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Wolves

Western Wyoming – Legislators who make up the state’s Travel, Recreation and Cultural Resources Interim Committee (TRW) want to know what Wyomingites think about recent actions surrounding wolves in Wyoming.
    Senator Bruce Burns and Representative Pat Childers, co-chairmen of the TRW have announced two mid-October hearings. On Oct. 16 beginning at 8 a.m., testimony will be taken in Cody at the Cody Auditorium. On Oct. 17, beginning at 8 a.m. at Central Wyoming Community College in Riverton, additional testimony will be heard.
    “The purpose of the meeting is to hear testimony regarding the status of state management of gray wolves and consider state action necessary to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list,” says a meeting announcement released by the Legislative Service Office.
    Wolves were returned to management under the Endangered Species Act by a Montana judge in July of this year. Mid-September the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced its intentions to rescind its delisting rule.
    “The judge said he felt there were three issues the FWS didn’t adequately address,” says Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton. “One was the state’s liberal defense of property laws, another was the lack of evidence of genetic exchange between populations and the last was Wyoming’s ‘malleable’ trophy game area and lack of commitment to 15 breeding pairs.”
    Hamilton says, “To address the judge’s alleged concerns, Wyoming would have to allow wolf populations to expand to the point where genetic exchange would eventually occur and the FWS would have to show through genetic tests that exchanges have occurred. The state would have to change our law dealing with the ability of a landowner to take a trophy game animal caught killing stock as is currently the case for lions and bears. Thirdly the judge characterizes our law establishing a trophy game boundary for wolves as malleable. I’m not sure how you could make it any less malleable unless we amend the Wyoming Constitution.”
    Wyoming Wool Growers Association Executive Vice President Bryce Reece says he doesn’t expect the FWS to take any further action until after the presidential election. Depending on the outcome, he says Wyoming could be looking at two completely different scenarios with which to deal.
    “I believe the best course of action would be to continue to press the federal government to mitigate the problems caused by their big dogs, but refuse as a state to take responsibility for management,” says Hamilton. He further explains, pointing out that acquiescing to federal demands doesn’t guarantee delisting, “Under the current scenario wolf costs are bourn by the entity that placed them here. Under State management, the costs would be bourn by our citizens, but without having any authority.
    “We should react with shock and anger that the FWS is unwilling or unable to defend its own decision,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “Before charting a course of action, we need for the FWS to be clear to the state as to their intentions. It is possible, though unlikely, that they could just strengthen the administrative record by addressing the lack of supporting information and the inconsistencies that the judge raised. Under this scenario,
Wyoming should be supportive. “
    Magagna adds, “The more likely scenario is that they will pressure the state to further amend our wolf management statutes and plan or be threatened with exclusion from a future delisting. Wyoming should strongly resist this temptation. We are in a vicious circle. A new delisting decision will undoubtedly lead to further litigation and further calls for compromise. It really does not matter what assurances the FWS gives to the state. The future of wolf delisting is in the hands of the environmental extremists who do not want the wolf delisted under any circumstances and the judges who are supportive of their cause.”
    One legislator has suggested statewide trophy game classification for wolves. Doing so, points out Hamilton, would results in a statewide wolf population. He says controlling wolf populations requires that 60 percent of the population be taken annually. “This cannot occur with just trophy game hunting. Other techniques must be employed,” he says.
    “For Wyoming to try and play this game is foolishness,” says Reece. “We need to leave wolves with the federal government and let them manage them. In the meantime we need to work with Senators Barrasso and Tester to pass their legislation so livestock producers are compensated when wolves do what they’re going to do.”
    Reece adds, “Based on what we’ve seen from the courts and wolf advocacy groups, it’s a no-win game we’re in. We can keep changing, changing and changing and we’ll never stop the lawsuits.”
     Individuals who plan to provide written information to the Committee during the meeting should bring sufficient copies for members of the committee, committee staff, and interested members of the audience. In addition, an electronic copy of the materials is requested for the committee staff.
    “WSGA urges all ranchers and sportsmen to attend the upcoming TRW meetings to express their views,” says Magagna. “We are the citizens whose property rights are impacted by the presence of wolves. It is essential that our voices be heard.”
    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..

