele and Kay Malkowski made the changes unanimously, with member Lou Roberts absent.

They voiced concerns about authorizing aerial gunner and pilot permits for anyone but USDA’s Wildlife Services at this time, saying they did not want any situations that could lead to legal or illegal wolf hunting.

“We have people who have asked us to sign a permit for them to fly under the authority of the predator board,” Arambel said. “Some of them I don’t know from Sam Hill.”

Malkowski asked if the board even needed to tackle that responsibility unless it wants someone to take a particular action against a predator.

“The only permit we’ve granted since private pilot Allen Stout is Wildlife Services,” Arambel said. “That’s one of the reasons I called this meeting was to discuss this.”

Predator board

County predator management boards fall under the umbrella of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) – except Sublette County, which annually declines raising its predator fees on livestock transfers any higher than required.

Arambel said he called WDA Director Doug Miyamoto to ask about state criteria for county predator boards’ aerial gunner and pilot permits. In general, aerial hunting of any wildlife is prohibited without special permits.

“There is an application turned in to Goshen County to hunt wolves with airplanes,” Arambel said. “The Goshen County Predator Board was not going to sign it. Doug assured me that any action we take, he will back us if we don’t want to sign gunner or pilot permits.”

Urbigkit clarified that the state can issue the permits “but one sentence” also requires a county predator board member’s signature.

“I don’t think we, as a predator board, want to get involved unless we’re authorizing people to go and fly,” Campbell said.

Olsen said that the Sublette board already pays Wildlife Services for predator control.

Urbigkit agreed, saying the federal government has its own sets of liabilities, permits and insurance, “so they already have that infrastructure in place.”

“The policy is not to sign a permit unless it’s someone authorized to work for us,” Campbell said.

Board members agreed they did not want to encourage any aerial “sport-hunting” of wolves in Sublette County and unanimously approved the new permit policy.

Leave them lay

The second change was to the board’s prior policy, that any wolf taken by Wildlife Services or a permitted gunner and pilot team would remain property of the board to sell at auction.

“I think we should change our policy and just leave them lay,” Campbell said. “Then people can’t say, ‘They’re killing wolves to generate revenue.’”

Urbigkit replied, “I would like for the motion to not say, ‘leave them lay.’”

Campbell made the motion again “to replace this existing policy with, ‘The predator board takes no ownership or interest in wolf carcasses or skulls.’”

Olsen seconded it, and the board voted unanimously to accept the new policy of “no ownership” of any predator wolves killed by Wildlife Services. As for how such wolf carcasses would be treated, Arambel said he would ask Wildlife Services how their employees want to handle that.

Joy Ufford is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and a reporter for the Pinedale Roundup and Sublette Examiner. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

On March 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld Wyoming’s wolf management plan with a 3-0 decision.

“I am pleased with the ruling. The Court recognized Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan was appropriate. We look forward to state management once the 2012 delisting rule is formally reinstated,” says Gov. Matt Mead. “I thank everyone who has worked so hard for the recovery and delisting of wolves. This is the right decision for wolves and Wyoming.”

With the opinion, the Court concluded that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) did not act arbitrarily when it determined Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan was sufficient to maintain a recovered wolf population upon delisting.

Despite the decision in favor of Wyoming, Tyler Abbott of FWS' Wyoming Ecological Services Field Office says, “Wolves still have their listed ESA protections right now.”

Wolf status

With the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Abbott explains, “The Court’s rules are that they will provide the opportunity for Plaintiffs to file a petition for review.”

“The courts provide a 45-day window of time that the Plaintiffs can file a petition,” he continues. “Then, the court has seven days to respond to that petition. They could file tomorrow, or they could file at the very end of the part.”

In the petition for review, Abbott explains that the Plaintiffs can choose to file for review of the full decision or specific aspects of that decision.

“The fact that it was a unanimous decision means that Wyoming prevailed on all three aspects of the original case, but my understanding is that the Plaintiffs could ask for a review of any specific aspect or the whole thing,” Abbott emphasized. “Until a final response is made by the court, the wolves will be listed as endangered.”

Path to state management

However, after final review by the Court, if Wyoming still prevails, the transition to state management could occur quickly.

“Historically, FWS has issued very brief Federal Register notifications of the decision and the fact that management would be turned over,” Abbott describes. “It’s likely that we would do that.”

He comments, “As soon as the court decision is made, management would be quickly turned over to the state.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and FWS are working hand-in-hand currently to ensure the management transfer happens smoothly.

“The important point right now is that nothing has changed in terms of the wolves’ status,” Abbott emphasizes. “We are still in a holding pattern.”

Any concerns with wolves or livestock depredation will be handled as it has been over the past several years.

“If livestock depredations start, we will work with producers to evaluate the course of action,” he says.

