The groups, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity and Natural Resources Defense Council, asked a federal judge to order the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to revoke its granting of wolf management to Wyoming and get the canines back on the Endangered Species list.
The groups filing the suit oppose the predator zone where wolves can be shot on sight across most of Wyoming.
“While it is true that most of the wolves in Wyoming currently reside in that northwestern corner of the state, the Wyoming plan ensures that wolves will never be allowed beyond that imposed boundary — a policy of absolute intolerance for a species that our country just spent the last several decades working to recover,” said Natural Resource Defense Council Wildlife Program Director Dr. Sylvia Fallon in her blog Tuesday. “Furthermore, by restricting wolves to the northwest corner and reducing the number of wolves surrounding Yellowstone, Wyoming’s plan compromises the ability of wolves to successfully travel (and exchange DNA) between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the remaining wolf sub-populations in central Idaho and northwest Montana — a component that has been identified as critical to the survival of the entire Northern Rockies wolf population.”
But Eric Keszler, public information officer for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said there is documentation of genetic exchange between Wyoming wolves and wolves in central Idaho and northwest Montana,.
Wyoming is getting the samples necessary to track the genetic diversity of wolves, said Gov. Matt Mead.
“Those suing the federal government appear to have decided to go forward regardless of what is happening on the ground,” Mead said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, 34 wolves had been killed in the trophy game management area by hunters, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Wolf hunting in the trophy area was scheduled to continue under Wyoming’s management plan until Dec. 31 or until the 52 wolf quota was reached.
Wolf hunting is going smoothly, and no one wolf pack is losing a disproportionate number of its members to hunters, said a statement from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Game and Fish officials say wolf hunting has been successful thus far, and they expect that success to continue.
“Wyoming’s first wolf hunting season is a conservative approach to wolf management in northwest Wyoming,” said Mark Bruscino, statewide supervisor of the large carnivore management section of the Game and Fish. “It is designed to help reduce the population slightly while keeping it well above the minimum required to ensure that wolves remain off the Endangered Species list in Wyoming.”
Wyoming is required to maintain the minimum population of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Wyoming’s wolf plan was accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2007, but was later rejected by the service following a lawsuit led by environmental groups.
Fallon said the service caved to political pressure and approved Wyoming’s plan, which was almost identical to the plan a federal court rejected previously.
“The Endangered Species Act was created to remedy these very practices, not to reinstate them,” Fallon said. “And while we certainly don’t think that wolves will need the protections of the Endangered Species Act forever, we believe that those protections should be in place until states like Wyoming commit to responsible statewide management that will ensure the continued survival of what has been one of our country’s greatest conservation success stories.”