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October 02, 2012 8:10 am

EDITORIAL: Managing wolves in Wyoming

Written by Tessa Schweigert

First hunt under way, state should maintain management

Wyoming’s most controversial predator is now the prey of local hunters. Monday marked opening day of Wyoming’s first regulated gray wolf hunt.

After years of controversy, heated debates, legal wrangling and court decisions, the state of Wyoming finally has management of wolves, as it should. But we know uncertainty still remains on the horizon.

It’s likely that the management plan will end up in court again in coming months as environmental groups intend to sue over the delisting.

Park County residents showed their resounding support for wolf hunting: as of Friday afternoon, hunters here had purchased 562 licenses — more than any other Wyoming county.

Wyoming’s management plan is unique. Depending on where they roam, wolves are treated differently.

Wolves remain protected in parts of the state, including Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the Wind River Indian Reservation. In areas bordering the parks in the northwest corner of the state, wolves will be managed as trophy game under a limited quota.

Outside of those designated areas, however, wolves are now considered predators and can be shot on sight, just like coyotes.

However, only 14 percent of the state’s wolves dwell in the predator zone, where they can be killed without a license, Gov. Matt Mead said in a Casper-Star Tribune article last month. That means 86 percent of the wolf population lives in areas where levels of protection remain.

It’s important to note that statewide, Wyoming will maintain at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs to ensure genetic diversity.

Now that wolf hunting is under way in trophy game areas, we encourage hunters to be responsible. Until the season ends Dec. 31, hunters must call the wolf hotline (800-264-1280) to make sure the quota in each area has not been reached.

Hunters have a limited quota of 52 wolves among the 12 hunting areas in northwest Wyoming. But each hunting area varies, and none of them has a high quota. For example, the season will close after one wolf is shot in Hunt Area 7 — the Targhee region near the Wyoming-Idaho state line. By comparison, the hunt areas encompassing the Clark’s Fork and Sunlight each have a quota of eight wolves, the highest of any hunting areas.

“We are taking a conservative approach to wolf hunting seasons during this time of transition from federal to state management,” said Brian Nesvik, wildlife chief for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in a press release. “We need time to assume the important responsibilities of wolf population monitoring, sport harvest management, and meeting Wyoming’s commitments to wolf conservation in our state.”

Wyoming has worked long and hard to reach this point. Wolf management should remain where it stands today — in Wyoming’s hands.

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