Proposed Wyoming wolf quotas attract little public comment

2013-05-25T00:00:00Z Proposed Wyoming wolf quotas attract little public commentBy CHRISTINE PETERSON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette

SHERIDAN, Wyo. — A proposed plan to cut the Wyoming wolf-hunting quota in half has generated little public comment during the first several statewide meetings.

Two people went to a wolf meeting held by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on Wednesday night in Sheridan. Dozens of people went to the Sheridan meeting last year to discuss the first wolf-hunting season, said Mark Bruscino, large-carnivore section supervisor for Game and Fish.

The Pinedale meeting in early May had two attendees. Eleven people went to Dubois and four to Laramie. The upcoming meetings in Cody and Jackson may see larger crowds, said Dan Thompson, large-carnivore biologist with Game and Fish.

“Maybe people think (Game and Fish) has it under control,” said Ron Crispin, one of the two Sheridan meeting attendees.

Game and Fish officials are proposing cutting the wolf quota in northwest Wyoming from 52 to 26 this year. Wyoming’s first hunting season since wolves were delisted ended in December. Hunters killed 42 wolves, filling the quota in six of the 12 hunt areas.

The new quota will reduce Wyoming’s wolf population slightly, but also keep it above 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation, a requirement when they were removed from the endangered-species list.

Crispin thinks the new number is conservative. But he also thinks Game and Fish should probably be conservative to avoid wolves going back on the list for protection, he said.

The Jackson Hole Outfitters and Guides Association publicly supported the new quotas in early May, citing the same concern that wolves not return to the list, according to The Associated Press.

Thompson said lower public participation compared to last year may also be because the first hunting season went smoothly and with little controversy.

“People didn’t lose interest, but there was more of a normalization of it,” he said.

Public participation, whether high or low, won’t change how wolves are managed in Wyoming, he added.

At the end of 2012, wildlife officials estimated there were at least 169 wolves, 25 packs and 15 breeding pairs in the trophy game and seasonal trophy game management area, which is most of the northwest corner of Wyoming outside of federal lands. In all of Wyoming, including federal lands, wildlife officials estimated there were 277 wolves, 43 packs and 21 breeding pairs.

That’s about 16 percent fewer wolves in Wyoming than the end of 2011, Bruscino said.

Wildlife officials need to keep about 140 wolves in Wyoming outside of the Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation to be sure it also has at least 10 breeding pairs. If the number of individual wolves drops closer to 100, breeding pairs could fall below 10, which could eventually trigger relisting, Bruscino said.

The hunting quota is decided by taking the number of wolves at the end of a hunting season, adding an estimate of the number of pups that are born and survive, and removing an estimate of the number of human-caused deaths such as removal for livestock depredation and car wrecks.

Slightly more wolves were killed last year because of livestock issues than biologists planned, and a slightly lower number of pups were brought into the population, Bruscino said. As a result, this year’s hunting-season quota was lower than anticipated.

Wyoming should probably expect a future hunting quota to stabilize between 15 and 25 wolves.

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