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Wyoming Game & Fish host standing room only wolf meetings in Cody

Written by Echo Renner
Cody - The Wyoming Game & Fish Department (G&F) hosted eight meetings around the state in January, sharing information with over 300 people, and answering questions about how they will manage wolves after delisting. The meeting in Cody drew a standing room only crowd.
    The meetings revolved around the G&F Proposed Drafts of Chapter 21 Gray Wolves Designated as Trophy Game Animals and Chapter 28 Regulation Governing Big or Trophy Game Animal or Game Bird Damage Claims, which can be viewed at http://gf.state.wy.us/wildlife/GrayWolvesSurvey/index.asp.
    Chapter 21 is a new regulation under the authority of House Bill 213, which will become law or sunset by the time the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will vote on this regulation during their March 13-14 meeting in Casper. If HB 213 doesn’t become law, the Commission will discontinue the rule.
    Chapter 21 designates wolves as trophy game animals within the maximum area authorized by House Bill 213 (2007 Session), and wolves in the rest of the state as predatory animals. The only exception is the individual taking the wolf shall provide the kill location. including section, township and range, date of kill and sex of animal within 10 days. The G&F does not manage predatory animals, and will not manage gray wolves in the predator area.
    It states that gray wolves found inside the trophy game boundary are designated as trophy game animals and managed under the authority of the G&F, who will manage wolves with lethal and nonlethal methods. A property owner, lessee, family member or employee who takes a gray wolf within the trophy game boundary shall submit the entire carcass of each gray wolf to a district game warden or other G&F personnel within 72 hours. That individual shall also provide the location of the kill site, including section, township and range. The above definition of a property owner does not include siblings.
    Upon verification of chronic predation to livestock or domesticated animals, the G&F shall issue a take permit to the owner for use of legal firearms from the ground and requires notification of take as soon as practically possible. The Department also shall authorize USDA Wildlife Services to remove the offending wolf and initiate lethal removal by Department personnel. It also authorizes lethal removal when wolves are causing unacceptable impacts on wild ungulates.
    Chapter 28 makes current trophy game animal damage claim rules applicable to wolves designated as trophy game animals. It also establishes a compensation formula of 7:1 for all calves and sheep killed in the area where wolves are designated as trophy game animals. Other livestock would be compensated only for verified loss. For example, if one calf or sheep is confirmed to have been killed by wolves, the G&F compensates the producer for seven calves. If one cow is confirmed to have been killed by wolves, the G&F compensates the producer for one cow.
    The Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) is in favor of most of Chapters 21 and 28 with a few exceptions. They believe when a wolf kills a cow, her calf is likely to die as well, so compensation for a cow should also include compensation for her calf.
    WSGA Executive Vice President, Jim Magagna says that due to the difficulty of confirming wolf kills, it is important the G&F respond immediately to reports of harassment, injury or killing of livestock – in all cases within 48 hours as required by statute. The WSGA also wants the language ‘offending wolf’ changed simply to ‘wolf’ in Chapter 21 in reference to removal of wolves causing problems, as it’s often impossible to know which particular wolf caused predation or harassment.
    Bill Rudd, Assistant Chief of G&F Wildlife Division said at the Cody meeting the G&F will have an aggressive system of monitoring gray wolves and plan to collar as many as possible. The Department has requested $2 million from the legislature for wolf management.
    For wolf delisting to occur, the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) must modify the 10j Rule allowing management of wolves for their impact on ungulate populations. For states to remove wolves for their influence on ungulates, they must have a science-based record of the wolf’s influence that must be peer-reviewed and taken to the public for comment before action can be taken. However, the 10j Rule only applies until delisting, however, if lawsuits are filed the 10j Rule could remain in place during litigation, at the discretion of the courts. In addition, the FWS must publish the Wolf Delisting Rule by Feb. 28, for delisting to occur.
    Dewey Vanderhoff, an independent environmentalist spoke up at the Cody meeting saying, “After delisting, it looks like it will just be take, take, take of wolves. Is there a chance the population will remain the same or increase?”
    Rudd responded, “Certainly the plan would allow for it, but it’s not very practical, and rather unlikely. Many people have been surprised by wolves’ reproductive rate. Currently in Wyoming, there are 170 wolves outside the Park and 160 inside the Park.” After delisting, each state will only need to maintain a minimum population of 200 wolves.
Eric Keszler, G&F Public Information Officer said by phone all comments will be considered. “Comments from Wyoming citizens will be taken into account, but there is no formal weighing process that gives them more weight than comments from people elsewhere.”
    Written comments on the Proposed Drafts of Chapters 21 and 28 should be mailed to Wyoming Game and Fish Department, ATTN: Barbara Duke – Regulation Comments, 5400 Bishop Blvd., Cheyenne, WY 82006. The G&F is not accepting comments by email, however individuals can comment through the G&F website: http://gf.state.wy.us/, click on the link under Gray Wolf as Trophy Game, then the Submit Comments Online link under Providing Comments. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2008. Comments can also be faxed to 307-777-4610. Echo Renner is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.