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Wolves

When Ted Lyon, a renowned trial lawyer, former Texas State Senator, legislator and author, first began looking at the issue of reintroduction of wolves, he took the side of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), arguing that, through his experience, he couldn’t see the agency taking steps that would harm wildlife. 

“I couldn’t believe that the U.S. FWS would do something bad for wildlife,” Lyon told the Roundup. “I defended the issue of putting wolves back in Yellowstone. How could 66 wolves put into Yellowstone and the Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness kill all these elk and moose?”

After a pheasant hunting trip in Montana in 2007, Lyon vowed to do research to find out whether or not wolves were impacting the ecosystem. 

“I tried to defend FWS biologists to the men I was hunting with, and these guys from Montana jumped on me like a pack of wolves,” he says. “It piqued my interest.”

“Those hunters were right,” Lyon adds, “and no one was telling the story.”

Starting a story

Lyon started researching the subject of the wolf reintroduction to the Greater Yellowstone Area with the help of two law students. 

“We spent the summer of 2008-09 researching, and these two young, bright law students looked at how we could file a lawsuit, change a law or take some legal strategy so the state could manage wolves,” he explains. “Initially, we thought it was that the state didn’t have good lawyers, but it wasn’t the law’s fault.”

Wildlife cannot be managed from a courthouse, Lyon emphasizes, adding that states should be able to manage their own wildlife. 

“Then, I, along with others, put together a group of 13 different wildlife organizations who have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to wildlife conservation,” he continues. “I came up with a political plan. I grew up in politics, and I knew how to do things politically.”

Away from the law

“I knew there was no way we were going to win in a lawsuit,” Lyon remarks, noting that as a lawyer, he has seen success in the courtroom. “The only thing we can do is go to Congress and change the law.”

A political solution to remove the wolf from the endangered species list, says Lyon, is the best solution. 

“That is the only way to change this,” he adds. “We have to come together with wildlife groups and work together again.”

Lyon began working with endangered species law when he instigated a change in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) – the first substantive changes in the ESA’s 36-year history, at that time. The changes were made through a bill that passed Congress in 2011.

Writing a book

“After we got the bill passed, I wanted others to know the truth about wolves, and I wanted to publish a book that would tell the truth about wolves,” Lyon says.

He joined forces with co-author Will Graves to compile as much information as possible to arm citizens with facts to use in defending themselves against wolves. 

“My co-author Will Graves knew many of these people after writing a book several years ago called Wolves in Russia: Anxiety through the Ages,” Lyon explains. “These people are all experts in their fields.”

Lyon’s 351-page book, titled The Real Wolf, delves into many of the intricacies involving wolves and wolf management. 

Goals 

In The Real Wolf, Lyon and his collaborators put together an extensive compilation of the science, politics, history and economics surrounding wolves. 

“The truth needs to be out there, and the myths about wolves need to be revealed,” Lyon comments. 

To start, he says that wolves regularly kill people around the world, wolves affect livestock dramatically, and they devastate wildlife herds across their range. In addition, wolves cause dramatic economic impacts.

Lyon extensively backs these claims throughout The Real Wolf.

“I want the truth to be known about wolves so people have a weapon in their arsenal to argue with officials and environmentalists,” Lyon comments. 

Next steps

After reading The Real Wolf and arming themselves with fact, the first step the public needs to tackle to alleviate the challenges related to wolves is to delist the species. 

“Wolves are not an endangered species,” Lyon says. “There are over 60,000 wolves in Canada alone. I, and other scientists, believe there are several thousand wolves in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.”

Despite recent legal challenges, Lyon also notes that Wyoming must continue to pursue its case regarding wolf management in the legal system.

“Wyoming cannot just let the decision go,” he says.

Political strategy

“The real endgame is politics,” Lyon says, “and we have to bring groups together.”

Because the sporting industry is impacted by wolves, he comments that agriculture and others must draw outdoorsmen and women into the conversation.

“The sporting industry in the U.S. is the most powerful political industry in the country, and we have to bring them together,” explains Lyon. “There are so many people who like to hunt, fish and view wildlife. We need to get these groups together.”

In working together, Lyon also emphasizes that a bipartisan effort must be pursued. If the issue becomes a partisan issue, no positive outcome will be achieved. 

“We have to have both sides to win,” Lyon says. 

“Wyoming has two Senators and a Representative who are very good, but we need to draw in both parties,” Lyon says. “We need a bill to totally remove wolves from the Endangered Species List. Once we do that, Wyoming can manage wolves on their own.”

The Real Wolf

The Real Wolf, a 351-page book by Ted Lyon and Will Graves, looks at the science, politics and economics surrounding wolves in the U.S. 

