CASPER — After years of debate, litigation and study, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has a management and hunting plan for the gray wolf.
About 30 people listened to the proposal in a Wednesday meeting in Casper as part of a series of wolf management workshops held throughout the state. Only a few questions followed the presentation.
"The reception has been really good at these meetings," said Bob Trebelcock, a large carnivore biologist for the Game and Fish Department who presented the plan.
"I think people are tired of dealing with it, they want wolves to be delisted and the state to manage them."
The new regulations call for three types of areas, a trophy game management area, a seasonal trophy game management area and a predator area. Any wolves in the predator area, which would be everything outside of northwest Wyoming, will be classified like coyotes and can be shot on site without a permit, by any legal means.
In the seasonal trophy game management area, which is roughly the northern portions of Lincoln and Sublette counties, wolves will be trophy animals from Oct. 15 to the end of February. The rest of the year, or from March 1 through Oct. 14, they will be predators similar to the rest of the state.
Game and Fish officials created the seasonal area to give added protection to wolves moving back and forth between Idaho and Wyoming, promoting genetic diversity.
A Game and Fish regulated hunting season will exist only in the trophy game management areas. The year-round trophy management area that will be managed by the state is roughly the northwest part of Wyoming outside of federal lands such as Grand Teton National Park or Yellowstone National Park.
This year's proposed hunting season would be for 52 wolves spread out among 12 hunt areas. Biologists estimate there are at least 224 wolves outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation. Goals for wolf management in the state call for a minimum of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs.
This year's proposed hunting season is conservative, Trebelcock said. Even though the state wants to decrease the number of wolves, officials need to create a buffer to prevent relisting if numbers drop too low.
If approved, wolf tags would be sold over the counter similar to black bear and mountain lion tags. Hunters would be required to call a hotline to check on the quota for each area. When hunters shoot wolves they would have to report the kill within 24 hours. The areas would close when the quota is reached.
Resident licenses would be $18 and nonresident tags would be $180.
Hugh Vass owns land in Hot Springs County that borders one of the proposed hunt areas. He said the new plan is a good idea and hopes it will bring down the number of wolves.
"We have to start somewhere," he said. "Game and Fish can always add some to the quota or take some away."
He doesn't plan to buy a tag or hunt any wolves himself.
Howard Ewart has followed the reintroduction of wolves, their expansion and the attempts to delist. The Casper man said the state needs to assume management of wolves and thinks this plan will make it happen.
"I think this is a good compromise," he said. "They're here and they have to stay here and this is a sound plan."
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department commission will listen to the proposal and public comment at its meeting April 25. If everything goes as planned, wolves could be removed from the endangered species list by Oct. 1, Trebelcock said.