JACKSON — Wyoming residents are divided about the reintroduction of wolves to the state but strongly support wolf hunting, a poll shows.
About 49 percent of residents agree with the reintroduction of wolves, while 47 percent think it was a bad idea, the survey found. Wolves were hunted to near extinction in the United States before being reintroduced in the 1990s in Yellowstone National Park and their numbers were revived.
Yet four of five respondents, about 82 percent, agreed with allowing for hunting of wolves in the state, while 14 percent disagreed, according to the survey conducted by the University of Wyoming Survey Research Center for the UW Political Sciences Department.
The survey of 668 Wyoming residents was done in October just before conservation groups sued to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to re-establish federal protection for wolves in Wyoming. If the lawsuit is successful, it would take wolf management out of state hands and nullify Fish and Wildlife Service's delisting rule.
The poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, found that 54 percent of respondents thought the effects of reintroduction of wolves was mostly negative, and just 35 percent thought it was mostly positive.
Jim King, a UW political science professor and the survey's co-director, said residents of areas where livestock production is a major part of the economy generally are less favorable to wolves.
While noting that county-specific data from the wolf survey is statistically unreliable, King said counties in the eastern plains of Wyoming had the lowest approval of wolves.
"In counties along the Colorado border there was much more support for wolf reintroduction," he said. "In Teton, Park, Fremont counties there was a lot of support."
Teton and Park counties border Yellowstone.
Nearly half of the respondents, 49 percent, said the federal government should be responsible for paying for financial losses resulting from wolf attacks on livestock. Twenty-seven percent believe conservation groups should pay the costs, and 14 percent believe ranchers should pay, according to the poll.