As for the ruling, Abbott comments, “This is a complete success from a legal standpoint, to have a panel of judges rule unanimously on all three points in our favor. It says a lot in terms of the strength of our appeal.”

Ag groups comment

“We are very pleased with the ruling,” says Wyoming Farm Bureau’s Ken Hamilton. “I also think that it is important that Rep. Liz Cheney continue to push her wolf delisting bill.”

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association's (WSGA) Jim Magagna agrees, saying, “We were thrilled with the ruling. This basically affirmed that everything is right with the Wyoming wolf management plan and the way it is being implemented and adopted.”

Magagna adds that currently, WSGA and others in Wyoming are waiting for more information on the process to fully return management authority to the state.

“It is just as important as it ever was for Rep. Cheney’s bill to pass,” Magagna continues. “The only way we can bring certainty and conclusion to this issue is to successfully pass legislation delisting the wolf in Wyoming.”

Hamilton believes Cheney’s bill serves two purposes.

“First, if the environmental groups are successful in getting an injunction against state management until the appeals process is done, this could add some additional time to when Wyoming could begin to manage wolves again,” he says.

He also notes that the bill highlights the continued need for Endangered Species Act reform.

“If Congress has to step into the process like they’ve had to on the wolf issue, not only in Wyoming but in Montana, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, it helps to highlight that chance is necessary,” Hamilton explains. “Delisting the wolf has taken entirely too long.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Bears, wolves, mountain lions and coyotes can all be problematic predators in the sheep industry.

“Our four large carnivore species consistently leave different bite-mark patterns,” says Mike Boyce, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) large carnivore biologist. “Each large carnivore species utilizes different techniques for killing their prey.”

Assessing predator kills

In identifying predator kills, Boyce comments that it is important to ensure that biologists are contacted as soon as possible to ensure that kills can be identified.

“It is key to try to preserve the evidence at kill sites,” Boyce says. “A lot of times, we may have dogs, horses or other livestock tracking through the sites. We need to be called right away so we can get in and do our work before evidence is lost to the natural elements.”

He further adds that it is necessary to have at least an intact hide or skull to determine cause of death in livestock.

“It is difficult to verify kills if all we have to work with is a pile of old bones,” he says. “Having a fresh kill to work with makes it easier for us to determine cause of death.”

When called onto a scene, Boyce says that he begins by assessing the site of the deceased livestock animal. For example, tracks and other clues may indicate what killed the animal.

Then, the biologist skins the animal to assess damage under the hide.

“A lot of times there isn’t much visible external damage,” he explains. “When we have the hide pulled back, we have a better image of what might indicate death.”

In addition to deceased animals, Boyce comments that “walking wounded” animals are common.

“We look at a lot of walking wounded animals, mostly cattle,” he adds.

Bears

Starting with bears, Boyce notes that both grizzly and black bears employ similar killing techniques.

“We often see canine tooth punctures and associated damage, most often on the mid-dorsal line along the back,” he explains. “We also often see damage to the head and snout.”

The bites result in significant damage and hemorrhaging under the surface of the skin.

Another common injury with bear kills is bite wounds on the withers or head, which is something that is almost always present in bear kills.

“After bears make a kill, they often cache their prey,” Boyce continues. “We see this with both bears and mountain lions. They conceal the carcass from other scavenging species.”

Wolves

Wolves are another predator that impact livestock herds.

“We certainly look at a lot of wolf damage,” Boyce says. “With wolf predation, we see damage to the hind quarters, armpit area, throat, head and neck. It is also typical to see damage to the hamstrings.”

The damage from a wolf kill is more significant than from coyotes.

“Wolves have more biting force and cause a lot more hemorrhaging than coyotes,” he says.

Wolf kills also often have tooth channels present.

“We see tooth channels more in cattle than in sheep,” he adds. “When wolves make kills, they take multiple bites and cause significant damage.”

Mountain lions

Another predator, the mountain lion, is both powerful and efficient.

“Mountain lions kill their pray by grasping with forepaws, and they usually take one targeted bite to the head and neck region,” Boyce says. “Occasionally they will bite the throat.”

Large diameter canine punctures are seen in the hide of animals killed by mountain lions.

In addition, lions usually select for lambs and calves over mature animals, as the young livestock are easier to secure and kill.

“With mountain lions and wolves, we sometimes see surplus killing where multiple animals are killed in one event.” he adds. “Lion kills are usually associated with some sort of cover, whether that is rim-rock, timber or vegetation. When they make a kill, they will usually move it to the closest cover.”

Lions also exhibit caching behavior.

Coyotes

Finally, coyotes can be a problem for livestock producers and sheep producers in particular.

“The Wyoming Game and Fish Department doesn’t manage coyotes,” Boyce comments. “Local predator management boards and USDA are tasked with working on coyote damage situations.”

