Wyo wolf plan: Public comments on details
Casper – As the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) continues to move through its series of public meetings on Chapter 21, Gray Wolf Management, and Chapter 47, Gray Wolf Hunting Seasons, WGFD Large Carnivore Biologist Bob Trebelcock says they’ve been well-attended, with positive comments.
“People want to move forward with this delisting process,” he commented at the Casper meeting on April 4. “We want the gray wolf delisted in Wyoming, and we want to assume management.”
Trebelcock noted that the delisting process to remove the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List has been moving rapidly in recent months, and that he can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
“According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, in December 2011 there were a minimum of 238 wolves in Wyoming, with a minimum of 48 packs and 27 breeding pairs in Wyoming,” he explained, adding that includes the Wind River Indian Reservation and Yellowstone National Park (YNP). He said approximately 90 percent of the current population, and 93 percent of breeding pairs, are in what the Wyoming management plan designates as the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area (WTGMA).
Trebelcock explained that the current proposal states Wyoming will manage for 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside of YNP and the reservation. The state will also make every effort to document genetic interchange, which has become an important part of Wyoming’s wolf plan.
“Every chance we get we’ll collect genetic samples, and I’m confident we won’t have any problem meeting the requirement,” he said.
Trebelcock also noted that the WGFD will document observations of gray wolves, and he encouraged Wyoming’s citizens to contact WGFD personnel if they’re confident they’ve seen a wolf, as those sightings will be included in the total population numbers.
Today’s Wyoming Wolf Management Plan includes the year-round WTGMA, as well as the seasonal WTGMA, which encompasses northern Sublette and northern Lincoln counties. The WTGMA is divided into 12 wolf hunt areas.
“The proposed hunting seasons are designed primarily to overlap with big game hunting seasons,” said Trebelcock. “We’re expecting large license sales to hunters who have the hope of crossing paths with a wolf during their deer or elk hunt.”
The proposed seasons for hunt areas 1 through 11 are Oct. 1 to Dec. 31. Hunt Area 12 is the seasonal WTGMA, where wolves will be afforded trophy game status from Oct. 15 to the end of February the following year, a time span that has been identified as the peak dispersal period for gray wolves. That protection is being offered in an effort to positively ensure genetic interchange between Wyoming wolves and the rest of the Northern Rocky Mountain population segment.
“In the seasonal WTGMA area, gray wolves are already classified as predators from Oct. 1 to Oct. 15,” said Trebelcock of the two-week difference in seasons.
Licensed hunters may take any gray wolf, but they must retain the pelt and skull for registration, and if the wolf is collared the collar must be turned in to a WGFD office. When a hunter fills a tag, that must be reported within 24 hours so the WGFD can keep an accurate tally throughout the season.
Wolf licenses will be sold over the counter in the same manner as lion, bear or general deer and elk. Resident licenses will cost $18, and non-resident licenses will cost $180.
Trebelcock said quotas were set based on a complex formula taking many factors into account, such as population statistics and human-caused mortality, including for livestock depredation and vehicle road kills.
“In Wyoming we don’t have good, sound information to fall back on, so we looked at population growth statistics from 2006 to 2010 and came up with about a 36 percent take needed to stabilize the population, but that wasn’t well-proven,” he explained. “We also went to the literature, and we found a range from 22 to 48 percent for the Northern Rocky Mountain population for human-caused mortality rates, so we took the midpoint between the two – 35 percent – which was close to the 36 percent we had already come up with.”
Trebelcock said the WGFD’s goal is to gradually reduce Wyoming’s wolf population to a conservative 15 breeding pairs and 172 wolves, even though the state’s commitment is much lower, at 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves. The agency predicts about 76 wolves, at roughly five pups per pack per year, to be recruited in 2012, bringing Wyoming’s total population to 268 wolves by Oct. 1.
“On everything outside of the WTGMA, including non-Indian-owned lands on the reservation, the gray wolf will be classified as a predator, with the same conditions as a coyote – no license, no established seasons and any legal means used for coyotes could be used for gray wolves,” said Trebelcock.
“There’s only one place the WGFD will manage wolves – in the WTGMA and the seasonal WTGMA,” he continued. “We have no authority to manage them in the predator area.”
However, there is a statutory mandate to report wolf kills in the predator area within 10 days, so that the WGFD can maintain an accurate population count for the statewide population count.
In answer to public concern over the conservative quotas for wolf hunts in 2012, Trebelcock acknowledged the concern and said the Wyoming Wolf Management Plan is an adaptive management program, and everything will be reassessed at this time next year. He said that, for this first year, the agency would rather err on the conservative side, rather than getting gray wolves immediately relisted.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.
WGFD accepts public comments
Public comments regarding Chapter 21, Gray Wolf Management, and Chapter 47, Gray Wolf Hunting Seasons, will be accepted until 5 p.m. on April 23. For complete information on the rules, meetings and comment, visit wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/news-1000380.aspx or call the Wyoming Game and Fish Department at 307-777-4600.
Written comments may be submitted to: Wyoming Game and Fish Department, ATTN: Wolf Regulation Comments, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY 82604. Comments will also be accepted at the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission meeting in Casper on April 25.
Delisting process continues forward
Following the public meetings gathering input on the Wyoming Wolf Management Plan, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will meet April 25 in Casper at the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to review the regulations and comments and act on the proposal.
After the Commission meeting, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will reopen public comment on delisting around May 2012, and they will move forward, should the Commission accept the proposed plan without making major changes from what was passed by the Wyoming Legislature earlier in 2012.
In September 2012 the FWS is expected to publish a final delisting rule, and at that point the gray wolf in Wyoming will become delisted. Oct. 1 is opening day for all but one of the 12 proposed hunt areas.
Wolves occupy Northern Rocky Mountains
According to WGFD Large Carnivore Biologist Bob Trebelcock, the Northern Rocky Mountain distinct population segment for gray wolves includes Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, a small portion of Utah and the eastern portions of Washington and Oregon
“The vast majority of the wolf packs are in suitable habitat, which is remote wilderness country,” says Trebelcock. “Wyoming’s Wolf Trophy Game Management Area (WTGMA) represents 11 percent of wolf population and 16 percent of the occupied habitat in the Northern Rocky Mountain population, which is made up of between 1,700 and 1,750 wolves.”
Wyoming, outside of the Wind River Indian Reservation and Yellowstone National Park, has 224 wolves, while Idaho has roughly 750 and Montana has approximately 650 wolves.
“In comparison, we have far fewer wolves than our neighbors, and to sustain these populations we’ll have smaller hunt quotas than Idaho and Montana,” says Trebelcock of Wyoming’s conservative management numbers.