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Casper – Mid-March the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s two newest members — Aaron Clark of Wheatland and Mike Healy of Worland — attended their first Commission meeting in Casper.
    Prior to that meeting Clark and Healy talked to the Roundup about their goals for the position.
    “I was an environmental consultant for years and did a lot of ESA work,” explained Clark. “I did a lot of natural resource permitting for FERC (Federal Regulation and Oversight of Energy) and oil and gas development.” Clark said he and his wife have lived near Wheatland for about eight years. “I think this is where we plan to be until the day we die.”
    “I had several people ask and I was honored by the Governor asking me if I would serve,” said Healy, who ranches in the Big Horn Basin. Healy’s innovation and attention to stewardship on his ranch have earned him the recognition of multiple groups, most recently the Wyoming Chapter of the Society for Range Management with their landowner of the year award.
    “It is not one I would have thought of,” said Healy, who noted he enjoyed hunting in his younger years and hunted with his kids when they were growing up, but hasn’t hunted for several years. His knowledge and commitment to habitat, however, is equally important.
    “As we try to improve and range and riparian areas,” he said, “we know that a side beneficiary is the wildlife.” Healy has also worked with the Game and Fish, in partnership with the state and the Bureau of Land Management to develop a walk-in access area. He said they allow hunting on the ranch with a “minimum amount of red tape.”
    “Quite a number of years ago,” said Healy, “the BLM pointed out to us a very logical analysis that we had a lot of old seismograph roads through the hills in our upper country.” The roads weren’t used a lot short of hunting season, but limited the number of elk in the area. Access was allowed to the ridge, from which Healy said, “You could do your hunting by walking or by horseback. It increased the number of elk and we have more hunter success.”
    “I’d like to see consistency in how Endangered Species Act issues are handled across the state,” said Clark of the agency he described as “well run with professional folks working for them.”
    Clark has a great deal of experience with the ESA. Working from his ranch near Wheatland, he helped develop the recently completed map that overlays wind development potential in the state with ESA challenges. He’s also been working on the recent pocket gopher issue following efforts by the environmental community to see that species listed under the ESA. Prior to that he was involved in discussions surrounding the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.
    “Some of the species, when they get petitioned get ran through the Governor’s office,” said Clark. “Others go through the Game and Fish.” Others, he said, like plants and invertebrates, fall under the radar screen.
    Clark counted ensuring that the sage grouse isn’t listed as a primary goal. He said Wyoming has made several positive steps thus far including designation of core areas for sage grouse and working with the mineral and wind industries on “how to balance what they want with trying to maintain our sage grouse numbers. We’ve just started working with wind companies.” He said, “A lot has been done and we need to keep it up.”
    Healy said he sees the debate over whether to classify wolves as trophy game statewide or defend dual classification as a political discussion that lies with the Wyoming Legislature. “I would certainly, as a rancher, like to be able to more easily control wolves, although that’s not as much of a problem at our place as it is up north toward Meeteetse,” said Healy. “As a Department that would be entrusted with the responsibility,” said Healy, “I think the Game and Fish can handle it either way.”
    Clark said the wolf is one area where he plans to do additional research. With his attention focused on other species, he said he would be reviewing the different positions relating to the wolf and the reasoning behind them.
    Healy said he’s had a good working relationship with the Game and Fish, primarily working with the game warden and biologists in the Big Horn Basin. “They’re very landowner friendly, very hunter friendly and they obviously are there to enhance the wildlife and the experience people have with them. I think it’s a wonderful legacy they’ve created and I’ll work to continue it.”
    Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Casper – On Sept. 8 the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met in Casper, in part to discuss the proposed amendments to the Wildlife Protection Recommendations for Energy Development in Wyoming.
The recommendations caused a stir last spring, and came to a head at the Commission’s April meeting, when the Commission voted to go ahead and pass the controversial Recommendations. Many landowners felt the Recommendations, and particularly the Best Management Practices, infringed on their private property rights. They also felt they’d been left out of the document’s development process, as well as the process it outlined for developing recommendations to send to the Industrial Siting Council (ISC).
In light of those concerns, at the close of the April meeting the Commission asked Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna to organize a landowner group. Over the summer, it compiled language to strengthen landowners’ input in the wind energy siting process, alongside the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and wind energy developers.
“Jim Magagna was asked to work with the landowner community to come up with a process to ensure the landowners have an opportunity to be involved with the developers and the Game and Fish in putting together recommendations for the Industrial Siting Council,” WGFD Deputy Director John Emmerich told the Commission. “The thing before you today is the coordination/consultation process with private landowners.”
“The recommendations lay out a process that ensures landowners will be part of collaboration between developers, Game and Fish and landowners to come up with recommendations to take to ISC,” said Emmerich.
“If, for some reason, consensus can’t be achieved, the Commission still has the authority to take its recommendations to the ISC, and the landowners have that ability, as well, to take whatever they would like to ISC. The ultimate goal is to work through any issues that may come up prior to that, so the ISC doesn’t have to go through the process of trying to balance opposing goals and recommendations,” he explained.
Several members of the public were at the Commission meeting to express their support of Appendix B, and Brett Moline of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation said, “I’ve been involved in helping craft the Appendix B, and this is something my members can wholeheartedly support. When we get affected interests at a table to come up with a plan that’s best for all involved, that’s the process we need to follow. Appendix B outlines who will be involved, and this process directly involves private landowners, wind companies and Game and Fish and is a process the state needs to use in more applications, not just wind energy. I think this is an outstanding product, and I do urge your support.”
Wheatland rancher and landowner Juan Reyes said, “I think this would be a step in the right direction – to approve this conservation plan for the good of wildlife and establishing a relationship with private landowners.”
Of the landowner recommendations, Magagna said, “The landowners and organization representatives put a lot of time and effort into this, with coordination from Commissioner Aaron Clark, the Governor’s office and Game and Fish personnel. I urge both the Department and those of us who represent landowners, to use this as an opportunity to make a strong commitment to making it work, and use this as example of the true partnership that typically exists and needs to exist between landowners and the WGFD, where we respect your role in wildlife management, and the Department and Commissioners respect our private property rights.”
“I hope this is representative of our willingness to work with people on these issues,” said Commissioner Clark Allan. “The Department will work with landowners, and I hope people are more comfortable with that.”
Along with the recommendations to the Commission, Magagna noted the landowner group has also drafted proposed changes for the ISC that would assure that landowners are involved in every step of the process and have the opportunity to be fully involved. The Wyoming Legislature will consider those in the 2011 session.
Following the discussion, Commissioner Aaron Clark moved to modify the Commission’s wind recommendations to incorporate the languge of the landowners into Appendix B, and also begin the process of bringing Appendix A into compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order, recently released in August.
The modified recommendations will be released for 30 days of public comment and brought back to the Commission at the Nov. 18 meeting in Lander for approval.
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Green River – For the past five years, efforts have been conducted to control the invasive species of Russian olives and tamarisks along the Green River Riparian corridor. 

