“Today, we want all wolf hunters and landowners to know that the take of wolves in Wyoming — hunting and lethal take provisions in Wyoming statute — are suspended because of the federal court ruling,” said Game and Fish Director Scott …
Hunters sighting in their rifles for the upcoming wolf hunting season in the trophy zone or anytime in the predator zone can lower their aim after a federal judge placed Wyoming wolves back under federal protections Tuesday.
“Don’t be hunting right now because they’re on federal protection,” said Jeff Obrecht, Game and Fish information officer in Cheyenne. “It’s not news that is welcomed. We’re disappointed and we hope legally we can get resolution that benefits the state of Wyoming.”
“Today, we want all wolf hunters and landowners to know that the take of wolves in Wyoming — hunting and lethal take provisions in Wyoming statute — are suspended because of the federal court ruling,” said Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected Wyoming’s wolf-management plan in a ruling she handed down in Washington, D.C. The reaction from Wyoming officials quickly followed.
“The state of Wyoming anticipates filing a motion to stay (suspend or postpone) this decision this week,” a Wyoming Game and Fish Department news release stated Tuesday evening.
“The ... Department has suspended all sales of gray wolf licenses and will establish a system to refund hunters who have already purchased a 2014 gray wolf license,” the release stated.
Gov. Matt Mead said he found some good news in the ruling.
“There are many positives in Judge Jackson’s decision,” Mead said. “However, she held that Wyoming’s plan was not sufficiently formalized to support the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2012 rule allowing limited take of gray wolves. We believe an emergency rule can remedy this, and I have instructed the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the attorney general to proceed accordingly.”
Talbott said his department is confident it has done, and will do, a solid job.
“The Game and Fish Department believes in our sound management of wolves over the last two years,” he said.
The news came as a surprise to local residents.
“I’m kind of shocked,” said Mike Hirsch, of Powell, who is certain he killed the first wolf on opening day of the trophy game zone in 2012.
“After two successful years, Wyoming has proven it can control wolves ... and it’s sad that we can’t manage these animals,” Hirsch said.
For more than 10 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been involved in lawsuits involving both the state of Wyoming and conservation groups. Conservation groups want to eliminate the predator zone spanning approximately 80 percent of the state. Wyoming wants state
management of wolves and has held doggedly to its predator zone.
Conservation groups initiated the latest lawsuit to put wolves back on the Endangered Species list.
“It’s becoming a chess match,” Hirsch said.
Chris Merrill, associate director of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said wolves need to be managed as game animals across Wyoming.
“It’s been our position for years we’d like to see wolves statewide managed as trophy game animals,” he said.
The predator zone allowed wolves to be shot on site when they venture outside Yellowstone National Park, according to Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist for WildEarth Guardians, which cheered the ruling.
That need not be the case, in his view. Other states have proven that humans, livestock, other wild creatures and wolves can live side-by-side, he said.
“There is no reason why Wyoming can’t achieve the same result,” Molvar said.
Wolves are a keystone predator. Elk were overpopulating Yellowstone prior to the reintroduction of wolves, he said.
Now the elk population is held in check, allowing willows and cottonwood trees in riparian areas to rebound. That improves wildlife diversity such as beaver, songbirds and other animals, Molvar said.
People come from thousands of miles away to see wolves in Yellowstone, he said. This ruling will ensure that continues.
“They’re spending their dollars here because we have wolves,” Molvar said.