G&F wolf report shows success, decline

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Wyoming’s gray wolf trophy population dropped to 238 at the end of 2017 from 285 estimated the year before, as did confirmed livestock kills and lethal removals.

The 2017 annual Wyoming Gray Wolf Monitoring and Management Report was released Thursday by Wyoming Game and Fish Department with other cooperating agencies. Game and Fish took over state management in late April 2017 after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service delisted the Northern Rocky Mountain wolves in Wyoming. They were already delisted in surrounding states.

“Recovery” calls for 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside the parks and reservation, within the state’s trophy-game area.

The annual report counts at least 347 wolves total in Wyoming, at least 53 packs, with at least 23 breeding pairs. Yellowstone is home to at least 97 wolves and 11 packs, with three breeding pairs, and the Wind River Indian Reservation has at least 12 wolves in at least two packs with one known breeding pair.

That makes at least 238 wolves, 40 packs and 19 breeding pairs in Wyoming’s trophy-game area. Wolves in the predator zone do not count toward population and recovery goals.

In 2016, when wolves were still federally protected under FWS, confirmed livestock kills numbered 243 with 113 wolves removed. Last year under FWS and Game and Fish, a total of 191 livestock kills were confirmed and 61 wolves were taken out, according to the report’s executive summary.

In 2017, that was broken down to 113 cattle, 81 sheep and one dog with five more cattle injured and these involved 29 packs – with 19 involved in three or more confirmed livestock kills, according to the report.

Wyoming Game and Fish’s first legal wolf-hunting season (for this delisting) last October through December in the trophy-game and seasonal management areas ended with 43 taken by hunters against a quota of 44. One more was killed illegally.

“The biological objective (was) to reduce the wolf population by approximately 24 percent in the wolf trophy game management area,” said report author Ken Mills, Game and Fish lead wolf biologist based in Pinedale. The state agency wants to ensure it can sustain a minimum population of 160 wolves, he said.

Wolf-hunting season draft regulations for this fall are due later this month.

Outside the trophy-game area, 33 wolves were killed in the state’s predator zone. Grand Teton National Park is in the trophy-game area but hunting is not allowed.

With the 16-percent drop in wolf numbers, Game and Fish officials noted Wyoming wolf numbers outside Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation have met and exceeded federal “endangered species” recovery criteria for 16 years now.

“After having management of wolves returned to Wyoming in April of 2017, we made a strong commitment to ensure we would be responsive and responsible managers,” said Dam Thompson, Game and Fish’s large carnivore section supervisor in Lander.

“Part of that is providing an accurate population estimate as possible and we have that now,” he said. “It is significant that today we are now managing recovered and healthy populations of all of Wyoming’s native large carnivores.”

Radio-collaring monitoring took a big leap in 2017 with 83 wolves in 33 packs now collared statewide; 72 wolves were fitted with collars last year, according to Mills. This will help Game and Fish check for canine diseases, take genetic samples and map areas of high livestock and big game impacts.

Go to https://wgfd.wyo.gov/News/Wyoming%E2%80%99s-wolf-population-above-recovery-criteria. n

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