Predator board declines private aerial hunting

© 2017-Sublette Examiner

SUBLETTE COUNTY – 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.

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

Wyoming Game and Fish 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 the federal 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, referring to the USDA’s predator control agency. “That’s one of the reasons I called this meeting was to discuss this.”

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/pilot permits. In general, aerial hunting of any wildlife is prohibited without special permits.

“There is an application turned in in 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 on if we don’t want to sign (gunner/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 was 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 set of liabilities, permits and insurance “so they already have that infrastructure in place.”

“So 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/pilot team would remain property of the board to sell at auction.

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

Urbigkit replied, “Wait – 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.

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