Wyoming Game & Fish – 21st year of wolf recovery
Courtesy images The box above shows Game and Fish’s proposed gray-wolf hunting quotas for 2023. The 2022 Wyoming Gray Wolf Report shows hunting success by month and year.
State has 338 wolves; TGMA quota of 40 proposed
SUBLETTE COUNTY – Wyoming Game and Fish posted its Wyoming Gray Wolf Monitoring and Management 2022 Annual Report on Friday, shortly before announcing its proposed trophy-game wolf-hunting quotas for this fall.
At least 338 wolves with 23 confirmed breeding pairs in at least 41 packs roamed all of Wyoming as of Dec. 31, 2022, the report says.
The gray wolf report, compiled by Pinedale biologist Kenneth Mills, annually covers the state’s reintroduced gray wolf population and status from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31 of the preceding year.
The 39-page report posted April 26 includes graphs, maps and charts to provide information related to each aspect of wolf recovery and management.
Early this week, Game and Fish released its proposed draft 2023 proposed gray-wolf hunting quotas for 40 wolves total within the agency’s trophy-game management area (TGMA). For 2022, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved a total quota of 47-game wolves; hunters took only 31 with only two hunt areas’ quotas filled before the Jan. 1 closure as outlined in Chapter 47.
Game and Fish plans a public meeting on Thursday, May 11, at 6 p.m. at the Pinedale Region Office, 432 Mill St. for questions and comments on the draft wolf regulation and other draft regulations posted online for comment through June 2 at https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Get-Involved.
Inside and outside Yellowstone
State-managed gray wolves, a small part of the larger Northern Rockies population, were delisted from the Endangered Species Act in 2017 after numerous legal challenges.
Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation wolves are managed by National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the annual report breaks down these animals’ status and monitoring.
Yellowstone counted at least 108 gray wolves at year’s end, with an estimated seven breeding pairs and 10 packs. The reservation had at least 18 wolves and three packs with two known breeding pairs.
A “known breeding pair” is defined as a male and female with two pups surviving to the end of the year.
Next, Game and Fish follows its FWS-approved state management plan in the TGMA outside Yellowstone’s south and east borders, as habitat designated as most suitable for gray wolf recovery and now, where population objectives can be maintained.
“The Wyoming Game and Fish wolf management objective is to maintain a recovered wolf population in the TGMA while balancing the need to minimize wolf conflicts with livestock and maintain wild ungulate herds,” the report says. “(The plan) also seeks to incorporate public hunting opportunity into its wolf population management strategy.”
“The number of wolves in individual packs and the number of lone, dispersing wolves was estimated at the end of the year by counting wolves during telemetry flights and capture operations, observations by or confirmed by qualified agency personnel, or pictures of known packs taken with remote cameras,” it says. “Only observations obtained by agency personnel from December 2022 through March 2023 were included to ensure they were reflective of the minimum number of wolves present on Dec. 31, 2022.”
Large-carnivore biologists aim for at least 160 gray wolves in the TGMA, setting quotas after seasonal monitoring collared animals and modeling for anticipated mortalities other than hunting – most human-caused and fewer “natural.”
Beyond the trophy-game zone, wolves enter Wyoming’s predator zone, where their takes are not limited but must be reported to Game and Fish. At least 49 wolves in five packs with two breeding pairs were confirmed to live in the state’s predator area at the end of 2022.
With more wolves pushing at the TGMA’s invisible boundaries, last year’s livestock predations in the Upper Green and Hoback river basins continued and conflicts notably impacted ranchers in southern Sublette County.
Wolves killed or injured 46 cattle, 46 sheep and five horses across Wyoming last year and Game and Fish, USDA Wildlife Services and some owners with “lethal-take” permits took out a total of 21 wolves, 15 in the TGMA and six in the predator zone.
Of 53 known total mortalities last year, 31 wolves were taken by hunters, 15 in livestock conflict control, one capture-related mortality, one illegal kill and one wounded by a hunter. Two wolves were killed by other wolves, one by a mountain lion and one in an avalanche. This is lower than the average 71 mortalities from 2012 through 2022, according to the report.