“We thought if we could systematically approach this issue in a phase type control effort we might be able to succeed in keeping it controlled and at bay,” explains Kevin Spence, Green River habitat biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Invasive species

Russian olives and tamarisks are both introduced species to the Green River corridor, and they have become intrusive by outcompeting the native trees and shrubs in the area. 

In late 2009, a local collaborative working group of local landowners and agency representatives began to address the issue on how to control the invasive species along the lower Green River corridor, specifically in the areas between Fontenelle Dam and the inflow area of Flaming Gorge Reservoir. 

“The biggest thing on the Green River we are trying to do is control, not eradicate, the Russian olives and tamarisk,” comments Spence. “We are looking to control their numbers in a way where they won’t outcompete and overcome the native vegetation like it has in some systems like in the Bighorn River.” 

Phases of project

Teton Science Schools completed the project’s two-phase inventory of the Russian olives and tamarisks locations along the river in 2010 and 2012. 

Phase One was along the riparian corridor between Fontenelle Dam and downstream of Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. This area equated to 44 river miles and 28,556 acres. 

Phase Two of the project was completed this January and incorporated the riparian corridor between Seedskadee and Interstate 80 crossing and the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area of river between Scott’s bottom and Davis Bottom. A total of 28 river miles and 9,000 acres were treated in this phase. 