Washington, D.C. – In the first days of December Representative Cynthia Lummis, along with seven other Congressional Western Caucus members, introduced the State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act.
The Dec. 2 effort would return management authority of gray wolves to the states, and would remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list.
Meanwhile, controversy over wolf management has arisen amongst the Governors of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. According to Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer, a breakdown in the conversation between the three states and the Obama administration makes it unlikely Congress will address the issue this year.
According to Governor Freudenthal’s office, “Governor Freudenthal appreciates Secretaries Salazar and Strickland’s willingness to discuss wolf management issues with Wyoming, and he believes there are several points on which Wyoming must have resolution. Wyoming will continue this discussion, remain at the table in good faith and work with Interior to resolve the issues surrounding wolf management.”
According to the congressmen, the State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act would improve the balance of wolf and prey populations by allowing individual states to develop management plans that address their unique needs. To implement those programs, the wolf must be delisted as an endangered or threatened species.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s goal to recover wolves in Wyoming was met long ago. Wolves are thriving, but Wyoming’s ranchers and large game herds are taking a hit – the Gros Ventre moose herd, for example, has been decimated. All the while Washington stands idly by, and activist courts continually move the goal posts. Instead of waiting for Washington to fulfill its end of the bargain by delisting the wolf, it’s time the states take things into their own hands. Our experts in Wyoming are best suited to manage wolves in our state,” says Lummis of the legislation.
The text of the legislation reads: Notwithstanding any other provisions of the law (including regulations), the inclusion of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) (including any gray wolf designated as “non-essential experimental”) on any list of endangered species or threatened species under section 4(c)(1) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (7 U.S.C. 1533(c)(1)) shall have no force or effect.
“Wyoming Farm Bureau has supported these efforts, and I think this will be the best way to address this problem,” says Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton. “Any time we try to address the wolf issue through the state, it gets tied up on court.”
Hamilton says that, since the wolf conflict was brought about by an action from Congress, he doesn’t think it’s a bad idea to have Congress address it now. “That way we don’t have to keep going back to court with appeals,” he says.
Hamilton says he doesn’t think the Nov. 18 ruling of U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson ruling against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to accept Wyoming’s wolf management plan will affect Congress’s decision, but he does say that ruling is a clear indication that something needs to be done.
“Returning wolf management to the states isn’t a partisan issue that pits Republicans against Democrats. It’s about state’s rights. After holding hearings in Montana and reading thousands of comments, it’s clear that folks in Western states like Montana are sick and tired of powerful environmental interest groups funded out of places like San Francisco and New York telling us how to manage our lands, resources and wildlife,” adds Congressman Denny Rehberg.
“Judge Malloy’s decision to put wolves back on the endangered species list is wreaking havoc in Idaho,” states Congressman Mike Simpson. “It is frustrating to me that some people persist in acting as though the end goal in this process is to simply keep wolves on the endangered species list instead of to recover the species so that it can be properly managed by the states. It is clear that wolf recovery has exceeded goals and expectations and that Idaho’s state management plan has proven effective, and we need to act now to restore the states’ authority to manage these animals.”
“State and local wildlife management agencies and their personnel have proven capable of managing and preserving gray wolf populations. In fact, thanks to their efforts, the gray wolf is thriving throughout the West,” says Western Caucus Chairman Rob Bishop. “The federal government needs to get out of the way and allow the knowledgeable experts to begin implementation of programs designed to meet the unique and individual needs of their state’s wildlife. I have the utmost confidence that, with this legislation, states will be able to successfully manage each wolf population and ensure their long-term health and viability.”
“The federal government must allow states to manage wolf populations.  Recent court rulings signal judicial support for state management plans,” says Congressman Jason Chaffetz. “Now is the time for Congress to act. Wolf populations have grown significantly since first receiving protection under the Endangered Species Act. It is appropriate to have the wolf delisted at this time. The states are better equipped to manage and maintain recovered wolf populations.”
“I don’t think anyone involved feels like this will be a quick thing, but we recognize that going through the Executive Branch on delisting would probably take 10 or 12 years, so this is an opportunity to get something done sooner,” says Hamilton.
“I’m hopeful that this is preparation for getting something done in the next Congress,” he continues. “Next session, with Republicans in control of the House, there may be opportunities to hold hearings, and I think that will help convey the understanding that we need to move something forward in Congress.”
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..

Bears, wolves, mountain lions and coyotes can all be problematic predators in the sheep industry.

“Our four large carnivore species consistently leave different bite-mark patterns,” says Mike Boyce, Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) large carnivore biologist. “Each large carnivore species utilizes different techniques for killing their prey.”

Assessing predator kills

In identifying predator kills, Boyce comments that it is important to ensure that biologists are contacted as soon as possible to ensure that kills can be identified.

“It is key to try to preserve the evidence at kill sites,” Boyce says. “A lot of times, we may have dogs, horses or other livestock tracking through the sites. We need to be called right away so we can get in and do our work before evidence is lost to the natural elements.”

He further adds that it is necessary to have at least an intact hide or skull to determine cause of death in livestock.

“It is difficult to verify kills if all we have to work with is a pile of old bones,” he says. “Having a fresh kill to work with makes it easier for us to determine cause of death.”