The book can be purchased in a variety of venues, including many bookstores and on Amazon. 

“The Real Wolf has been a best seller in its category on amazon.com for several weeks,” Lyon comments.

However, the best place to find more information and purchase a book is at therealwolf.com, Lyon’s website.

A look inside

In his book, Ted Lyon looks at wildlife and livestock impacts created by wolves, among a wide variety of other topics.

“I’ve personally witnessed the destruction of elk and moose in Yellowstone Park,” he says. “Elk counts decreased dramatically from 19,000 in 1995 to 6,000 in 2008. In 2013, there were a little fewer than 4,000 elk.”

Lyon notes that moose populations have nearly been eliminated, as well. 

Additionally, in some areas – near Gardiner, Mont., for example – nearly 2,000 elk licenses have been eliminated, resulting in loss of income for communities.

“When hunters come into these areas, they bring thousands of dollars into the local economy,” Lyon comments.

For livestock producers, wolves are more destructive than simply killing calves. 

“Wolves affect livestock dramatically – and not just in kills, but also in the loss of weight per cow or calf,” he says, stating that up to 100 pounds per season may be lost by cows and calves. “Those numbers dramatically affect the bottom line for ranchers.”

In New Mexico, wolves have pushed some ranchers out of business, and in North Carolina, the red wolf – a wolf, coyote hybrid – is “a disaster for livestock producers,” Lyon says.

“Wolves are the most destructive animals on the face of the earth,” he comments.

 

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..

During a Nov. 1 meeting of the Animal Damage Management Board (ADMB), USDA Wildlife Services Wyoming Director Mike Foster noted that since July 1, nine wolves have been removed in Wyoming’s predator zone as a result of depredation incidents. 

“We’ve spent about 37.7 hours in the air and 279 hours on the ground, for right at about $25,000 doing work under our contract with ADMB,” Foster explained, noting that the figures are current as of the end of September. 

Work related to wolves has been done in Hot Springs, Lincoln, Park and Sublette counties. 

“It seems that this year, we have been a little slower than in other years, with not quite as many problems with depredation,” he continued. 

Foster added that, in Wyoming’s predator zone, it is legal for anyone to take a wolf, but as a federal agency, they are restricted to removing wolves only when conflicts arise. 

“Through our compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, environmental assessments and other regulatory measures, we don’t just go in and randomly remove any kind of predators, including wolves,” Foster explained. “It is our policy for Wyoming that we must have an incident before our guys are allowed to start removing wolves.”

Further, Kent Drake, Wyoming Department of Agriculture predator management coordinator, added, “ADMB has also adopted rules that don’t allow pursuit of wolves without a depredation event. We are on the same page as Wildlife Services.” 

Drake added ADMB has also not had wolf activity in counties with independent contract trappers that have asked for reimbursement as a result of wolf removal. 

During the tele-conference meeting, Lisa Robertson from Jackson inquired as to whether funds from ADMB are used for alternative techniques to deter wolves, rather than just lethal removal, and Drake responded the funding Foster referred to was strictly set up to address depredation. 

“Local predator boards are given a pool of money, and it is up to them to determine how to manage that,” he explained. “We also have a final amount of money for research and on-the-ground projects.” 

In the past, Drake described that several projects have done things like assessing the use of different breeds of guardian dogs, as well as collars for guardian dogs, targeted at impact from wolves. 

“The funds we have expended to remove wolves are spent according to rules that have already been set,” he added. 

Learn more about the Animal Damage Management Board by visiting wyadmb.com or calling Drake at 307-777-6781. 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..

On March 3, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld Wyoming’s wolf management plan with a 3-0 decision.

“I am pleased with the ruling. The Court recognized Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan was appropriate. We look forward to state management once the 2012 delisting rule is formally reinstated,” says Gov. Matt Mead. “I thank everyone who has worked so hard for the recovery and delisting of wolves. This is the right decision for wolves and Wyoming.”

With the opinion, the Court concluded that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) did not act arbitrarily when it determined Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan was sufficient to maintain a recovered wolf population upon delisting.

Despite the decision in favor of Wyoming, Tyler Abbott of FWS' Wyoming Ecological Services Field Office says, “Wolves still have their listed ESA protections right now.”

Wolf status

With the ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals, Abbott explains, “The Court’s rules are that they will provide the opportunity for Plaintiffs to file a petition for review.”

“The courts provide a 45-day window of time that the Plaintiffs can file a petition,” he continues. “Then, the court has seven days to respond to that petition. They could file tomorrow, or they could file at the very end of the part.”

In the petition for review, Abbott explains that the Plaintiffs can choose to file for review of the full decision or specific aspects of that decision.

