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Wolf hunt likely this year

Apr 27, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department expects to open a wolf hunting season this year after a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals finalized a decision this week to restore management of the gray wolf back to the state.

A mandate was issued Tuesday after environmental groups declined to appeal the March 3 ruling. The mandate restores management to the state immediately, meaning that, outside of the "Trophy Game Management Area" zone, wolves are considered a predator and can be shot on sight.

Wolf killings are required to be "checked in" to Game and Fish within 10 days, and wolf hunting is still restricted in most of the northwestern part of the state, where the bulk of suitable wolf habitat is located.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is expected to file notice in the Federal Register in the coming days.

Hunting season

Game and Fish spokesman Renny McKay said the state plans to hold public hearings on a proposed hunting season this summer.

To re-establish a hunting season, Game and Fish will use current population estimates to develop hunt area quotas.

McKay said Game and Fish will manage wolves as previously established by the commission-approved wolf management plan.

Expertise

After the wolf was delisted from protections provided by the Endangered Species Act in 2012, district court judge Amy Jackson ordered the federal protections to be reinstated in 2014, saying that Wyoming's management plan -- which did not require a minimum population -- was insufficient.

In reversing the decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals deferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's expertise that the entire state should not be considered part of the wolf's recovery range.

Sen. Mike Enzi said applauded the decision, thanking "all those who have worked so hard with stakeholders and the federal government over the years to create an effective and balanced wolf management plan."

"It is Wyoming wildlife managers who know best how to manage Wyoming's wildlife," he said.

Gov. Matt Mead also praised the final order, crediting former Interior Secretaries Ken Salazar and Sally Jewell, as well as former Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe, for helping to usher in the delisting.

Ken Hamilton, vice president of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, said he was pleased that "after a long and torturous trek ... the legal wrangling for wolf management has concluded."

"Wyoming met its commitment for wolf recovery in 2003," he said. "Almost a decade and a half later, we can now manage wolves as outlined by the wolf recovery plan."

Wolf depredation in Wyoming hit a record in 2016. The animals have continued to pose problems for ranchers near both Lander and Dubois.

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