SUBLETTE COUNTY – Wyoming Game and Fish is proposing some changes to the wolf-hunting seasons that start in October and a hunting mortality quota, or limit, of 58 wolves.
The state released the draft wolf-hunt regulations Friday, saying the gray wolf population is thriving well above minimum delisting requirements of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in the trophy-game area.
The Pinedale Game and Fish Office hosts a public meeting for questions and comments on May 16 at 6 p.m. and the deadline for written comments is June 4.
The draft also proposes redesigning the hunt-area boundaries, adding two new areas in the trophy-game zone, offering hunters two tags each and combining three hunt areas so hunters can follow roving packs in the Upper Green and Gros Ventre river basins.
Last year’s limit was 44 wolves.
Large carnivore biologist Ken Mills said Monday the Game and Fish is “committed” to a 50-percent population “buffer” above the minimum to ensure there are at least 160 wolves in the state outside.
“Our management plan is pretty clear,” he said on how hunting quotas are reached. “We’re going to incrementally reduce numbers in the trophy-game area to manage for numerical buffer above 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs.”
Wyoming’s 50-percent buffer is well above those selected by Idaho and Montana, which have a 20-percent and 25-buffers built in, respectively, he pointed out. Also, both of those states allow wolf trapping, which Wyoming does not.
Mills explained how the state agency selects the hunting-season mortality limit proposed for 58 wolves this year.
First, the longtime average annual loss of 23 percent by “non-hunting human causes” is subtracted from the population at the start of the year and that “leaves what’s left for hunting opportunities.”
“The data determines what we’re going to manage for,” Mills said. There’s nothing subjective about it.”
Game and Fish is proposing that each hunter can buy two tags beginning this fall. In comparison, both Idaho and Montana allow hunters to get totals of five tags for hunting or five for trapping.
“Few people take multiple wolves on multiples licenses and this provides folks the flexibility out there who are actually hunting,” Mills said.
Combining hunt areas 8,9 and 11 is another way Game and Fish wants to make it simple for hunters that encounter dynamic wolf packs in the Upper Green and Gros Ventre. Area 11 is a new one that connects with the other two.
“The way (those) packs are distributed now, it provides some flexibility,” he said.
These areas are more prone to wolves preying on wildlife and livestock and packs have moved around more recently.
moved into the Upper Green and killed at least two wolves and displaced the rest. “But they likely will still use the Gros Ventre and Upper Green.”
Opening up the larger hunt area to the public “opens up some flexibility” to reduce and manage the trophy wolves with the public hunting rather than Game and Fish removals, he added.
“We don’t want to be in the business of killing wolves.”
Game and Fish is planning meetings across the state to take comments on the proposals in the draft regulations by 5 p.m. on June 4
“Wolves are too fraught with pitfalls to not stick with the data,” Mills said. “You've got to stick with data if you’re going to stand up in front of a crowd.”
To read the proposals, visit https://wgfd. wyo.gov/Get-Involved/Public-Meetings and find Chapter 47 under the Wyoming Game and Fish Commissioners’ July 10-11 meeting, when they will vote on this year’s wolf hunt regulations.
Written comments also can be mailed to Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Regulations, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY 82604 or online at http://wgfd.wyo.gov. The Game and Fish Commission will review comments before the public hearing at the July meeting.
For example, the Lava Mountain pack 12 ALPINE 10 RIM 3 SOUTH FORK 4 GREYBULL 1 CLARKS FORK 2 NORTH FORK 5 WIND RIVER 6 PACIFIC CREEK 8 FISH CREEK 7 TARGHEE 11 GREEN RIVER 14 FREMONT LAKE 13 WHISKEY MOUNTAIN 9 CRYSTAL CREEK 8 FISH CREEKMONTANA IDAHO WYOMING PROPOSED WYOMING WOLF HUNT AREAS: 2018 ¯