“If everything goes smoothly, wolves will be delisted in Wyoming by next fall,” said Mark Bruscino, Game and Fish bear management program supervisor, who has been working on the plan.
“The agencies want to move this forward as soon as possible,” Bruscino said.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will meet in Casper Sept. 14 to review and approve the plan, which would make most of the state a predator zone. Those wishing to comment must do so by Sept. 9.
Under the plan, Wyoming will maintain at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park, Bruscino told a group of 65 Thursday evening in Cody.
Under the plan, the trophy game area in northwest Wyoming would remain, and a “flex” zone would be set aside as a trophy zone from Oct. 15 to the end of February to allow genetic exchange between Wyoming and Idaho wolves. The zone runs roughly south of Jackson to just north of Afton and east from the Idaho border to Daniel.
“It (the plan) is fundamentally and irredeemably flawed,” said Chuck Neal of Cody, who attended the meeting. “They’re treating it (wolves) as some exotic virus and they must keep this virus near the park.”
In the rest of the state, and the flex zone, from March 1 through Oct. 14, wolves could be shot on sight.
“Packs just don’t persist outside that (trophy game) area,” Bruscino said.
In 1999, two cattle were verifiably killed by wolves in Wyoming. By 2004, 75 cattle and 17 sheep were killed by wolves in Wyoming. In 2010, 26 cattle and 33 sheep were killed in Wyoming, according to Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan statistics.
Livestock depredations did increase over time, but livestock-attacking wolves were killed, which has reduced livestock depredations in recent years, Bruscino said.
“The state is controlled by the livestock industry,” Neal said.
Cattle should not have carte blanche on public lands. Grazing rights on public lands are a privilege, not a right. Wolf depredations can’t be used as justification to remove wolves on public land, Neal said.
Elk have been decimated by wolves, said Rick Adair, who lives on Green Creek above the Red Barn on the North Fork of the Shoshone River.
He used to see plenty of elk near his home. Now he is more likely to spot a grizzly bear than a bull elk. Hunting wolves will still limit elk population recovery, Adair said.
“It’s overdue,” said Kevin Hurley, recently retired Game and Fish bighorn sheep coordinator, who favors wolf delisting. “it’s time.”
Migrating elk, like those in the Sunlight area moving to Yellowstone for the summer are producing 13 calves per 100 cows. However, wolves are not the only culprits. Bears are taking plenty of calves too, especially in the spring, according to Game and Fish statistics.
High expectations of big elk population numbers may not be met with wolf delisting. And wily wolves may not be easy targets. In the Canadian province of Alberta there are 4,000 wolves, but only around 180 are harvested annually by hunters, said Mike Healy, Game and Fish commissioner for District 5, from Worland.
Still, Healy voiced what many believed Thursday evening, that delisting the canines and halting further lawsuits was long overdue.
“Wolves do kill elk,” Neal said, “but they aren’t going to eliminate elk.”
Neal said 100 wolves is a token number to demonstrate to the world that Wyoming is tolerating wolves.
Because of wolves, elk are in the higher country, thus allowing willows and berry-bearing plants to recover below in mountain drainages, he said.
Wolves are needed to maintain the ecological balance, Neal said.
“They should be treated as valid members of our ecological community,” Neal said.
Healy said he believes Mead can get a wolf bill passed by the Wyoming Legislature.
“It was very close to what they passed before (in 2006),” Healy said.
If the commission approves the plan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife can publish a proposed delisting rule Oct. 1. The Legislature does not have to act before Oct. 1, said Renny MacKay, communications director for Mead in an email Friday.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., wants a rider attached to the budget bill to prevent future wolf lawsuits, because the plan won’t hold up to judicial review, Neal said.
“Whether she can get that done or not remains to be seen,” Bruscino said.
In the future, if wolves dropped below 100 in Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife could conduct a status review and wolves could be relisted, but not if the population can rebound quickly, Bruscino said.
Send comments to Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Attn. Mark Nelson, Wolf Plan Comments, 5400 Bishop Blvd., Cheyenne, WY 82006, or fax them to 307-777-4650.
The draft plan can be downloaded from the department’s website at