Wolf rally speakers voice frustration over predation

Posted 5/25/10

Rally organizer Tim Hockhalter, of Timber Creek Outfitters out of Crandall, said he used to outfit 25 to 30 elk hunters each year.

“I've got two elk hunters booked (this year),” Hockhalter said.

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Wolf rally speakers voice frustration over predation


Trumpeting Wyoming's wolf management plan and rallying the troops was the battle cry by a bevy of speakers to their audience of more than 200 Saturday at City Park in Cody. Wolf are killing elk and moose and hurting the livestock industry, said those in attendance.

Rally organizer Tim Hockhalter, of Timber Creek Outfitters out of Crandall, said he used to outfit 25 to 30 elk hunters each year.

“I've got two elk hunters booked (this year),” Hockhalter said.

Business is down for local taxidermists by 60 to 70 percent of what they once had, Hockhalter said.

Elk and moose are being decimated by wolves, but the canine numbers could be controlled and revenue added to the state, said Colby Gines of Cody Country Outfitters and Guides Association.

“I do believe hunting is the way to manage them,” Gines said.

Montana received $300,000 and Idaho $275,000 in wolf-hunting revenue last year, Gines said.

Wolves can't be allowed to run rampant, Gines added.

“We're not anti-wolf, but they can't be not managed,” he said.

Fighting for Wyoming management in court is a page out of the pro-wolf conservationists' playbook, said Randy Blackburn, Wyoming Trappers Association.

Conservationists argue for wolves in federal court, and if they win, their legal fees are reimbursed, Blackburn said.

Organizing wolf rallies is “challenging environmentalists at their own game,” said B.J. Hill, a Jackson outfitter and board member of the Wyoming Outfitters and Guide Association.

Hill organized a similar rally in Jackson in March. Next is a rally in Cheyenne, Hill said.

In 2007, the Wyoming Legislature passed a wolf management plan that put most of Wyoming wolves in a predator zone where they could be shot on sight. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service originally accepted the plan, but has changed its mind since then.

In January, Wyoming argued before U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson that the federal government should give the state management rights, since Montana and Idaho manage their wolves now.

“We're trying to send a message to Johnson that we need a ruling on the state wolf plan soon,” Hill said.

The purpose Saturday was to rally folks who support Wyoming's wolf plan, Hill said.

“If environmentalists think they haven't woken a sleeping giant, they're wrong,” Hill said.

“We're educating ourselves, and we're never going to forget what these lawsuits have done to the best wildlife state in the lower 48,” he said.

“This has got to come to a head,” said David Allen, president and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The wolf population has been recovered and been above recovery objectives for years, Allen said.

Billions of dollars are being spent on environmental lawsuits, Allen said.

Originally, the three-state wolf population objective was 300 wolves. Now, there are 1,600 to 1,700 wolves in the tri-state region. That is more than 500 percent above the objective, said Joe Tilden, Wyoming's Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife chairman.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Wyoming Wolf Recovery 2009 Annual Report, there were 195 sheep and 20 domestic cows confirmed killed by wolves last year.

Cattle and wool growers received a total of $78,352 in compensation last year. Of that, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department paid $67,581 and Defenders of Wildlife paid $10,771, said the service.

“Folks, nearly every pack in existence have depredated on cattle,” said Arlene Hanson, a sportswoman.

“Seventeen-hundred wolves in the three state area chomping about 44,000 elk a year,” Hockhalter said.

Due to bad weather, gubernatorial candidate Matt Mead was unable to attend. However, his press secretary, Kelsey Campbell, said Mead has long been a critic of the wolf's reintroduction.

Wyoming State Auditor Rita Meyer, also running for governor, was unable to attend, but her communications director Rachel Girt said Meyer believes Wyoming's wolf management plan should be implemented.

Republican Ron Micheli, also running for governor, attended the rally as well.

Rep. Colin Simpson, R-Cody, also a gubernatorial candidate, said, “I firmly believe that the predator status outside the designated trophy game area is appropriate and reasonable.

“The mission of the Fish and Wildlife Service is provide federal leadership in the conservation, protection and enhancement of fish and wildlife populations and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the people,” Simpson said.

Under the 10 (j) rule, 10 breeding pairs and about 100 wolves in Idaho, Montana and the area in and around Yellowstone National Park was the goal for three consecutive years by 2002, Simpson said.

As of 2009, there were at least 320 wolves in 44 packs and 27 breeding pairs in Wyoming.

“That's three times the recovery goal,” Simpson said.

The final environmental impact statement states a recovered wolf population may reduce populations of elk by 5-30 percent, deer by 3-19 percent, moose by 7-13 percent and bison up to 15 percent, Simpson said.

According to a fact sheet provided by rally organizers, the general October elk season for the Clark's Fork area is closed with only 100 limited quota licenses available.

“The reality has been a much greater impact on bull elk than anticipated, with vast reductions in hunter harvest of elk and moose,” Simpson said.