WG&F approves wolf plan
by Wyoming Game and Fish Department
November 18, 2007
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission adopted a new wolf management plan for Wyoming. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Terry Cleveland said he hopes this plan will be accepted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and lead to the removal of wolves from the Endangered Species Act in the northern Rocky Mountains in 2008.
A draft version of the plan was reviewed by the commission at its September meeting, and that draft was available for public comment from Sept. 10 through Oct. 10. During that period, the Game and Fish held four public meetings around the state regarding the plan and received 352 individual public comments. The commission adopted the plan today with no changes.
"It's a priority of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the state of Wyoming to get wolves delisted," said Bill Williams, president of the commission. "Wolves are well beyond the goals set for a recovered population, and it's time to let the state assume management."
"Both the Wyoming legislature and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have established some very restrictive sideboards concerning what they will accept in a wolf management plan for Wyoming," said Williams. "This new plan works within those sideboards with very little room for any changes."
Many of the public comments regarding the wolf plan were not supportive of the plan as written. Cleveland said, "In these comments, we saw a tremendous diversity of opinions, from those who thought the trophy game area was too large to those who thought it was too small; from those who thought the minimum number of breeding pairs was too low to those who thought it was too high. We are confident that this plan strikes a critical balance between maintaining a recovered population of wolves in Wyoming and managing wolves in a way that makes sense for people who live, work, and recreate in areas inhabited by wolves."
Wyoming's new wolf plan includes several changes submitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last summer. Wolf plans in Idaho and Montana have already been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and an approved Wyoming plan should be one of the last elements necessary for the delisting of this population of wolves. Wyoming's original wolf plan was rejected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2004.
Under the new plan, after delisting the Game and Fish will assume management of wolves in that portion of the state where wolves will be classified as trophy game animals. In the remaining portions of the state, gray wolves will be classified as predatory animals.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that 15 breeding pairs of wolves will ensure Wyoming's share of a fully recovered population. Wyoming's draft plan commits the Game and Fish to maintaining at least seven breeding pairs of wolves located in the state and primarily outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway. The remaining breeding pairs will be located primarily within Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's original criteria for a recovered population of wolves in the Wyoming, Idaho and Montana portions of the northern Rocky Mountains is 30 breeding pairs and 300 individual wolves distributed among the three states. By the end of 2006 there were 173 wolf packs in this region, including 86 breeding pairs and 1,300 individual wolves.