However, it is useful for producers to be able to identify coyote kills.

“We see similar types of inflicted damage with coyote and wolf kills,” he notes. “The damage is usually smaller and more subtle with coyotes than with wolves as the canine teeth are smaller and coyotes have less biting force then wolves. We typically see damage at the point of the jaw, along the flanks and at the hind quarters.”

The size of the puncture marks and bite mark patterns can rules out other  large carnivores species when determining cause of death.

Verifying kills

After verifying the source of a livestock kill, Boyce notes that several actions can be taken.

“If the damage becomes chronic, we will attempt to capture the offending animals,” Boyce explains.

Bears can be captured in culvert or box traps or using cable snares, depending on the situation.

“We capture lions involved in conflicts using box traps,” he says. “We can also put snares to capture lions, or we use hounds.”

WGFD does not employ a “strike policy” for predators that are depredating livestock.

“We work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when federally protected species like grizzly bears and wolves are involved in livestock damage,” he says. “Bears that are captured and relocated are tagged, and grizzly bears are released with radio collars so that they can be tracked.”

In addition, WGFD has a compensation program for verified predator kills, excluding coyotes.

“In an open range setting, we pay three-to-one for bear and lion kills and seven-to-one for wolf kills,” Boyce comments. “We use a multiplier to account for missing animals.”

Boyce presented at the 2015 West Central States Wool Growers Convention, held at the beginning of November 2015.

Saige Albert is managing 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..

Bondurant – Wolves killed a fifth beef calf in Hoback Basin in mid-February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) confirmed the following day.

The protected wolves also continue to target elk, killing about 50 wintering on Bondurant’s two feedgrounds under Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) management.

FWS Wolf Program Manager Mike Jimenez confirmed the recent livestock kills, and FWS, with the USDA Wildlife Services (WS), has targeted the Dell Creek pack.

Wolf numbers

In February, Jimenez estimated the pack at 10 to 12 wolves and the Hoback Basin’s Rim Pack at seven to eight animals. However, WS spotted 16 wolves in the western pack last week and killed five total in the general area of the cattle, leaving 11, he said in an email updating the count.

“The Dell Creek pack uses this area and was located the following afternoon very close to where the recent livestock was killed,” he said Feb. 24. “We put radio collars in that pack early this winter. We have requested WS to remove three wolves, which will probably happen within the next week. Every attempt will be made to not remove radio-collared wolves so that we may continue to monitor the pack.”

Depredation

In the case of livestock kills, FWS can authorize wolves’ removal, and WGFD compensates ranchers for confirmed wolf-kill losses.

It’s a different scenario when the kills are wildlife, even at WGFD elk feedgrounds, where neither the state nor the federal agency can do much but keep count.

Feeders at Hoback Basin’s Dell Creek and McNeel feedgrounds have reported wolf-killed elk through this winter with a handful on Dell Creek and the vast majority at the McNeel site on private property leased by WGFD. Both are adjacent to wintering cattle, horses and other livestock.

“I don’t have the exact numbers, but we are estimating about 40 to 50 elk have been killed by wolves this winter at the Bondurant area feedgrounds,” said John Lund, WGFD Pinedale regional wildlife supervisor.

He said the kills don’t show a preference for young or old animals, adding, “There’s a little bit of everything in there.”

Elk kills

Lund said a lot of elk are wintering away from the feedgrounds, perhaps due to wolves’ presence or in part because of the relatively mild winter.

“It was a different year for sure,” Lund said of the elk killings. “We’re unsure if that’s going to be a long-term thing or not.”

However, he noted, these wolves “are out of our control.”

Jimenez said he met with WGFD to discuss the feedground kills.

“WGFD told us about the issues on the McNeel Feedground,” he said. “They said they were not so much concerned about wolves killing elk but more concerned about wolves displacing elk off the feedground and onto adjacent private land with cattle or onto the highway.”

Managing wolves

Residents have reported seeing what appeared to be tracks of stampeded elk to Highway 191 and beyond, as well as wolf numbers higher than the FWS counts. Jimenez said because of federal protections, neither FWS not WGFD could control wolf incidents at feedgrounds.

“I explained to WGFD how the 2014 court ruling that reversed the FWS delisting rule for Wyoming reinstated federal protection of wolves throughout the entire state of Wyoming as nonessential experimental and required us to manage wolves based on the 1994 10(j) rule,” Jimenez said.

“This rule allows us to lethally remove wolves that chronically kill livestock but does not allow us to kill wolves for impacts on wild ungulates. Under some circumstances, states could move wolves that were negatively impacting elk populations if they presented a detailed plan to the FWS. No state has ever moved wolves under these circumstances.”

Lund did say if the elk are pushed onto private property, WGFD could compensate owners.

