M-44s prohibited in known wolf territoryWritten by Jennifer Womack
Kent Drake, who overseas the predator management program aspect of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, says there are 26 rules to be exact. No. 9 on the list prohibits the use of M-44s in areas where a threatened or endangered species is present.
For the time being that includes wolves. Some, however, like Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton, question the prohibition. He says wolves aren’t “threatened” or “endangered” in the state, but instead are a non-essential, experimental population. Hamilton recently sent a letter to Ed Bangs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) asking for clarification on the subject. In scenarios like the one that exists in the southern Big Horn Mountains, there’s also the question of prohibiting M-44 use while spending thousands of dollars searching for the wolves that have killed over 60 head of area sheep.
Drake says there are between 40 and 50 individuals registered to use M-44s in Wyoming. Some have a private applicators license to utilize the device on their own property while others have a commercial license that allows them to charge for using the devices on other’s property. He estimates that about 80 percent of the licensees have the private version of the license. Beyond the licensees, agencies like the USDA’s Wildlife Services are authorized to use M-44s.
Wyoming Wool Growers Association Executive Vice President Bryce Reece says the number of licensed users has declined over the years. Many, he says, have found the regulations too burdensome. Given the territory wolves now occupy, the area where the devices can be used is significantly smaller than it once was.
Each year, according to Drake, licensed users are issued a map prepared by the FWS detailing those areas where threatened and endangered species are present. When it comes to wolves, however, he says, “It’s such a dynamic situation that you can’t constantly update the map as to what is happening.” Those who utilize M-44s are responsible for knowing that wolves are in the area. “Once there’s a wolf in the area the word normally gets around pretty quick,” he says.
“It’s not just the agency’s responsibility to monitor wolf activity, it’s actually up to the M-44 licensee,” says Drake. “Within that they have to actively look for wolf activity, whether it’s scat, the howling of wolves or tracks. If they notice any wolf activity they’re supposed to pull their M-44s immediately.”
To date Drake says the rules haven’t created a liability for those who utilize the predator management devices. “Whenever a wolf is lost to an M-44 in a location where wolves have not been documented, there’s not been any prosecution as long as everything has been documented and properly licensed,” says Drake.
The regulations are strenuous, requiring frequent checks, paperwork and second party notification of the placement of the devices. “It’s watched really closely,” says Drake noting that repeat offenses would likely result in a lost ability to use M-44s in Wyoming.
Mike Jimenez, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wolf Recovery Coordinator for Wyoming, says he makes an effort to speak with key individuals when wolves enter a new area. He says they’re trying to protect the future use of M-44s. If a month goes by with no sign of wolves in a given area, he says the restrictions are pulled.
Jimenez further ex-plains, “There’s no intent to restrict use because of wolves region-wide, but in specific on-sight areas.”
“Our licensees have certainly been doing their part in documenting and carrying out proper activity with M-44s,” says Drake. “We hope there won’t be any abuse where we risk loosing use of one of the tools that we have.”