When called onto a scene, Boyce says that he begins by assessing the site of the deceased livestock animal. For example, tracks and other clues may indicate what killed the animal.

Then, the biologist skins the animal to assess damage under the hide.

“A lot of times there isn’t much visible external damage,” he explains. “When we have the hide pulled back, we have a better image of what might indicate death.”

In addition to deceased animals, Boyce comments that “walking wounded” animals are common.

“We look at a lot of walking wounded animals, mostly cattle,” he adds.

Bears

Starting with bears, Boyce notes that both grizzly and black bears employ similar killing techniques.

“We often see canine tooth punctures and associated damage, most often on the mid-dorsal line along the back,” he explains. “We also often see damage to the head and snout.”

The bites result in significant damage and hemorrhaging under the surface of the skin.

Another common injury with bear kills is bite wounds on the withers or head, which is something that is almost always present in bear kills.

“After bears make a kill, they often cache their prey,” Boyce continues. “We see this with both bears and mountain lions. They conceal the carcass from other scavenging species.”

Wolves

Wolves are another predator that impact livestock herds.

“We certainly look at a lot of wolf damage,” Boyce says. “With wolf predation, we see damage to the hind quarters, armpit area, throat, head and neck. It is also typical to see damage to the hamstrings.”

The damage from a wolf kill is more significant than from coyotes.

“Wolves have more biting force and cause a lot more hemorrhaging than coyotes,” he says.

Wolf kills also often have tooth channels present.

“We see tooth channels more in cattle than in sheep,” he adds. “When wolves make kills, they take multiple bites and cause significant damage.”

Mountain lions

Another predator, the mountain lion, is both powerful and efficient.

“Mountain lions kill their pray by grasping with forepaws, and they usually take one targeted bite to the head and neck region,” Boyce says. “Occasionally they will bite the throat.”

Large diameter canine punctures are seen in the hide of animals killed by mountain lions.

In addition, lions usually select for lambs and calves over mature animals, as the young livestock are easier to secure and kill.

“With mountain lions and wolves, we sometimes see surplus killing where multiple animals are killed in one event.” he adds. “Lion kills are usually associated with some sort of cover, whether that is rim-rock, timber or vegetation. When they make a kill, they will usually move it to the closest cover.”

Lions also exhibit caching behavior.

Coyotes

Finally, coyotes can be a problem for livestock producers and sheep producers in particular.

“The Wyoming Game and Fish Department doesn’t manage coyotes,” Boyce comments. “Local predator management boards and USDA are tasked with working on coyote damage situations.”

However, it is useful for producers to be able to identify coyote kills.

“We see similar types of inflicted damage with coyote and wolf kills,” he notes. “The damage is usually smaller and more subtle with coyotes than with wolves as the canine teeth are smaller and coyotes have less biting force then wolves. We typically see damage at the point of the jaw, along the flanks and at the hind quarters.”

The size of the puncture marks and bite mark patterns can rules out other  large carnivores species when determining cause of death.

Verifying kills

After verifying the source of a livestock kill, Boyce notes that several actions can be taken.

“If the damage becomes chronic, we will attempt to capture the offending animals,” Boyce explains.

Bears can be captured in culvert or box traps or using cable snares, depending on the situation.

“We capture lions involved in conflicts using box traps,” he says. “We can also put snares to capture lions, or we use hounds.”

WGFD does not employ a “strike policy” for predators that are depredating livestock.

“We work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when federally protected species like grizzly bears and wolves are involved in livestock damage,” he says. “Bears that are captured and relocated are tagged, and grizzly bears are released with radio collars so that they can be tracked.”

In addition, WGFD has a compensation program for verified predator kills, excluding coyotes.

“In an open range setting, we pay three-to-one for bear and lion kills and seven-to-one for wolf kills,” Boyce comments. “We use a multiplier to account for missing animals.”

Boyce presented at the 2015 West Central States Wool Growers Convention, held at the beginning of November 2015.

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..

The Sublette County Predator Board just updated its aerial gunner and pilot permit policy to decline general requests that might lead to commercial or illegal aerial hunting of wolves – or any predators -– from private airplanes over land where the board has permission to assist with predator control.

Wolf authority

With wolves delisted again, the predator board deals with wolf complaints only in the predator management area – outside the state’s wolf trophy game management area – where anyone can shoot a wolf at any time.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department holds sole authority over wolves in the trophy game area and sets hunting seasons that require wolf licenses. The predator board has no authority there.

The predator board also voted to not keep wolf skulls or pelts gathered after a producer asks the board for lethal control, instead approving the new policy of “leaving them where they lay.”

