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Wyoming wolf management bill signed by governor

But legal challenges likely to continue

Gov. Matt Mead signed Wyoming’s wolf management bill Wednesday, following nearly unanimous support of the bill by both houses of the Wyoming Legislature.

Senate File 41 sticks closely to the agreement Mead hammered out with the federal government last fall. It would allow predator zones in much of the state and a trophy game area in a portion of northwest Wyoming, where a license would be required to hunt the canines.

“I’m obviously pleased with the progression of the wolf bill,” Mead said Monday.

But many Wyoming wolf management backers are not exhaling a sigh of relief just yet. They say it will be challenged in court as soon as the animal is delisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this fall.

As wildlife advocate Chris Colligan noted, every wolf decision thus far has been litigated by one party or another. Colligan is with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in Jackson.

Tim Hockhalter of Timber Creek Outfitters in Cody and others, including some Wyoming legislators, foresee more lawsuits contesting Wyoming wolf management.

They want Congress to step in.

In Idaho and Montana, where wolves are hunted, congressional protections are in place against wolf lawsuits. A similar safeguard is needed for Wyoming, Hockhalter said.

“Unless something gets done in Congress, I don’t think Wyoming is going anywhere,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo, patted Mead and the Wyoming Legislature on the back for getting the wolf plan done.

“As usual, Wyoming is holding up its end of the bargain,” Lummis said. “I realize that history does not provide us with many examples to instill confidence, but I do expect the federal government will at long last make good on their promises too.”

“Allowing never-ending litigation on this matter is not an option,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. “I will continue to look for opportunities to pass legislation that will ensure Wyoming’s wolf management plan receives the same level of protection given to Idaho and Montana.”

Still, there is no guarantee that Wyoming will be afforded the protections that Idaho and Wyoming enjoy.

“Isn’t it ironic that Wyoming would seek a federal bailout instead of coming up with a legally defensible plan?” Colligan said.

The plan outlined in the bill, with its dual classification and a predator zone in most of the state, is not legally defensible, Colligan said.

“That’s the real glaring issue,” he said.

The flex zone, south and slightly west of Jackson and bordering Idaho, will be managed as a trophy game area from Oct. 15 to the end of February to provide wolf dispersal. The rest of the year, it will be a predator zone. The problem, according to Fish and Wildlife, is wolves disperse year-round, Colligan said.

The bill states Wyoming will manage for 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside Yellowstone National Park. The state has nearly twice that number now.

In a Monday Game and Fish Commission addendum to the Wyoming wolf plan, a buffer to exceed the minimum population objectives is mentioned, but the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission did not specify how many wolves that would be.

If the department is authorized to manage the canines, Game and Fish will err on the side of caution with a 150 wolf population objective, Hockhalter said.

With that count, Hockhalter said he believes Wyoming can maintain a genetically healthy population.

Two and four-legged hunters and their quarry should be managed equally. The Wyoming Game and Fish is perfectly capable of managing wolves. All Wyoming needs is the chance to do just that, he said.

“There has got to be room in the equation for everything,” Hockhalter said.

Law firms filing suits are making lots of money in legal fees. “It’s a moneymaker for Earthjustice,” Hockhalter said.

But with millions of dollars spent on wolf recovery, Colligan said, it doesn’t make sense to be chomping at the bit to get wolves delisted.

“For all the work done,” he said, “we may be back on the drawing board.”

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19 comments

  • posted by kattail63

    June 12, 2012 11:51 pm

    You people need to look at the actual statistics of what wolves actually kill in terms of livestock and wildlife loss. It is miniscal compared to the other reasons these creatures die . . . For some reason people just want to hate WOLVES . . .why? A healthy ecosystem lets predators live they way they were meant to live and a healthy ecosystem is better for the human race as well. I just do not understand how killing everything is the answer to anything at all. You also better find out how accurate the wolf counts really are . . . make the "counters" accountable for their actual numbers of wolves. . . think about it people and don't let them baffle you with BS!!!