“The fact that it was a unanimous decision means that Wyoming prevailed on all three aspects of the original case, but my understanding is that the Plaintiffs could ask for a review of any specific aspect or the whole thing,” Abbott emphasized. “Until a final response is made by the court, the wolves will be listed as endangered.”

Path to state management

However, after final review by the Court, if Wyoming still prevails, the transition to state management could occur quickly.

“Historically, FWS has issued very brief Federal Register notifications of the decision and the fact that management would be turned over,” Abbott describes. “It’s likely that we would do that.”

He comments, “As soon as the court decision is made, management would be quickly turned over to the state.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and FWS are working hand-in-hand currently to ensure the management transfer happens smoothly.

“The important point right now is that nothing has changed in terms of the wolves’ status,” Abbott emphasizes. “We are still in a holding pattern.”

Any concerns with wolves or livestock depredation will be handled as it has been over the past several years.

“If livestock depredations start, we will work with producers to evaluate the course of action,” he says.

As for the ruling, Abbott comments, “This is a complete success from a legal standpoint, to have a panel of judges rule unanimously on all three points in our favor. It says a lot in terms of the strength of our appeal.”

Ag groups comment

“We are very pleased with the ruling,” says Wyoming Farm Bureau’s Ken Hamilton. “I also think that it is important that Rep. Liz Cheney continue to push her wolf delisting bill.”

The Wyoming Stock Growers Association's (WSGA) Jim Magagna agrees, saying, “We were thrilled with the ruling. This basically affirmed that everything is right with the Wyoming wolf management plan and the way it is being implemented and adopted.”

Magagna adds that currently, WSGA and others in Wyoming are waiting for more information on the process to fully return management authority to the state.

“It is just as important as it ever was for Rep. Cheney’s bill to pass,” Magagna continues. “The only way we can bring certainty and conclusion to this issue is to successfully pass legislation delisting the wolf in Wyoming.”

Hamilton believes Cheney’s bill serves two purposes.

“First, if the environmental groups are successful in getting an injunction against state management until the appeals process is done, this could add some additional time to when Wyoming could begin to manage wolves again,” he says.

He also notes that the bill highlights the continued need for Endangered Species Act reform.

