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For a moment, I wanted to shoot a wolf

Sep 12, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk

I was surprised by my reaction last week when I learned that, beginning Sept. 30, gray wolves in Wyoming will no longer be protected by the Endangered Species Act.

I was reading an article by Bob Moen of The Associated Press, who described the new Wyoming wolf management plan that will replace the former federal protection. According to Moen, on Oct. 1 gray wolves will be classified as predators in 90 percent of Wyoming, and they will be "subject to being killed anytime by anyone."

Of all of the emotional responses I could have had to that phrase, my first, excited thought was, "That means I could kill a wolf!" And I kind of wanted to.

Let me explain why my reaction was surprising. First, I have never killed an animal, and I have never felt the desire to kill an animal.

On the contrary, I tend to burst into annoying squeals of, "Oh how cute!" and, "That's so precious!" whenever something furry comes into my line of vision.

When I moved to Wyoming, I likely would have been on the side of the environmental groups that are now threatening to challenge the legality of the state's management plan.

I remember being shocked four years ago to hear that anyone would want to take wolves off of the endangered species list.

Of course, at that point I had spent my life in the more urban and liberal environments of Minnesota and Chicago. Since my move to the rural West, I have heard the arguments for delisting, and my attitude toward the Wyoming wolf saga has changed to one of indignation that any rancher should be forced to sacrifice his or her livestock in order to protect a wolf.

I do wonder, though, how many other people shared my reaction to this delisting news.

I've never even hunted before -- what about all of the Wyoming sportsmen and women who have been aching to bag a trophy wolf for decades?

Are ranchers eagerly anticipating Oct. 1, when they can once again use lethal force to guard their livestock against gray wolves?

Or are they more like Bryce Reece, executive vice president of the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, who said his members "aren't in any big rush to get there to try to kill a wolf"?

I guess we'll see what happens next month. And we'll have to watch for legal moves from groups like Defenders of Wildlife, a nonprofit environmental protection organization whose website displays urgent pleas to help save the Wyoming wolf "before it's too late."

The defenders must not have much faith in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has pledged to continue monitoring the de-listed wolf populations in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana for at least five years to make sure re-listing is not necessary.

According to the USFWS, Wyoming will maintain at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs within the state, just like Montana and Idaho do.

Moen writes that there are currently about 270 wolves in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone, and although Wyoming is prepared to issue unlimited hunting licenses in October, officials will call a halt after hunters kill 52 wolves.

That leaves the population at 218 -- well above the minimum 150 required by the state's wolf management plan.

So which lucky hunters will nab one of the first 52 state hunting licenses for wolves?

I'll be glad when the population of predator animals is smaller, but I know I won't be included in the hunt -- despite my reaction, I still don't think I would ever shoot an animal.

But after last week, I can't say I've never wanted to.

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