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Gray Wolf Management Plan gets addendum

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department posted a draft addendum to the Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan, mostly in response to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s peer review panel summary report proposing delisting the wolf.

The addendum clarifies how Wyoming will maintain a sustainable wolf population, said Mark Bruscino, statewide supervisor of the large carnivore management section.

Studies conducted under differing scenarios say a wolf population can bear a 50 percent annual population mortality rate yet still maintain a stable population with spring litters.

“Wolves have a strong tendency to increase reproduction when harvest has been applied to them,” Bruscino said.

That 35 percent includes mortality from hunters and agency removal of wolves preying on livestock or wild ungulates, according to the addendum.

As agreed upon by Gov. Matt Mead and the federal government, Wyoming will manage for a minimum of at least 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation.

In 2011, there were approximately 19 breeding pairs and 224 outside Yellowstone and the reservation. In the trophy game area of northwest Wyoming, there are 192 wolves.

“What we’re committed to is more than 10 breeding pairs and more than 100 wolves,” Bruscino said.

To clarify, the buffer zone would be the trophy management area only, said the addendum.

Hunting would be one of the tools for population management the service questioned.

It is proposed to harvest 52 wolves in the trophy game zone this fall, assuming wolves are delisted in Wyoming. In individual hunt areas, there would be specific quotas. Once that quota is filled, the season ends immediately in that area, just like black bear hunt areas, Bruscino said.

Quotas would be adjusted annually to maintain population objectives, said the addendum.

There would be an unlimited number of licenses available. Resident licenses would be $18 and non-residents, $180.

The goal is to keep wolves off the Endangered Species list. If the population approaches minimum recovery numbers, Game and Fish will limit the number of wolves killed for preying on ungulates, reduce hunting quotas, reduce wolves killed for damage to private property and reduce the number of lethal take permits, said the addendum.

Lethal take permits allow landowners to kill wolves preying on their livestock.

Genetic connectivity has been a major issue for wolf advocates and environmental groups.

The flex zone south of Jackson will ensure Wyoming wolves connect genetically with central Idaho wolves, Bruscino said.

From Oct. 15 to the end of February, wolves in the flex zone will be managed as trophy game animals. The quota is two wolves there. From March 1 to Oct. 14, the flex zone will be a predator zone where wolves can be shot on sight without a license.

Wolves negotiating the flex zone do run the risk of being shot.

Bruscino said dispersal and genetic connectivity between recovery areas was transpiring by 2004, when there were 851 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population.

In 2011, there were approximately 1,774 wolves in the same region, according to a report from Fish and Wildlife.

“There are plenty of wolves to ensure genetic interchange continues to occur,” Bruscino said.

In Yellowstone, park officials say the population has declined by 60 percent of what it was in 2007. It has stabilized to about 100 wolves over the last two years, according to The Associated Press.

“Wyoming is completely committed to maintaining its share of a recovered wolf population in the northern Rockies,” Bruscino said.

Wolves will carry on, he said.

“It’s a no brainer,” Bruscino said. “They are biologically easy to keep on the landscape.”

The public can comment on the addendum. The deadline is 5 p.m. on March 19. Comments will be accepted at the department’s website or in writing at Wyoming Game and Fish Department, ATTN:  Wolf Plan Addendum Comments, 5400 Bishop Blvd., Cheyenne, WY, 82006.

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1 comment

  • posted by Michael Rohr

    March 22, 2012 8:02 pm

    I believe we made a mistake moving cattle into the lands of the great predators. Can we not raise bison there and raise cattle elsewhere? I can't get a bison steak anywhere near here and I would eat it regularly if I could find it. There are many like me. It is a huge market and an easy sell. Let's get it together brothers for in wilderness is the preservation of the world. We must preserve creation less we destroy ourselves. This is our Father's creation , is it not ? Have we fallen asleep? Have we been blinded? Have we been fooled? Let us love all creation and smile as we repair it and preserve it.

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