In the predator zone, covering approximately 90 percent of the state, wolves could be shot on sight year-round.
However, within the predator zone is a flex zone covering northern Sublette and Lincoln counties and southern Teton County where wolves would be protected from Oct. 15 to the end of February each year to allow the canines genetic connectivity to wolves in Idaho.
“The key thing for our members in the predator area is that if they see a wolf, they can shoot that wolf,” said Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association at the commission meeting.
Next, a delisting ruling would be published in the Federal Register this fall. The Wyoming Legislature would approve the changes during the 2012 budget session or during a special session requested by Gov. Matt Mead, who hammered out the agreement with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar this spring.
Wyoming would maintain at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation.
There are approximately 97 wolves in Yellowstone and 230 in Wyoming, with about 30 of those in the predator zone, said Chris Colligan, wildlife advocate for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in Jackson.
This year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service killed 25 livestock-depredating wolves. If wolves are delisted, the Game and Fish will handle wolf depredations and they won’t manage wolves in the predator zone, Colligan said.
With that said, the Game and Fish will have to figure hunting quotas very carefully when it conducts season-setting meetings this winter, Colligan said.
“We were fully supportive of what the governor’s done, and we were fully supportive of this plan as the department presented it to the commission today,” Magagna said. “We think it’s the right step forward.”
Wyoming has brought litigation against the Fish and Wildlife Service and so have conservation groups concerning wolves.
Filing lawsuits when an endangered species comes up for delisting is not uncommon, Colligan said.
More lawsuits could be filed by conservation groups because of Wyoming’s dual status plan and the commission’s removal from the plan to mandate reports of wolf killings in the predator zone. “I think it is certainly a possibility,” Colligan said.
There is a Congressional bill awaiting vote that would prevent more wolf suits in Wyoming.
Wyoming would be the only state to allow unregulated wolf killing.
“Wyoming’s proposal to allow the killing of a huge percentage of the state’s wolves is extreme and all about politics, rather than science,” said John Spahr of the Wyoming chapter and co-lead for the Sierra Club’s resilient habitats campaign in a statement Wednesday.