“That’s one thing we can handle, damage to private property,” he said.

Joy Ufford is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and reporter at the Sublette Examiner and Pinedale Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The story of wolves in Wyoming is long and wrought with frustration for many, and following a late-September ruling to reverse the delisting decision, wolves were put back on the Endangered Species List. 

“The state of Wyoming does not have an approved plan to manage wolves based on the court decision,” says Mike Jimenez, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) wolf management and science coordinator. “It is unfortunately really ironic, because Wyoming was doing a good job managing wolves.”

Returning to 1994 10(j)

Jimenez explains that one of the frustrating aspects of wolves returning to endangered status is their management under the 1994 10(j) rule. 

Under the Endangered Species Act, species can be classified as fully endangered, threatened or nonessential experimental, he notes. 

“Wolves in Wyoming were always classified as a nonessential, experimental population,” he says. “They were never fully endangered, but they were on the Endangered Species List.”

The nonessential, experimental designation allowed more management flexibility for the FWS to remove wolves that caused problems to help ranchers protect their livestock, and in 1994, a 10(j) rule was written to allow FWS to do just that. The 10(j) rule allows for management of animals currently on the Endangered sSpecies List.

“It was very restrictive because we wanted to let populations grow,” Jimenez explains. “We weren’t going to have a lot of problems in the beginning because there weren’t very many wolves.”

Changes over time

Since 1994, Jimenez notes that wolf management has evolved and the 1994 10(j) rule was modified to accommodate changing populations.

“The 1994 10(j) is a restrictive rule,” Jimenez continues. “There were other amended 10(j) rules written in 2005 and 2008 that gave even more management flexibility, but Wyoming can’t use those amended 10(j) rules because they don’t have a FWS-approved management plan. So they are struck with the original 1994 rule.”

“When we had problems, we would allow ranchers to kill wolves or we would come in and get rid of wolves when we had to. It has worked reasonably well,” he says. “The population has done fine, and we have minimized problems.” 

However, conflicts and controversies haven’t necessarily been eliminated . 

“We have been allowed to protect livestock,” Jimenez says. “We have evolved over the past 15 years so that if wolves cause problems, we can address it.”

Recent ruling

Despite the adjustments that were made since 1994 to accommodate growing wolf populations, Jimenez says the court decision means the 10(j) rule from 1994 applies across Wyoming. 

“This is going to be frustrating,” he adds. 

Though the winter months are often quieter, Jimenez notes that the largest number of wolf conflicts occur in the mid- to late summer months when many cattle and sheep producers have their livestock on BLM and Forest Service allotments. 

“We will be very limited in what we can do regarding wolves killing livestock,” he says, “but we will do everything we can to resolve problems. It has always been our aim to help producers so they don’t have to pay the cost of wolves.”

Changes in management

Among changes in management, Jimenez notes that FWS can no longer issue shoot-on-sight permits to ranchers, as they have in the past. 

“Now, for a rancher to shoot a wolf, the wolf must be caught in the act of actually attacking livestock,” he says. “We haven’t ever had someone do this in the entire 30-year program.”

FWS can remove wolves that chronically kill livestock, but the wolf must be at least a second offender.

Jimenez emphasizes that the 1994 10(j) rule only considers horses, mules, cattle and sheep as livestock. Animals like working dogs, guard dogs and others are not considered livestock. Non-livestock animal deaths will not result in wolf removal.

“If a rancher sees wolves attacking their dogs, there isn’t much they can do,” he explains. “We can harass wolves, but we cannot shoot wolves.”

“We can’t remove wolves as aggressively as we used to,” Jimenez says. 

In addition, the “predator zone” for wolves has been removed. 

Working with producers

“I really appreciate that producers haven’t come at us during this frustrating time,” Jimenez says, noting that ranchers have been very understanding through the process. 

Today, Jimenez explains that FWS must meet a strict set of standards to remove wolves. 

If producers have issues with wolves, Jimenez urges them to call FWS or USDA Wildlife Services. 

“If a producer has dead livestock, they can call the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), who can investigate the kill,” he says. “WGFD can be involved with livestock kills but not wolf management. We are trying to keep them as involved as much as possible.”

Moving forward

Jimenez also notes that FWS is looking forward to resolving the challenges that are associated with wolves. 

“Some people are looking at congressional fixes, like in Montana and Idaho,” Jimenez says. “In Wyoming, the state has also appealed the ruling. FWS did not appeal the decision.”

FWS also continues to do monitoring and genetic sampling, as before. 

“We don’t want producers to be caught up on the outside of all of this,” he adds. “They are just trying to protect their livestock.”

“Many people are frustrated, but they want to understand the rules and what to do,” Jimenez says. “If producers have problems, I would encourage them to let us know so we can advise people on how to react.”

Saige Albert is managing 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..