  • posted by katie

    April 23, 2012 11:49 am

    /i know that 243 wolves are allowed to be shot on site outside of Yellowstone and not in the trophy game zones, but how will we know once that number is reached? How will we know when we go over and maybe kill some of the breeding pairs?

  • posted by Michael Rohr

    March 14, 2012 7:56 pm

    Who among us would claim to have more knowledge than the Creator? Are you claiming He has made an error in his creation? We restored what we once destroyed in ignorance, only to destroy it again. In the little time you have spent on earth I am amazed at the God-like knowledge you believe you have acquired. So many of you speak as if your words are the truth. We are to tend to the earth and care for creation. To destroy what God has created is a fools task. Remember this, All things work to the good for those who love the Lord. I would add, For those who don't, get it together brother.

  • posted by Shelly Neff

    March 14, 2012 7:51 pm

    For all the Wolf Lovers, take them home with you to New York where they once roamed or to California where one lonely wolf dared to roam and when he ventured into there, he was caught, loaded up and brought back to Wyoming. We, the state of Wyoming, ranchers and farmers outfitters and hunters didnt want them, petitioned against them. Our predecessors knew of the dangers the wolf brought to the ecomony, the envirnment and the welfare of the state that they almost got rid of them. I say almost because i know for a fact that there has always been wolves in Wyoming. Wild, high up in the mountains, living in peace with the environment but these werent these giant hybrid Dire wolf type wolves. They were smaller prairie wolves. As a rancher and a hunter the wolves need to go back to Canada ( who by the way I am sure are laughing the backsides off since we paid to have these beasts brought here... they were glad to get rid of them i am sure.
    I have personally seen them in my corral 10 miles from the city limits along a subdivision at noon. ALONG WAYS from Yellowstone Park. What if we in Wyoming decided that rats in New York should be protected or snakes in Florida or cock roaches... none of which do the damage as a wolf but I am sure the people who live with them and deal with them wouldnt like that. I think the State should have a bounty on the damned wolves and maybe one on the ones who dont live here but insist on running there mouths on subjects they know nothing about... should boycott our state, Stay out dont spend money or visit or even breath anything about Wyoming. Dont wear your leather shoes. Drive your hybrid cars, powered by electric from our coal or gas from our oil and gas. Wyoming, Montana and Idaho have the right to manage there own state, they have forever. Let us do it now. Shelly Neff Heart Mountain Valley ranch Owner.

  • posted by Travis Day

    March 10, 2012 2:18 pm

    With the wolf on the ground, deer have to be more skilled at being deer, elk have to be more skilled at being elk, coyotes have to be more skilled at being coyotes, ranchers have to be more skilled at being ranchers, hunters have to be more skilled at being hunters, and outfitters have to be more skilled at being outfitters. Deer, elk and coyotes do exactly that. Everyone else whines for a federal handout.

  • posted by Uncle Ted

    March 09, 2012 7:05 pm

    Ramma Ramma Ramma! Faa Faa Faa! The beast is dead, long live the beast!

  • posted by R Rob

    March 09, 2012 4:48 pm

    WiZaRd instead of making it indefinate...Can you just make it perminant.I'm a native of Wyoming and sure I speak for most people in Wyoming when I say "you want wolves?,Takem,takem all"We said from the beginning we never wanted them and they were shoved down our throat.Now there is becoming a great imbalance of other wildlife because of the wolf, that it will take decades to recover if we do win a logical management plan.

