Wyoming Wolf Population: Minimum of 306
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
April 8, 2014
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department reports that at the end of 2013, the gray wolf population in Wyoming remained above minimum delisting criteria, making 2013 the 12th consecutive year Wyoming has exceeded the numerical, distributional, and temporal delisting criteria established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The WYO end of year wolf population increased 7% from 2012 to 2013 and remained above the minimum delisting criterion of at least 100 wolves.
At least 306 wolves in >43 packs (including >23 breeding pairs) inhabited Wyoming at the end of 2013. Of the total, there were:
>95 wolves and >11 packs (including >8 breeding pairs) inside Yellowstone,
>12 wolves and >2 packs (>0 breeding pairs) in the Wind River Reservation,
>199 wolves and >30 packs (including >15 breeding pairs) in WYO.
The state of Wyoming is responsible for maintaining ¡Ý100 wolves and >10 breeding pairs in WYO. While the state does not have management authority over wolves in all areas in WYO such as Grand Teton and National Elk Refuge, these areas are small and the majority of wolf packs are shared among these jurisdictions and are, therefore, assigned to WYO. Yellowstone, in combination with the Wind River Reservation, is expected to contribute the remaining buffer of >50 wolves and >5 breeding pairs necessary to meet the >150 wolf and >15 breeding pair requirement.
A total of 109 wolf mortalities were documented statewide in Wyoming in 2013
(101 in WYO, 7 in Yellowstone, and 1 in the Wind River Reservation).
Causes of mortality included:
human-caused = 99 (91%; control = 33, hunting = 62, vehicles = 2, illegal = 2);
natural = 8 (7%); and
unknown = 2 (2%).
The total mortality rate for wolves in Wyoming in 2013 was 26% (109 known wolf mortalities compared to 415 wolves known to have been alive in 2013).
A total of $876,552.66 was spent to monitor and manage wolves, not including livestock depredation compensation, in Wyoming by all jurisdictions combined (WGFD = $541,594.86; Yellowstone = $193,000.00; Grand Teton = $60,000.00, Wildlife Services = $60,957.80; USFWS Lander Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office on the Wind River Reservation = $18,000.00; Tribal Fish and Game = $3,000.00).
In 2013, WGFD instituted a wolf hunting season with the biological objective to
reduce the wolf population by approximately 5% in the trophy game area and to
provide recreational hunting opportunity to Wyoming sportsmen. Wolf harvest
was focused primarily in areas with high levels of historic wolf-livestock conflict
and/or areas with relatively high wolf densities in an attempt to reduce livestock
damage and excessive predation on ungulate herds. A total of 23 wolves were legally harvested and 1 wolf was illegally killed during the hunting season. Wolves could also be taken anytime in any legal manner in WYO where they are designated as predatory animals. Thirty-nine wolves were taken under predatory animal status in 2013.
Implementation of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission wolf hunting strategy in 2013 did not reduce the wolf population in the trophy game area as intended (5% increase vs. 5% predicted decline) with a population of >179 wolves at the end of 2013.
Wolves were confirmed to have killed 75 head of livestock (41 cattle, 33 sheep, and 1 goat) and 1 dog in Wyoming in 2013. An additional 6 cattle, 2 sheep, 1 horse, 1 bison, and 1 dog were injured by wolves, but survived.
Sixteen packs (48% of 33 packs in Wyoming outside Yellowstone) were involved in >1 depredation in 2013. Of the 16 packs involved in >1 depredation; 9 packs (56%; 27% of packs in Wyoming outside Yellowstone) were involved in >2 depredations; and 6 packs (38%; 18% of packs in Wyoming outside Yellowstone) were involved in >3 depredations.
Control efforts lethally removed 33 depredating wolves in an effort to reduce livestock losses due to wolves (11% of the wolf population in WYO known to be alive during 2013).
A combined minimum of $157,195.60 was spent on wolf damage management in WYO by Wildlife Services ($60,957.80) and livestock depredation compensation by the State of Wyoming ($96,237.76) in 2013.
The report notes that: 30 percent of confirmed cattle depredations were on public land and 70% were on private property. Although the report states that:
"All confirmed sheep depredations in 2013 occurred on public land," this statement is not accurate. In reality, 21% of confirmed sheep depredations were attributed to the Prospect Pack, which killed sheep on private lands ¨C not public lands. With this in mind, the report's estimate that 61% of all confirmed wolf depredations were on public land and 39% of all depredations were on private land, should be corrected to reflect the reality that 51% of all livestock depredations occurred on public land, and 49% occurred on private land.
Harvest of wolves designated as predatory animals "successfully limited wolf numbers in areas exemplified by low habitat suitability, low re-colonization potential and historically high wolf- livestock conflicts." The slight increase in the number of wolves counted in the predatory animal areas is likely the result of wolves dispersing from the trophy game area in response to the increased population in that area in 2013. "The wolf population, and potential livestock damage, in the predatory animal areas would have been significantly greater without wolf hunting under predatory animal status."
Sixty-one wolves were captured and radio-collared in 2013. Seventy-one radio-collared wolves were being monitored at the end of 2013 in Wyoming (23% of the year-end population). A total of $876,552.66 was spent to monitor and manage wolves, not including livestock depredation compensation, in Wyoming by all jurisdictions combined.