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WGFD gives updates during joint wildlife committee meeting

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – During the Wyoming Natural Resource Rendezvous Convention and Trade Show on Dec. 7, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA), Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts and Wyoming Wool Growers Association hosted a joint wildlife committee meeting and heard several updates from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD).

Mussel infestations  

“As of October 2022, WGFD has inspected 65,500 boats in the state of Wyoming,” said Craig Smith, WGFD deputy chief of the Wildlife Division. 

Of the boats inspected, roughly 4,750 were considered high risk or showed “other” high risk potential. Of the 4,750 boats, 691 decontaminations were conducted to reduce the threat of invasive water species, he noted. 

“Roughly 58 boats had some sort of viable or crusted mussel attached to them,” he said. “This is a significant increase compared to past years.”

Preliminary discussions are focused on trying to address most infestations at the border where boats are coming in from South Dakota and other states. In the northeast, Newcastle and Lusk are scheduled to have additional check stations in an effort to address individuals skipping any of the interstate check stations. 

Smith shared if live mussels are found in Wyoming, all major reservoirs have an action plan in place. Increased exit inspections and decontaminations will occur at reservoirs testing positive to prevent spread in Wyoming. To date, WGFD has not detected infestation in any reservoirs or bodies of water in the state. 

Bighorn sheep 

In regards to the reintroduction of Bighorn sheep in the Sweetwater Rocks, WGFD has been recently trying to push forward. However, after the conclusion of the Bighorn Sheep Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group November meeting, it was been decided the project won’t be pushed forward at this time. 

“The department is sensitive to permittee concerns on how this could potentially affect grazing on public lands,” he said. “It’s not a good time for us to continue right now with this project. It’s not to say this project is abandoned, but we’re going to try to move forward and find some solutions to address these concerns.” 

There were several options discussed at the working group meeting. One of them is to try to pursue a memorandum of agreement or memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which may address permittees concerns. 

“Another option may be to amend the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agency’s Bighorn sheep management guidelines to allow individual states an opportunity to assume additional risk with sheep reintroductions,” shared Smith. “A third option would be WGFD Director Brian Nesvik and a group of other folks exploring federal legislation providing relief to permittees to cover their concerns.” 

WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna clarified a MOU with the BLM would not be to allow for the reintroduction, but would be to solely provide protection in the event some Bighorn sheep wander in the area. 

“Any reintroduction of Bighorn sheep would require congressional action to provide protections against any impacts on grazing permittees,” said Magagna. 

Elk populations 

Elk management has been a big concern for many operations across the state with overpopulated elk herds. 

“Our normal season structures and timelines are not meeting our goals of elk management, so we need to try something different,” said Smith. 

Within this last year, WGFD looked into their department regulations in regards to depredation hunting seasons. 

“The department has taken this regulation and reworked it to try to provide a broader approach in managing some of these situations with elk specifically,” shared Smith. “The new chapter is called ‘Auxiliary Hunting Management Seasons’ and what it’s intended to do is to address issues pertaining to damage by big game, trophy game, wild turkeys or meet disease management objectives WGFD might have.” 

“The way this is intended to work is through local personnel – game wardens, biologist, etc., would identify a problem of damage or disease and work together with landowners to implement auxiliary management hunting seasons,” he added. 

In the past, hunters and the public had to apply for depredation seasons. Smith noted they have a few things to discuss further before implementation, but new chapter rules pertaining to auxiliary hunting management seasons are in effect. 

Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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