CHEYENNE - Officials with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say the state’s efforts at wolf management to date have been successful. In a report released by the department today, WGFD wolf managers detail their work at managing and monitoring wolves over the past seven months.
Wyoming assumed management authority for wolves on September 30, 2012. The first year’s hunting season was designed to reduce the wolf populations in the state using a conservative, adaptive approach. Wyoming’s wolf management plan includes a dual-status designation for wolves, which allows for regulated hunting seasons in parts of northwest Wyoming and unlimited wolf hunting in the rest of the state.
“We are very pleased with the results of our wolf management program thus far in Wyoming,” said WGFD Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik. “Based on public input and thorough scientific analysis, we set a goal of reducing the wolf population in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area and Seasonal Wolf Trophy Game Management Area from 192 to 172 individual wolves in 2012. Results of our intensive population monitoring show that we ended the hunting season with 169 wolves in these areas. Wolf breeding pairs were also reduced from 19 to 15. The year-end data suggest that Wyoming’s dual-status plan is working and we can maintain a recovered population of wolves while minimizing conflicts and providing hunting opportunity. I want to recognize wolf hunters, who were extremely cooperative throughout the season by helping us monitor hunting activity and collect important biological data. I am also very proud of the work our personnel did to put the wolf plan into action and achieve our intended goals.”
Wolves are monitored and managed by several jurisdictions in Wyoming including the state of Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, the National Elk Refuge, Grand Teton National Park, and the Wind River Reservation. At the end of 2012, there were an estimated minimum of 277 wolves in all areas of Wyoming, including 43 packs and 21 breeding pairs. The recovery plan criteria for removing wolves from the federal Endangered Species List in Wyoming was 100individual wolves and 10 breeding pairs at the end of any given year. Year-end 2012 was the 11th consecutive year that Wyoming has exceeded those criteria.
As a whole, all jurisdictions in Wyoming are required to maintain at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs. The state of Wyoming has agreed to maintain a minimum of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs towards this total in areas where it has management authority. Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation are expected to maintain the remaining wolves needed to meet the overall criteria. The Endangered Species Act requires a five-year post-delisting monitoring period. Failure to meet the established recovery goals could jeopardize the legal status of Wyoming’s wolves.
To monitor wolves in the state, WGFD field personnel conducted extensive and thorough surveys, including hundreds of hours of flight time, four aerial capture operations, ground observations, and a review of data provided by the public and other agencies. “We have documented the vast majority of wolves in Wyoming through our monitoring efforts,” said WGFD Large Carnivore Program Supervisor Mark Bruscino. “We have radio collars on 25 percent of the wolf population, and at least half of the wolf packs in the state contain at least one collared wolf. And despite wolf reductions through hunting in 2012, our monitoring shows wolf packs are stable in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area.”
Wyoming’s strategy for managing wolves will continue to focus on slightly reducing the population over the next year. Since Wyoming achieved wolf management goals of a reduced population through hunting and control actions in 2012, reductions in 2013 will be more conservative. The total hunting quota in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area and Seasonal Wolf Trophy Game Management Area in 2012 was 52 wolves. In 2013, the department is proposing reducing this quota to 26. This proposal will be presented to the public for review this spring.
“We will continue to manage wolves adaptively in Wyoming, which means being flexible to changing conditions and new information,” said Nesvik. “Our plan allows us to focus hunting and control efforts in those areas where wolves are impacting ranching operations and wildlife populations. We are also able to offer year-round wolf hunting opportunities in some parts of the state—so far in 2013, hunters have harvested 14 wolves in areas where they are designated as predatory animals. I think sportsmen and other citizens of Wyoming understand how important it is to keep wolves off the Endangered Species List and under the authority of the state, and we sincerely appreciate the cooperation Wyoming’s citizens have shown in the short time since we assumed management authority.”
During the 2012 wolf hunting season, the WGFD sold 4,492 wolf hunting licenses. A total of 41 wolves were legally harvested in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area and Seasonal Wolf Trophy Game Management Area; 25 wolves were harvested in areas of the state where wolves are designated as predatory animals.
Click the following link to read the full Wyoming Gray Wolf Population Monitoring and Management Report
(Contact: Eric Keszler (307) 777-4594)