‘Wolf delisting long overdue’ says Wyoming
Responds to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s refusal to delist wolves
by Wyoming Game & Fish
October 3, 2006
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has responded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's recent denial of Wyoming's petition to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in the Northern Rocky Mountains.
In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Regional Director Mitch King, Game and Fish Department Director Terry Cleveland said the service's analysis of Wyoming's petition is "flawed in various aspects and is lacking depth and understanding of several issues brought forth in Wyoming's petition."
The Game and Fish's entire response to the federal agency's denial can be found on the department's web site at http://gf.state.wy.us.
The denial of Wyoming's petition is based on disagreements about the urgency of the need to delist wolves in Wyoming and the adequacy of Wyoming's proposed plan to maintain wolves above distribution and recovery goals.
The wolf population in Wyoming continues to grow by about 20 percent per year. Based on the most recent counts, there were 309 wolves in Wyoming in 31 packs, including at least 24 potential breeding pairs - more than three times the original recovery goal for the entire Greater Yellowstone Area, which also includes portions of Idaho and Montana. There are more than 1,200 wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain population - more than four times the original recovery goal.
Biologists estimate that approximately 22 ungulates (mostly elk) per wolf are lost each year to wolf predation. Since 2003, an average of 69 cattle have been killed by wolves annually in Wyoming. These are confirmed wolf kills only, and recent research has found that as few as 25 percent of livestock depredations are actually discovered.
"Given the rapid recovery of wolves and their effects on Wyoming's wildlife and livestock, delisting is long overdue," said Cleveland. "Wyoming's plan will work. But the service is delaying the delisting process by selectively using data and references that seem to support its case while ignoring other data and the preponderance of evidence that Wyoming's plan will ensure a recovered population of wolves. Overall, their rebuttal of Wyoming's wolf plan is highly flawed based on unrealistic assumptions, misinterpretation of data, misrepresentation of Wyoming's wolf plan under Wyoming Statute and hypothetical examples that are infeasible or highly unrealistic under Wyoming's management plan."
Wolves were reintroduced from Canada into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. Wolf numbers first reached the criteria for a recovered population in 2000.
Before the Northern Rocky Mountain population of wolves can be removed from the Endangered Species List, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must approve wolf management plans developed by Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The service has approved plans developed by Idaho and Montana but has rejected Wyoming's.
In July of 2005, Wyoming filed a petition to remove wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains from the Endangered Species List. In August of 2006, the service denied that petition.
Wyoming plans to file litigation in federal court in early October to seek a ruling that Wyoming's wolf management plan constitutes an adequate regulatory mechanism, and an order directing the service to proceed with delisting the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains.