Draft Game and Fish wolf management program emphasizes elk, very small wolf population-

Wyoming Game and Fish, anticipating federal delisting of the wolf in Wyoming, has a new draft wolf plan out for public comment.

Comments are sought on how the wolves will be managed in the wolf “trophy game zone,” but not on the fact that the wolf will receive protection in only about 12% of the state (unlike now, where it is protected statewide). Outside the trophy hunting zone, the national parks and the Wind River Indian Reservation, the wolf will be classified as a “predatory animal” to be killed for any reason if desired. However, there will be reporting requirements after a kill. “The person will be required to report the name and address of the person taking the wolf, date the wolf was killed, the sex of the wolf, and the site of kill (identified by the section, range and township, or UTM coordinates). Within 10 days, the unfrozen pelt and skull shall be presented to a Department employee during business hours to allow for collection of necessary data and genetic samples.”

This is a fair amount of work, and that might discourage killing wolves for fun or trivial reasons in the predator zone.

The plan commits the state only to maintaining at least 100 wolves in 10 breeding pairs. The rest of the required 150 wolves total for the state (that means at least 50 additional  wolves) are expected to be provided by Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Presently there are about 19 packs and 230 wolves in Wyoming outside the two national parks.

Some wolf conservation groups say the plan is an improvement over past proposals regarding wolves and livestock depredation because the plan now gives clear numerical standards for the control and private shooting of wolves that have attacked or threatened livestock. Regarding elk, however, the plan is vague but clearly designed to protect elk first and foremost when the elk population is harmed. A management problem with this is that there are few objective standards set forth in the plan of what “harm” means.

According to the Jackson Hole News and Guide, “The elk population statewide in 2010 was above objective. Game and Fish figures show a census of 104,912 animals last year, more than 21,200 animals above the objective of 83,640.” While data is lacking for about a quarter of the herd units, Game and Fish appears to have to break their analysis down to areas smaller than the herd units to find undesireably low numbers of elk. According to the Guide, “local wildlife managers are worried about the ratio of calf-to-cow elk in some local herd segments, especially in the Gros Ventre.” Anyone who has studied statistics at all will recognize this kind of analysis as a bit of cherry-picking to justify a conclusion arrived at previously by some other method.  This is similar to Idaho and their concern about the Lolo elk, although breaking out the Gros Ventre is choosing an even small land area than the Lolo to worry about.

Official data on livestock depredations shows wolves to be a minor predator of livestock. The plan shows that over the last 12 years wolves killed only 418 sheep in the entire state and 474 cattle (almost all calves). Ag groups say many more livestock are killed by wolves but never found and that wolves cause cattle to fail to gain weight because they are chased so much. There is no data on weight gain, however, only anecdotes. A missing or dead sheep or cow with no cause of death determined, of course, by definition cannot have a known cause.

Wolves also killed some dogs (mostly livestock guard dogs) and 15 “other” livestock over the 12-year period (horses, llamas, mules, donkeys, goats).

Some people say they fear that wolves will also attack humans, although there have been no attacks in the lower 48 states. Of course, the plan allows people to defend themselves.  Others fear that sheep dogs are a more likely source of an attack on humans. Some outdoor enthusiasts I know in Idaho, where sheep dog attacks have taken place, roll up the windows on their vehicle whenever they encounter sheep on a dirt road because they fear being attacked by these huge, alert and rapidly moving sheep dogs before they can grab their firearm or spray.

Most of the wolf plan’s aggressiveness toward wolves is based on the belief that wolves cause a great deal of trouble (especially extra work) at most of the state’s 22 winter elk feedgrounds by chasing the elk off the feedground, into nearby cattle, or disruption of the state’s calculations of how much elk feed to stock. Feedground disruption is a major focus of the plan and control of wolves.

Conservation groups, however, mostly think the feedgrounds are hot spots of elk disease generation and spread, and they should shut down to protect the elk population, especially from lethal chronic wasting disease. From this viewpoint, wolves that chase elk off the feedgrounds are providing an elk health benefit. Feedground disrupting wolves are probably a good thing.

A final wolf plan cannot go into effect until it is approved by the Wyoming legislature and, of course, approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the wolves delisted.

Members of the public who want to give comments on the revised draft Wolf Management Plan must do so in writing. Written comments can be submitted before 5:00 pm on September 9 at any of the public meetings, at any WGFD regional office, or by mail or fax to:

Wolf Plan Comments

Wyoming Game and Fish Department
5400 Bishop Blvd.
Cheyenne, WY 82006

Fax: 307-777-4650

Revised Gray Wolf Management Plan Public Meetings:

Aug. 23 Casper Casper WGFD Office 7-9 pm

Aug. 23 Pinedale Sublette County Library 7-9 pm

Aug. 24 Jackson Center for the Arts 7-9 pm

Aug. 24 Sheridan Sheridan College 7-9 pm

Aug. 25 Cody Holiday Inn 7-9 pm

Aug. 25 Rock Springs Western Wyoming 7-9 pm

Community College

Aug. 29 Cheyenne WYDOT Auditorium 7-9 pm

Aug. 31 Lander Lander WGFD Office 7-9 pm

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

9 Responses to Draft Wyoming Wolf plan is available for public comment

  1. avatar Ralph Maughan says:

    Regarding the danger to outdoor recreationists from sheep guard dogs, the Forest Service issued this caution last June to hikers and bikers as well as suggested ways to avoid being mauled.

