Wyoming Wolves

A wolf trudges through snow in Yellowstone National Park.

AP

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Licensed wolf hunting is set to resume in Wyoming for the first time since 2013 after the state won back the authority to manage the animals.

The season opens Sunday and runs through Dec. 31 in 12 trophy game hunt areas in the northwest part of the state.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has set a limit of 44 wolves for the hunt.

"We don't set up a mortality quota necessarily expecting to meet it or thinking we need to meet it," said Ken Mills, the state's lead wolf biologist. "That's just what we've said is a sustainable number for the population and will leave us approximately where we want to be at the end of the year."

Mills said the state wants to see 160 wolves remaining in the trophy game area after the hunt is over.

Earlier this year, a federal appeals court lifted endangered species protection for wolves in Wyoming, allowing the state to take over management of the animals.

There are about 380 wolves in Wyoming. The state is committed to maintaining at least 100 wolves, including 10 breeding pairs, outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and Wind River Indian Reservation.

Tim Preso, a lawyer with Earthjustice in Montana, said wolf advocates are concerned about whether Wyoming maintains sufficient wolf numbers, especially when wolves are considered predators that can be shot on site in 85 percent of the state.

Preso represents a coalition of groups that sued over Wyoming's wolf plan.

"If they start moving in a direction where they're going to try to manage down to minimums — that would be troubling and we would be very concerned about that," Preso said. "But at least for this first year, that's not what they appear to be doing. So we'll continue to watch it and see how this moves forward."

Wolf hunting continues to be prohibited in the national parks, the National Elk Refuge near Jackson and on the reservation.

The state last allowed licensed wolf hunting in 2012 and 2013, but it was stopped when a federal judge sided with environmentalists concerned about Wyoming's wolf management plan.

Montana and Idaho also have wolf hunting seasons that have not been interrupted by court action.

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