  • posted by Nik

    March 09, 2012 4:47 pm

    This will be great for the ecosystem. You cannot have top predators roaming unchecked and expect the other members of the food chain to stay around. Wolves are too efficient at killing anything they please. The fact that they are controlling the wolf population is awesome. Leave yellowstone packs alone so the hikers who REALLY want to go see a wolf can go see them there, but to decimate the hunting industry in that state by letting the wolf run rampant is ill advised. Hunting brings a lot of money to the state and they need to protect that. People spewing this rhetoric about save the wolf have no idea what wolves do. In a perfect world the wolf can coexist and balance the ecosystem, but this world isn't perfect, and the wolves aren't killing just the sick/old/injured animals. They are killing mature bull moose and elk with ease. I implore any of you "pro" wolf people to go hike around in wolf country for a little while. See how much majesty and beauty the wolf has when a pack charges you to prey test you. And when you're not carrying a gun because you're anti hunting/guns then we'll see how happy you are to get a close up view of that wolf. I've been prey tested in northern idaho by a group of 3 wolves. It was absolutely terrifying. Armchair pro wolf advocates who never set foot in the outdoors have no real experience. Congrats wyoming, I'm glad you're taking steps in the direction to save the outdoor experience for EVERYONE who uses it, not just the hikers.

  • posted by RJ

    March 09, 2012 2:27 pm

    Umm, the issue is still so polarized because you cannot re-introduce an apex predator into an established eco-system. Please.. don't get you undies in a was about spelling/grammer. There aren't two sides of this issue. Only the correct side. I hunted NW MT this year for almost two weeks.. Wanna know what I saw in an area formerly teaming with mule deer not too many years ago? I saw wolf crap with bone fragments/mule deer hair.. I saw a lot of it. What I didn't see were mule deer. Hmm.. living together in balanced harmony? BS. I also noticed that the wolf presence had changed the elk's behavioural patterns significantly. Back off and let this thing play out so we can obtain healthier herd populations. And remember silly, hunters are the true conservationalists.. not the masses who sit behind their desk with a wolf logo cup with John Denver music playing in the background... RJ

  • posted by Joseph Carr Allen

    March 09, 2012 10:23 am

    As a former Wyoming citizen, fisherman and hunter, I am amazed (but not really) at the lack of valid ecological knowledge used by the state of Wyoming in making this decision. Reading the state's management plan is likened to reading a document bereft of data to substantiate the plan. The plan is weak in delineating numbers of wolf-effected prey species and the method of controlling wolf populations. Did a fishery's biologist write this thing? Overall, the state's plan reeks of a perverted form of "ecological management" that is NOT science driven, but polically and economically motivated.

  • posted by Dawn

    March 09, 2012 10:11 am

    Wow, this issue is still so polarized. Can't we come to a consensus that both sides can agree upon? And please learn how to spell and communicate with proper grammar. I just can't listen to your side of the discussion when your message comes off as illiterate. Science is still proving that the presence of wolves helps the ecosystem - from better tree growth to healthier populations of elk and deer. Overall, I am saddened to hear that Wyoming took such a harsh stance on favoring one side of the issue.

  • posted by RJ

    March 09, 2012 10:01 am

    Great news for the elk herds in WY and bordering states. As for WiZaRd and your idiotic comments, remember, if you don't hunt and kill your own meat you're meerly a scavenger living off the table scraps of other.

  • posted by Rattler

    March 09, 2012 6:54 am

    Good going Wyoming, manage your wolves finally. We plan on hunting Wyoming and spending tourist dollars next door this fall. We'll off set the Wizards of this world.

  • posted by skylyinegal

    March 08, 2012 9:41 pm

    Sad. Sad. Sad. This sadness is not only for the careless killing of these creatures but for the fact that so many are so ill-informed/ uneducated about the way in which ecosystems work.

    I'm also saddened that my state officials would intentionally pass a law that they know can not pass the legal or biological test, for the only reason to seek immunity from the constitutional judicial process is if one knows that what they are doing is illegal in the first place.

    Let me change that; I'm saddened and disgusted.

  • posted by Oz

    March 08, 2012 6:57 pm

    That's great Wiz. Just leaves a little more elbow room for us locals that actually know the wolf and live with them. I will continue to roam the west spending money like a drunken sailor, and that includes Wyoming. I might even buy an extra candy bar there in your honor.

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