For Phase Two, the Sweetwater County Weed and Pest District hired Field Services and Weed Control, LLC to perform stump cutting and application of basil bark chemical treatments to control the Russian olives and tamarisks. 

“The larger trees need to be cut down with chainsaws, and their stumps are painted with a chemical immediately afterwards,” says Spence. “Through capillary action, the chemical is drawn into the roots and kills the tree.”  

Wildlife habitat

“Several wildlife species are dependent on sustaining native cottonwoods, willows and riparian shrub habitat along the Green River,” describes Spence. “Preventing this gradual invasion of the Russian olives and tamarisk from becoming a vegetative monoculture along this river will be extremely important for future populations of fish and wildlife.” 

While the seeds from the Russian olives provide a food source for birds and other wildlife, along with shade and windbreaks, the ecological threat to the riparian areas and life stage habitats from the invasive species far outweighs any benefits they could offer. 

“These invasive species are nitrogen fixers,” explains Spence, “which means they can take nitrogen from the air and affect it to the soil and increase nitrogen levels in the soil and water – affecting the water quality next to streams and rivers.” 

The nitrogen fixation and the continuous persistence of the invasive species degrade and potentially can eliminate essential life stage habitats for many terrestrial and aquatic wildlife species. 

Control efforts

Control efforts began along the Green River in 2011 with a combination of stump-cut and chemical treatments to reduce Russian olive and tamarisk along the 4.5 river mile immediately below Fontenelle Dam. 

In 2012, the City of Green River Parks and Recreation Department hired a contractor who performed mechanical removal of the invasive species on 586 acres of riparian habitat along five miles of the Green River. 

In the late fall of 2013 treatment efforts were applied to discourage establishment of re-sprouts and seedlings. 

“We are pretty much done with all the initial treatments, so anything that occurs after this will just be periodic follow-up control efforts,” says Spence. “These efforts are aimed at retreating any kind of re-sprouts or new seedlings that have established.” 

“People who have dealt with this problem before highly recommend to control the growth of these invasive species while there is an opportunity to before they become a huge problem,” relays Spence. “That was the intent of this project.” 

Grant funding

Grant funding was used in 2013 to purchase and plant several 10- to 15-foot Narrowleaf Cottonwood trees and four- to six-foot Silver Buffaloberry shrubs in clusters along the riparian greenbelt where the Russian olive and tamarisk control treatments occurred. 

The species of plants that were planted are native to the area and riparian systems. Taller statured plantings were used to provide some immediate wildlife habitat value and expedite the recovery of the riparian vegetation community. 

The Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative, Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust, Sweetwater County Weed and Pest District, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Wyoming Private Land Partners Program and Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge provided grant funding and other support for the project.

Other supporters of the project were Teton Science Schools, Wyoming Governor’s Big Game License Coalition and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.  

Private landowners that are interested in participating in the Russian olive and tamarisk control efforts along the Green River Riparian corridor can contact the Sweetwater County Weed and Pest District at 307-273-9683 or the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Green River Regional Office at 307-875-3223.

Madeline Robinson is the assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Over the last 20 years, mule deer populations in the state of Wyoming have declined significantly, says Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik. 

“We have seen declines of 25 percent or more statewide,” Nesvik comments. “There are a lot of folks across the state who are concerned.”

Between hunters, landowners and wildlife conservationists, many Wyoming citizens continue to look at mule deer populations, and Nesvik notes that WGFD is working hard to identify actions to help the populations.

Declines 

“When we look at the causes of mule deer population reduction, we see greatly declining fawn recruitment,” Nesvik explains. 

In the mid-1980s, fawn recruitment numbers were in the 80s, meaning 80 fawns per 100 does were still alive following hunting seasons – significantly increasing their likelihood of survival over the long-term. 

“Now, our statewide average is below 65 fawns,” he says. “We have a lot of areas of the state that are significantly below those numbers.”

Nesvik adds that a recruitment level of 65 fawns per 100 does is scientifically determined to be a sustainable level. 

Determinants

When looking at the causes of mule deer population decline, Nesvik marks two major considerations – where mule deer live and how they live.

“These are equally important components of the problem,” he notes. 

When looking at where the mule deer live, Nesvik says that the drier climate that habitats are experiencing causes a decrease in productivity and nutritional quality. 