“If Congress has to step into the process like they’ve had to on the wolf issue, not only in Wyoming but in Montana, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, it helps to highlight that chance is necessary,” Hamilton explains. “Delisting the wolf has taken entirely too long.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cheyenne – Agricultural organization executives are questioning Wyoming’s latest attempt to appease the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) in hopes that the state will be included in the latest wolf delisting proposal.
    The Wyoming Game and Fish (G&F) Department on Oct. 29 announced that it had revised the state’s wolf management plan. Two meetings are planned for next week to gather public comment and finalize the project by the time the federal agency’s public comment period on the new delisting rule ends later this month. The G&F Commission will address the plan when it meets in Jackson on Nov. 17-18.
    G&F says draft revisions to the plan include language to clarify Wyoming’s commitment to maintain at least 15 breeding pairs of wolves and 150 individual wolves in Wyoming’s established Trophy Game Management Area. The draft also addresses actions the commission will take if numbers within Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks and the Rockefeller Parkway drop below eight breeding pairs.
    Other revisions in the draft include shortening some reporting requirements for those who kill wolves, either through licensed hunting or through livestock depredation actions; further defining “damage to private property” and “chronic wolf depredation”; further restricting the Wyoming G&F Commission’s ability to change the boundaries of the Trophy Game Management Area; and restricting lethal take permits to no more than two wolves.
    Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Vice President Jim Magagna said he has questions about the process and how public comments will be incorporated with an emergency rule already in place. Any significant changes have the potential to send the regulations back through the public comment process.
    As far as the substance, he said, there weren’t numerous changes. “The unfortunate thing is that the substantive changes, with the exception of clarifying how the state will manage for 15 packs, are specifically directed at provisions in the current rule that are designed to protect livestock owners.” He offers the thresholds that must be met before a wolf can be taken in defense of livestock and tighter reporting requirements as two examples. “Those provisions are being changed to appease FWS or the judge and all are going to impact our industry,” he said.
    “The thing that struck me the most,” said Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton, “is why the state is even doing this.” Changes in the requirements surrounding when a wolf can be taken in defense of property, he said, essentially leave the livestock community with a worthless tool. “It leaves a pretty wide opening in determining when a landowner is adhering to that section of the law and that concerns me,” said Hamilton. “If your livestock doesn’t have bite marks you’re in jeopardy. Even if it’s taken to court and you’re found innocent you’re out $13,000 to $15,000 in attorney fees.”
    There’s also the question of whether the proposed changes will make any difference. Testimony from FWS agency personnel and the environmental community at the recent Wyoming Legislature Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee hearings reached beyond state statute to address the trophy game area and “genetic connectivity” between the three states.
    “I’m not optimistic they will satisfy the FWS,” said Magagna. “I’m totally pessimistic they’ll satisfy the environmental plaintiffs.”
    By Thursday morning, just one day after the G&F announcement, Melanie Stein with the Sierra Club had affirmed that belief saying the changes don’t go far enough.
    “At the end of the day I’m real puzzled why the state is trying to do this,” said Hamilton. “The Attorney General testified before the Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee that he sees very little the G&F Department could do within the statute to address Judge Malloy’s concerns. Why do it and do it on an emergency basis? It just doesn’t make sense.”
    Prior to G&F’s announcement that it had amended the wolf plan author Cat Urbigkit, who just recently released a book on wolves in Wyoming commented, “I don’t think Wyoming should do a thing. Wyoming crafted a plan that was approved by the FWS. If that’s not good enough, fine, let FWS be responsible for them. They’ve done a good job responding to depredations for us. At least this way, someone has a responsibility to resolve conflicts. I am certainly tired of people feeling the need to cave in when it comes to resource issues.”
    “The draft revised plan addresses many of the issues brought up in recent court decisions regarding removal of the Northern Rocky Mountain population of wolves from the federal Threatened and Endangered Species list,” said an Oct. 29 press release from the G&F Department.
    “We see revising Wyoming’s plan to address the judge’s concerns as a necessary step toward getting wolves permanently delisted,” said G&F Department Director Steve Ferrell. “It’s clear that wolves are recovered in the Northern Rocky Mountains and doing well. We have more than five times the number of wolves called for in the original delisting proposal. It’s time for them to be delisted and for the states to assume management.”
    The Wyoming G&F Commission last revised its wolf management plan in November 2007. That plan was subsequently accepted by the FWS. Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains were removed from the federal Threatened and Endangered Species List in March 2008, and were subsequently relisted in September 2008, after a federal judge in Montana granted a preliminary injunction against the delisting decision and the US FWS requested a remand of their delisting rule.
    The entire draft revised plan, emergency rules, and statement of reason are available on the Wyoming Game and Fish website at: http://gf.state.wy.us/. 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..
Glenrock – A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) official on Feb. 19 confirmed what has to date been local reports of wolves between Douglas and Casper in central Wyoming
    Wolf Recovery Coordinator Mike Jimenez says Wildlife Services visited the area following reports from a local rancher. FWS doesn’t proactively take control actions, but Jimenez said the agency would work to collar the wolves if reports continue in a centralized area or livestock depredation is reported.
    Jimenez was quoted in another publication late January stating that the agency did believe there were wolves in the area, but hadn’t yet confirmed them. Earlier this week he told the Roundup that reports had tapered off prior to the recent confirmation.
    According to Tony Lehner, a Converse County Commissioner who has a ranch along the Deer Creek drainage, most of the reports have come from that area. He hasn’t, however, seen the wolves on his place, but says the reports have come from farther up the drainage. Wendy Lankister, who along with her husband Keith leases the state’s Duncan Ranch, says the reports she’s heard have also been from the Deer Creek Drainage to the west of them.
    Deer Creek, which runs through Glenrock, begins in the mountains south of there and flows into the North Platte River near town.
    Casper attorney Craig Shanor, according to Lehner, was elk hunting in the area with Dusty Johnson in January when the duo spotted the wolves in an area known as Duck Creek Flats. A photo they took at the time has been widely distributed via e-mail. Shanor couldn’t be reached for comment prior to Roundup press time. The duo’s photo shows two black wolves. Jimenez says the reports he’s received have also been of two black wolves.
    Jimemez says control actions will be taken if the wolves become a “chronic problem” killing livestock. In this particular area he says it would only take a couple of livestock losses before control actions are implemented.
    Lehner says that many ranchers along Deer Creek are nearing calving season. Elk, present in the area earlier, he says have largely moved out for the winter. Mule deer, he says, have moved down toward lower reaches.
    “Our first action will be to collar and release them,” says Jimenez. If the killing continued he says, “In that area, we’d take the animal out.”
    Jimemez says that wolves begin looking for a place to den late March and den in April. At that time the area they cover is reduced.
    Jimenez reminds ranchers that wolves are a protected species. A rancher’s ability to protect his or her livestock is limited to circumstances in which a wolf is caught in the act of biting or killing one of the rancher’s animals.
    Wolf reports can be called into Mike Jimenez at 307-330-5631 or to Wildlife Services. 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..