CHEYENNE - Earlier today, the US Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intention to publish a final rule removing gray wolves from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in Wyoming. Wolves will be officially delisted and placed under state management in Wyoming on October 1, 2012. The earliest date wolves could be taken by hunters in Wyoming in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area (WTGMA) is October 1. Wolves may be taken where designated as Predatory Animals on October 1, the date on which delisting becomes effective. Hunters should check the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website (wgfd.wyo.gov) or contact their local WGFD office for the latest information regarding wolf delisting and hunting seasons.
“Due to the fact gray wolf management status is at the cusp of significant change in Wyoming, we are encouraging hunters and others who are interested to keep a close eye on the WGFD website to keep informed of thelatest wolf information,” said WGFD Wildlife Chief Brian Nesvik.
The delisting action is the result of an agreement reached between Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Following that agreement, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission made changes to its wolf management plan, and the 2012 Wyoming Legislature made changes to state statues to allow delisting to move forward. The delisting process included thorough review by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and was peer reviewed on two separate occasions by independent wolf scientists.
In 1995 and 1996, the US Fish and Wildlife Service released gray wolves from Canada into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho. Wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains increased rapidly and dispersed well beyond the original recovery area. Wolf numbers in this region met federal delisting criteria in 2002, but legal challenges have delayed delisting until now.
At the end of December 2011, there were an estimated 328 wolves in Wyoming, including 48 packs and 27 breeding pairs. This included 224 wolves, 36 packs, and 19 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park.
Under state management, wolves in Wyoming are managed under a dual classification system. Wolves in northwest Wyoming are designated and managed as Trophy Game Animals. Wolves in the rest of Wyoming are designated as Predatory Animals. (See map below for Trophy Game Management Area boundaries.)
Wyoming’s wolf management plan also includes a “flex area” defined as the Seasonal Wolf Trophy Game Management Area (SWTGMA), where wolves are classified as Trophy Game Animals from October 15 to the last day in February of the subsequent year, and as Predatory Animals for the remainder of the year. This provision was included to help ensure genetic interchange with other wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
“Wyoming’s wolf management plan is constructed to ensure the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has flexibility to adaptively manage wolves as conditions change,” Nesvik said.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission has established wolf hunting seasons in 12 separate hunt areas in the WTGMA and SWTGMA. Hunting seasons in each hunt area will begin October 1 and end December 31 (except Area 12, the SWTGMA, which opens October 15 and closes December 31). Wolves in these areas will be managed under a mortality quota system. The hunting season in each specific wolf area will remain open until the quota for the area is reached, or until December 31, whichever occurs first. All hunters must call the wolf hotline daily (800-264-1280) to ensure the quota for wolves in each specific area has not been reached. Wolf hunting is prohibited in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge.
“We are taking a conservative approach to wolf hunting seasons during this time of transition from federal to state management,” Nesvik said. “We need time to assume the important responsibilities of wolf population monitoring, sport harvest management, and meeting Wyoming’s commitments to wolf conservation in our state.”
Wolf licenses cost $18 for Wyoming residents and $180 for nonresidents. Wolf licenses will go on sale beginning September 14 at all WGFD offices and automated license agent locations in Wyoming.
Hunters who take a wolf in the WTGMA (or in the SWTGMA between October 15 and the end of February) are required to have a wolf hunting license and may only hunt during an open season. (From March 1 through October 14, wolves in the SWTGMA are classified as Predatory Animals and may be taken at any time and without a license.) Hunters harvesting wolves in areas where wolves are classified as Trophy Game Animals are required to report the kill within 24 hours by calling 800-264-1280. Within five days, they are required to present the skull and pelt to a game warden, biologist, or other personnel at a WGFD regional office for registration.
In areas of the state where wolves are designated as Predatory Animals, no license is required to take a wolf, and there are no closed seasons or bag limits. Anyone who takes a wolf in areas of the state where wolves are designated as Predatory Animals is required to report the kill to a game warden, biologist, other personnel at a WGFD regional office, or by phone (800-264-1280) within 10 days. Anyone who takes a wolf in this area of the state is not required to present the skull or pelt, but the WGFD is encouraging them to do so to aid in department efforts to monitor wolf populations and genetic interchange throughout the state.
For more information on wolves in Wyoming, including Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan and regulations, visit the WGFD website at wgfd.wyo.gov.
(Contact: Eric Keszler (307) 777-4594)