Pinedale Online!

Pinedale on the Web!
Pinedale, Wyoming

Home | Calendar of Events | Photo Gallery | Local Businesses |

Pinedale Online > News > March 2017 > Wolves still protected, for now

WolfZones. Photo by WG&F.
Map of Wyoming's trophy game area for wolves.
Wolves still protected, for now
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
March 6, 2017

Although a federal appeals court has affirmed the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decision to remove federal protections from wolves in Wyoming, that ruling is not anticipated to change wolf management in the state until April 17th at the earliest. Friday’s decision provides for murky legal waters as to the next step in turning the federal wolf program over to state officials.

The court decision affirmed the FWS 2012 rule delisting wolves in Wyoming, but federal appeals court rules provide for a 45-day window to allow a "petition for a panel rehearing" which would then be acted upon by the court. Seeming to err on the side of caution, federal wildlife officials appear to be using that time frame to work with state officials in preparing to hand over wolf management to the state.

On Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling in Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. Zinke, et al., reversing a lower court decision that had restored Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming. The lawsuit involved a challenge by a coalition of environmental groups to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2012 decision to strip ESA protections from Wyoming wolves. Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso issued a press release expressing disappointment at Friday’s decision, but noted lawyers are still "evaluating" the decision. Although the environmental groups lost on all three major points of the lawsuit, it is these groups that would be expected to file for the panel rehearing, if one is requested.

Wyoming’s plan for managing wolves provides that the animals are treated as a trophy game animal in the northwestern portion of the state where most of the wolf population currently lives, and an unprotected predator in the remainder of the state. The Wyoming Game & Fish Department will need time to develop regulations for hunting wolves in the trophy game area, but outside of that area in the area known as the predator zone, wolves are not under any official management program or authority, given they have the same status as coyotes in this predator zone.

Calls to both state and federal officials shed little light on the current legal status of wolves in the predator zone, since the court decision "affirmed" the rule authorizing delisting but did not offer a timeline of how or when the court’s opinion would take effect. Officials urge caution, and hopefully further guidance will be offered in a few days.

A press release from the Wyoming Game & Fish stated, "At this time Game and Fish would direct people to the status quo for wolves and that as of Friday, March 3, 2017 the take of wolves in Wyoming remains suspended. "

Tyler Abbott of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said in an interview Monday that livestock producers suspecting wolf damage on livestock anywhere in Wyoming should call Abbott directly at 307-286-7242, or their local USDA Wildlife Services office for assistance. In western Wyoming, Wildlife Services can be contacted at 307-362-7238 or 307-320-5109.

Pinedale Online will post more information as details become available.

Related Links
  • Wolf Watch - by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
  • Pinedale Online > News > March 2017 > Wolves still protected, for now

    Pinedale Online!
    Pinedale Online! PO Box 2250, Pinedale, WY 82941
    Phone: (307) 360-7689 , Fax: (307) 367-2864

    Office Outlet in Pinedale, 43 S. Sublette

    Copyright © 2017 Pinedale Online. All rights reserved.
    Pictures and content cannot be used in whole or part without permission.