    Caution Urged Around Livestock Protection Dogs. June 27, 2011

  2. avatar Cindy says:

    My hope is that all who attend the meeting in Jackson this Wednesday are able to stay on the high road! There have been few times in our community when both sides of the aisle are in one room, on one night. We are looking to comment on 5-8 specifics that need improvement, while acknowledging the improvements which did get in. The overall tone I got from studying the draft the past two weeks is how much gray area there is. I did add a layer of internal support by traveling to Lamar Valley last weekend. I was blessed with a long (10 -12 min) look at the Lamar Canyon pups. What 5 beautiful wolves they are. I didn’t get to see Mom, 06, but to know this pack and these pups have shared DNA with the first wolves in Yellowstone and the Druids, gives me so much hope for the survival of wolves throughout the wild west.

  3. avatar Cindy says:

    P.S. and a world of thanks to Kathie L. for her words of encouragement out at Hitching Post last Sunday morning:)

  4. Now let me see…….21,000 surplus elk…..230 wolves…that’s about 91 extra elk per wolf that the DNR is having to feed at feed lots with taxpayers money….Nothing to cull the animals with brain worms or wastings disease, or eat the dead animal carcasses…..nothing to keep the elk up and running instead of grazing in Ron Gillette’s pasture where famous hunters like Dick Cheney can shoot them from the comfort of an air-conditioned Hummer…..Am I the only one who sees something dreadfully wrong with this picture?

  5. avatar HAL 9000 says:

    Jerry, it’s more complex than that. It’s not so much a matter of sheer numbers, but distribution, and effects in specific areas. There are areas where wolves have evidently caused a significant dip in elk numbers. Bear in mind, many of Wyoming’s “surplus” elk are in areas where wolves are not present.

    So, again, just looking at the sheer number of elk all across the state does not give an entirely accurate picture of how wolves effect hunting opportunity. To get a clear picture of that, you have to get way down to the level of specific areas, and into specific sub-groups of herds, that on paper, have “surplus” numbers, beyond Game and Fish objectives — but for the entire herd — not all its component sub-groups.

    • avatar louise kane says:

      Hal there is something terribly wrong and tragic when there are 105,000 of one species (elk) in a state and 300+ on another species(wolves) and the intent is to kill as many of that species under the guise of protection for the species that numbers over 100,000.

  6. avatar CodyCoyote says:

    Oh by the way …regarding the pending Wolf hunts in Wyoming and the 20 percent above objective populations of Elk—including overpopulated Elk herds in areas with continual wolf presence such as my back yard around Cody — the Wyp G&F is now allowing hunters to buy up to two additional Elk licenses beginning thins year.

    ( quote) ” Effective immediately, resident and nonresident Wyoming elk hunters can now have up to three elk licenses in select elk hunt areas across the state. In addition to purchasing one full price elk license and one reduced price cow/calf elk license or two reduced price cow/calf elk licenses this season, hunters – residents or nonresidents – can now buy a third elk license provided that it is a reduced price cow/calf elk license and is issued for one of the following elk hunt areas: 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 34, 47, 48, 49, 61, 63, 64, 66, 92, 93, 94, 104, 108, 114, 122, 125, or 129.” ( endquote)

    Note: Areas 5-6-8-10-12 are all along the southern border with Colorado and have no significant wolf numbers. All the other elk areas where additional licenses are available are in range of Wyoming wolves.

    One thing I will tell you about Wyoming’s unblanced Elk herds and the overpopulation factor: regulated sport hunting of Elk has not been nearly as effective at ” conserving” Elk as defined by achieving Wyo G&F objectives as we have been led to believe or want to believe , in the face of the facts, with or without wolves being present yearround.

    There are still plenty of elk for man and beast in Wyoming. If Wyo G&F was really truely serious about getting elk numbers down to objective, they should utilize the services of a professional hunter: Canis lupus . At least to the extent of not culling wolves so severely when they are the best game management tool available, and work for free ***.

    —-

    * Nearly all the cattle and sheep lost to wolves in recent years could have been saved if their owners were more protective of their livestock 24/7. Not asking for anything unreasonable here, just some cowboying and basic predator dissuasion craft well known to us all but hardly ever implemented.

    • avatar louise kane says:

      Thank you Cody Coyote, there is simply nothing good, humane or fair about Wyoming’s plan or the other state plans for that matter.

    • avatar Salle says:

      Cody,

      * = That’s what I’ve been saying for years if not over a decade.

      Thanks for saying it yet again.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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