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March 23, 2010 3:26 am

Anti-wolf rally highlights need for effective state management plan

Written by Tribune Staff

For more than 15 years, the reintroduction of wolves has bred controversy in Wyoming.

The ongoing issue was highlighted again over the weekend at an anti-wolf rally in Jackson, which drew hundreds of residents who blame wolves for the decline in elk populations.

Dwindling elk populations in the Greater Yellowstone area worry outfitters and conservationists alike, but opposing groups differ on what is causing the downward trend in cow-calf ratios.

Wolves certainly play a role in the declining calf numbers, but likely are not the only contributing factor.

The concern over elk populations and the recent rally highlight the continued need for an effective wolf management plan in Wyoming, where the animal is still under federal protection.

Wyoming lawmakers remain at odds with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials over the wolf's classification as an endangered species.

Montana and Idaho conducted successful wolf hunts last year, but Wyoming wolves still roam under federal protection.

Following unsuccessful lawsuits, Wyoming hasn't joined its sister states in the hunts because its law calls for wolves to be killed in most areas of the state without a permit.

For Wyoming's wolf population to be managed through hunting, state lawmakers must compromise on the predator zone. It's unrealistic to think the federal government will allow for wolves to go directly from the endangered species list to becoming a shoot-on-sight predator in much of the state.

Wyoming needs a science-based management plan that allows for trophy-game status for hunting wolves. Otherwise, the long-fought political battles will be drawn out for years to come.