Wolf management plan approved by CommissionWritten by Christy Hemken
“Pending litigation, or enjoinment, wolves will be under state management in the three states – Wyoming, Montana and Idaho – on March 28,” Wyoming Game and Fish (G&F) Director Terry Cleveland told the G&F Commission mid-March.
“In addition to the delisting, we have the 10j rule, which we’re not contemplating using at this point,” he said. “It only allows for the management of wolves as long as they’re listed. Presuming the wolves will be delisted, the 10j rule will be a moot point.”
According to the FWS Wyoming Wolf Recovery 2007 Annual Report, the total gray wolf population in all of Wyoming increased 15 percent from 311 known wolves in 2006 to 359 in 2007. In Yellowstone Park, the wolf population increased 26 percent from 136 in 2006 to 171 in 2007 and the park had 11 packs with an average of 14.2 wolves per pack.
Outside Yellowstone wolf numbers increased from 175 in 2006 to 188. Twenty-five known packs exist outside the park, with an average size of 6.9 wolves per pack.
Breeding pairs in the state decreased slightly from 25 in 2006 to 24 in 2007. “The recovery criteria is a minimum of 15 in the state as a whole, seven of those within the trophy game area outside of Yellowstone,” reminded Cleveland.
“FWS, through an agreement with USDA/APHIS Wildlife Services, has been actively managing conflicts and aggressively removing wolves,” he noted. “The programs we will implement include similar work and will not be precedent-setting by any means.”
In 2007 wolves killed more than 91 head of livestock. “The confirmed kills don’t even approach what the actual losses were, because many head of livestock are taken and never confirmed as losses,” said Cleveland.
Of the near future, Cleveland said there are a few things for the Department to complete. “You will hear rules regarding establishment of the trophy game area and requirements to issue lethal take permits regarding Chapter 21, and also Chapter 28 regarding compensation to producers.”
In regard to hunting, Cleveland told the Commission, “We anticipate bringing to you a rule that will establish the hunting of wolves in the trophy game area, which would commence in Fall 2008. The Department’s in the process of crafting the rules and is awaiting management information regarding wolf distribution and the number of known wolves before we commence rulemaking.”
“We plan to bring hunting and trapping regulations to the Commission in July, but we haven’t even begun them at this point,” he said, assuring that as they move through the process there will be ample opportunity for public input.
This year the Wyoming Legislature granted the Commission $2.4 million to implement wolf management over the biennium. “We have commenced to hire a wolf management team, consisting of a section coordinator and three wolf management conflict specialists,” said Cleveland. “We hope to hire, train and equip them in the next few months and have them working in three months’ time.”
In the meantime, the Department will be watching what comes in litigation concerning the delisting. “We will commence the process to implement the 10j rule in the event the delisting is enjoined, and the 10j will stand if the listing does not occur,” he said. “We don’t want to leave any doors open, but we don’t want to spend too much time on it until the wolves are enjoined.”
“It’s not a perfect regulation, but it’s our best shot at what we know at this time,” said Cleveland of the Chapter 21 wolf management rules. “We may need to modify as we move into the future.”
Chapter 21 establishes the management building blocks in Wyoming, and Cleveland said House Bill 213 allows for aggressive management for wolves that harass or kill livestock. There will be a three-pronged approach to wolf control: landowner take, Wildlife Services assistance and authorized lethal removal by Department personnel.
The Commission approved the Chapter 21 rules at their meeting, with the clarification that dogs listed under the livestock definition are guard dogs and that herding dogs will be protected under the domesticated animals definition.