Habitat concerns

“Mule deer spend their time eating brush-type species,” he explains. “They aren’t grass eaters. Rather, they consume sagebrush, mountain mahogany, forbs and similar plants.”

Because those habitats that support mule deer are old and not as productive as newer habitats, they are able to support fewer animals. 

“There are a whole variety of reasons that affect the habitat side of the equation,” says Nesvik. “Drought is a factor, and in some cases, we’ve suppressed fire to the point that brush species are old and not as productive.”

Comparing mule deer habitats to a cow/calf operation, Nesvik says, “On a ranch with a set amount of ground, if a rancher is going to get bigger, the only way to have more cows is to produce more grass.”

Methods of improvement include fertilization and removal of sagebrush, for example. 

“Essentially, the only way he can run more cows is if they get water and he sees an increase in grass production,” Nesvik says. “We are in the same boat with mule deer.”

Improvements

The WGFD works to actively improve habitats by implementing large-scale habitat enhancements. 

“We have worked to improve habitats, specifically in places where mule deer are spending their time during critical times of the year,” Nesvik comments, “and we continue to look for places we can do habitat work on a larger scale.” 

In the Wyoming Range and the Platte Valley, to a larger extent, private landowners have been pivotal in providing places, funding and ideas for habitat improvement projects.

How they live

Because mule deer face the same challenges that other species face – such as disease, predators and highway collisions – the population sees decreases each year.

“One of the things that exacerbates habitat problems are predators, because they work symbiotically with the degraded habitat,” Nesvik says. “Literature suggests that predators can have more of an impact on populations of mule deer when habitats are of lower quality.”

Better habitat may help deer to survive and withstand predator influences.

“It is a double whammy for them,” Nesvik says. “We have mule deer in the West that travel 100 miles from the summer to winter ranges, and they have to have good groceries along the way.”

Highway collisions

Nesvik also noted that highway collisions also can have impacts on deer populations.

“We have some issues with migration corridors,” he says. “While migrating, they have to be able to get across the highway.”

Large-scale projects around Baggs, Cokeville and Daniel have been put in place to install underpasses along highways for deer to utilize.

Other deer concerns

To alleviate predator concerns, Nesvik says WGFD is also working with the Animal Damage Management Board (ADMB) to address potential predator effects.

“We have looked at areas of the state where ADMB and local Predator Management Boards are going to do predator control projects for livestock anyway,” he explains. “We’ve worked with ADMB to work on predator management projects that benefit both livestock and mule deer fawning areas.”

WGFD has also worked to address mountain lion quotas to alleviate predation concerns. 

Overall, WGFD continues to seek ways to aid declining mule deer populations and help the species to recover in Wyoming.

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


SIDEBAR:
Good news story

While mule deer populations are declining, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Chief Game Warden Brian Nesvik sees successes in elk numbers across the state.

“While we don’t have our final numbers in yet, it looks like we will have a second year in a row of record harvest,” he says. “That is a result of significant efforts from many across Wyoming.”

Nesvik notes that the WGFD has undertaken several efforts to improve elk harvest though out the state, but he recognizes that landowner participation and cooperation has resulted is key to success.

“We have learned in a big way that when we can work with private landowners, hunters can kill elk,” he says. “That has been a huge part of our success.”

Efforts like the Hunter Management and Assistance Program in Meeteetse and on Iron Mountain have helped to put WGFD employees on the ground with hunters to increase harvest.

“We have also been helped by the Wyoming Legislature, where provisions were approved so people could get up to three elk licenses,” he says.

“We have liberalized many seasons, increased license allocation, worked with landowners and increased our cow harvest across the state,” Nesvik comments. “There is more good news to follow with elk numbers.”