Board President Pete Arambel, Treasurer/Secretary Cat Urbigkit and members Clay Olsen, Kevin Campbell, Pete Steele and Kay Malkowski made the changes unanimously, with member Lou Roberts absent.

They voiced concerns about authorizing aerial gunner and pilot permits for anyone but USDA’s Wildlife Services at this time, saying they did not want any situations that could lead to legal or illegal wolf hunting.

“We have people who have asked us to sign a permit for them to fly under the authority of the predator board,” Arambel said. “Some of them I don’t know from Sam Hill.”

Malkowski asked if the board even needed to tackle that responsibility unless it wants someone to take a particular action against a predator.

“The only permit we’ve granted since private pilot Allen Stout is Wildlife Services,” Arambel said. “That’s one of the reasons I called this meeting was to discuss this.”

Predator board

County predator management boards fall under the umbrella of the Wyoming Department of Agriculture (WDA) – except Sublette County, which annually declines raising its predator fees on livestock transfers any higher than required.

Arambel said he called WDA Director Doug Miyamoto to ask about state criteria for county predator boards’ aerial gunner and pilot permits. In general, aerial hunting of any wildlife is prohibited without special permits.

“There is an application turned in to Goshen County to hunt wolves with airplanes,” Arambel said. “The Goshen County Predator Board was not going to sign it. Doug assured me that any action we take, he will back us if we don’t want to sign gunner or pilot permits.”

Urbigkit clarified that the state can issue the permits “but one sentence” also requires a county predator board member’s signature.

“I don’t think we, as a predator board, want to get involved unless we’re authorizing people to go and fly,” Campbell said.

Olsen said that the Sublette board already pays Wildlife Services for predator control.

Urbigkit agreed, saying the federal government has its own sets of liabilities, permits and insurance, “so they already have that infrastructure in place.”

“The policy is not to sign a permit unless it’s someone authorized to work for us,” Campbell said.

Board members agreed they did not want to encourage any aerial “sport-hunting” of wolves in Sublette County and unanimously approved the new permit policy.

Leave them lay

The second change was to the board’s prior policy, that any wolf taken by Wildlife Services or a permitted gunner and pilot team would remain property of the board to sell at auction.

“I think we should change our policy and just leave them lay,” Campbell said. “Then people can’t say, ‘They’re killing wolves to generate revenue.’”

Urbigkit replied, “I would like for the motion to not say, ‘leave them lay.’”

Campbell made the motion again “to replace this existing policy with, ‘The predator board takes no ownership or interest in wolf carcasses or skulls.’”

Olsen seconded it, and the board voted unanimously to accept the new policy of “no ownership” of any predator wolves killed by Wildlife Services. As for how such wolf carcasses would be treated, Arambel said he would ask Wildlife Services how their employees want to handle that.

Joy Ufford is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and a reporter for the Pinedale Roundup and Sublette Examiner. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Meeteetse — While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines depredation as animals injured or killed, the agency’s annual wolf reports fall short when it comes to reporting actual livestock damage caused as a result of wolves.
    Ed Bangs, FWS Wolf Recovery Leader in Helena says the FWS defines depredation as, “the injury or killing of livestock or other domestic animals by wolves.” Depredations listed in the agency’s annual wolf reports, however, only include livestock killed, which they call “Confirmed Losses.”
    Although injured livestock may be a loss for the livestock producer, the FWS does not consider injured livestock a “confirmed loss.” Livestock injured are only briefly mentioned on page 27, “Confirmed livestock depredations include 41 cattle (35 calves, six cows / yearlings) and 26 sheep. Thirteen additional probable sheep depredations and three injured cattle were reported.”
    Mike Jimenez, FWS Wyoming Wolf Project Leader in Jackson says, “We started, in the late 80s listing only confirmed dead livestock, and left it that way on the table (in the annual reports). If we were to start over, we would probably show both, but this way, you can compare year-to-year.”
    Wolves actually injured more than three head of cattle. Jimenez says, “In Wyoming in 2008, there were actually 11 cattle confirmed injured (by wolves).” The report only stated three were injured, and Jimenez says the other eight “fell through the cracks.”
    The Report states, “Ten… packs were involved in at least one depredation in 2008,” when in fact, a minimum of 13 packs and some miscellaneous wolves were involved in livestock depredation. Table 1 in the report shows 12 packs and some miscellaneous wolves involved in depredation, but two of those packs were removed during 2008, so although they depredated on livestock, they are not counted in the total of depredating packs. Also, the Yellowstone Delta Pack, with a home range mostly in YNP, attacked cattle in Wyoming, and this pack is not included in that total.
    Echo Renner is a Field Editor for the Roundup, and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..