In 2012 the quota was 52. This year the proposal is 26.
Wyoming’s gray wolves swapping genes with out-of-state colleagues is part of the recovery requirement to keep the animals off the Endangered Species List.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department have documentation proving Idaho and Montana wolves are breeding with Wyoming wolves.
“We’re already seeing that (genetic exchange) guys,” said Mark Bruscino, Wyoming Game and Fish Department statewide supervisor of the large carnivore management section.
Bruscino was addressing about 25 people Thursday evening at a meeting in Cody to discuss proposed changes to the 2013 wolf hunting season, most of which were minor except the quota cut.
Forty-two wolves of the 52-wolf quota were taken in Wyoming’s 12 trophy/seasonal game areas last year. Quotas were filled in six of the 12 areas. Game and Fish predicted the trophy zone would have 172 wolves and 15 breeding pairs at the end of the season, but ended with 169 wolves and 15 breeding pairs, Bruscino said.
There were 169 wolves complementing 29 packs and 15 breeding pairs in the trophy game management and seasonal management areas at the end of 2012.
Wyoming has 10 percent of the wolves comprising the northern Rocky Mountain population.
A hunt area quota is based on the known number of wolves in the area, the ungulate population and the amount of livestock depredation, Bruscino said.
Wyoming must manage for 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. With 141 wolves, there is a 95 percent chance they will produce 10 breeding pairs. So the state will manage for more than 141 wolves, Bruscino said.
If the number drops below 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside the park and reservation, Wyoming’s wolves could be re-listed.
“So we’ve got to manage more carefully,” Bruscino said.
Wolves are easier to count than many other species of wildlife. They are especially conspicuous in the winter, Bruscino said.
They also are very mobile, traveling an average of about 13 miles per day. One Sunlight Basin wolf was clocked at a 45 mile jaunt in one 24-hour period. Another pack covered 35 miles in one day. With wolves moving expeditiously from place to place, the population may appear higher than it really is, Bruscino said.
Twenty-five wolves were killed in Wyoming’s predator zone last year, said Chuck Neal of Cody. Neal is a wildlife advocate, particularly for grizzly bears.
In the future, fewer wolves will be killed in the predator zone, where wolves can be shot on site anytime, Bruscino said.
“I think the harvest is going to slow down and stay low,” he said.
Dewey Vanderhoff of Cody asked what will happen if Yellowstone’s wolf population declines.
Wyoming had 15 breeding pairs at the end of 2012. Although Bruscino said he doubts the park or reservation’s populations will take a dive, the state would have to consider managing wolves to maintain the additional 50 wolves and five breeding pairs earmarked for the park and reservation, he said.
Last year, 36 wolves were killed for management purposes, according to Game and Fish data.
Because they were preying on livestock, more wolves were killed than anticipated last year. The objective was an 11 percent decrease in the wolf population in 2012 from hunting, management actions and other mortalities, but the total reached 12 percent.
If the population nears the 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs, the state has the authority to cancel management kills and lethal take permits that allow individuals to kill wolves preying on their stock, Bruscino said.
Sixty-two percent of the wolves killed last year were on public land, Vanderhoff said.
The Game and Fish was spending $300,000 or more per year to manage wolves even before the canines were delisted. In view of department budget cuts, does it have enough funding to manage wolves? Vanderhoff asked.
“Certainly, yes,” Bruscino said.
The Wyoming Legislature didn’t want hunters paying a disproportionate amount to manage wolves, so it has appropriated $304,000 per year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a five-year oversight period of funding following an animal’s delisting. This year Wyoming received $232,000 from Fish and Wildlife to manage wolves.
The wolf quota will be re-calculated every year, Bruscino said.
The department was three wolves short predicting how many wolves would remain in the trophy/seasonal zones last year after hunting. “I think it tells us we can manage wolves pretty well,” Bruscino said.
To comment, folks attending the meeting could fill out a form or send one to the Game and Fish, said Alan Osterland, Game and Fish wildlife supervisor in Cody.
Comments can be mailed to Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Casper Regional Office, ATTN: Wildlife Division, Regulations, 3030 Energy Ln., Casper, Wyo., 82604 or online at: wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/HUNTING-1000179.aspx.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission hearing to take action on the proposed regulations will take place July 9-10 in Saratoga. In order for written comments to be reviewed by the commission, they must be received by 5 p.m. June 12.