 

Casper – On April 25 the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met in Casper to discuss and act on Chapter 21 Gray Wolf Management and Chapter 47 Gray Wolf Hunting Seasons.
    The April 25 meeting was the latest in a series of events that began in July 2011 when Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, the U.S. Department of the Interior and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reached an agreement on gray wolf management.
    Most recently, a 46-day comment period was held in the state after draft regulations were posted March 9. The comment period included nine public meetings where the recommended draft regulations were presented. Three of those meetings were broadcast via the internet, and one additional meeting was conducted online only.
    At the close of public comment, 74 written comments had been received by the Commission, and most were in support of the draft regulations as written – 68 percent were in support, and 32 percent were opposed.
    “The main themes in those comments that opposed the regulation were the minimum population requirements, concern over the 72-hour reporting period, concerns about definitions, concerns about how the Department will determine unacceptable impacts to ungulates and general opposition to methods to take wolves,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Division Chief Brian Nesvik in his presentation to the Commission.
    “Of those who were in support, the concerns were over a desire for higher quotas, large predator impacts on big game, reporting requirements in the back country and wolf impacts on livestock,” he continued.
New ground
    While the Chapter 21 rules have been revised from what already existed to comply with new state statute and the updated Wyoming Wolf Management Plan, WGFD Large Carnivore Supervisor Mark Bruscino said the regulations regarding wolf hunt seasons are plowing new ground.
    “We’ve never had a wolf hunting season in Wyoming, and Chapter 47 complies with state statutes and meshes with the wolf management plan,” he said.
    Chapter 47 describes methods, quotas, seasons, hunt areas and reporting requirements, and applies only to wolves designated as trophy game, but it does mention the reporting of wolves taken in the predator zone, and the surrender of tracking devices.
    “The public still has to report wolves killed in the predator area within 10 days,” said Bruscino. “They don’t have to bring them in for check-in or retrieve them from the field, but they do have to report the taking of those wolves.”
    There are 12 wolf hunt areas, five of which are smaller areas around Grand Teton National Park that total 15 cumulative wolves and are designed to break up the quota around the park.
Genetic sampling
    Commissioner Richard Klouda expressed concern over the importance of obtaining genetic samples, even from wolves killed in the predator area.
    “Do you think as a department that we are doing enough to emphasize to the folks who will hunt in the predator area exactly how critical it is that they work exceptionally hard to get us that information?” he asked.
    Bruscino said samples were emphasized in the public meetings, and that he thinks the livestock community understands the importance of those samples and will get the message across to its members.  In addition, the WGFD will notify local predatory boards of the information’s importance.
    “The segment of the public that will be really hard to get to is the general sportsmen; we have to tell them time and again that we need this stuff. I think the ag community, predator boards and Wildlife Services are all on board with us,” he stated. “We’ll make a big push to get these samples.”
Filling the quota
    Of whether or not he expects to fill the 52-wolf quota 100 percent this year, Bruscino said he thinks wolves will be killed quickly this first year.
    “People will be interested, and they’ll know where they are, and the wolves won’t be savvy from being hunted,” he said. “A lot of northwest Wyoming is open habitat, so you can see wolves farther and glass for them, and some of the area is very accessible. I think we’ll get a lot of those 52 harvested this first year. Certainly, they will change behavior once they’re hunted, like all species.”
    At the close of the Chapter 21 and Chapter 47 discussion, the Commission took public comments, all of which was in favor of passing the two rules. The Commission passed both chapters unanimously.
    Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Determining wolf hunt quotas
    To determine mortality quotas for the 2012 wolf hunt season, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department went to the literature and determined that 35 percent human-caused mortality – including hunting and removal for livestock depredation – would stabilize Wyoming’s wolf population.
    “At the end of 2011 we had at least 192 wolves in the population,” said WGFD Large Carnivore Supervisor Mark Bruscino at the April 25 Wyoming Game and Fish Commission meeting. “If we subtract 35, or 18 percent of the population, for non-hunter harvest purposes, such as livestock depredation control, that leaves us with about 32 animals to harvest to stabilize the population.”
    To reduce the population by about 10 percent, Bruscino said the WGFD added 20 wolves.
    “That gave us a total mortality quota for northwest Wyoming of 52 wolves, which is a harvest mortality of 27 percent, and total human-caused mortality of 45 percent,” he explained.
    Bruscino added that, in the literature, 45 percent is shown to be sustainable, and, since Wyoming has a goal of slightly reducing the population, he said this should bring the state pretty close to its goal.
    After recruiting 76 wolves through 2012 reproduction, the WGFD expects total mortality at the end of 2012 of about 98 wolves, or about 51 percent of the population.
    “That will land us at what we estimate to be 170 wolves and about 15 breeding pairs at the end of 2012,” stated Bruscino.