Mead signs bill aimed a ending wolf protections

Mar 8, 2012 The Associated Press

CHEYENNE (AP) -- Gov. Matt Mead has signed a bill aimed at ending federal protections for wolves in Wyoming.

The new law signed Wednesday allows trophy hunting for wolves in a flexible zone around Yellowstone National Park beginning this fall, while classifying wolves as predators that could be shot on sight in the rest of the state.

It's a critical step toward ratifying the agreement the governor reached with the federal government last year over how to end Endangered Species Act protections for the animals.

Uncertainty remains over possible legal challenges to Wyoming's wolf management plan.

Many hunters and ranchers in the state worry that a large wolf population poses an unacceptable threat to other wildlife and livestock.

The wolf population in the Northern Rockies rose in 2011 despite the removal of federal protections and hunts held in Montana and Idaho, federal wildlife officials said Wednesday.

The animal's numbers rose by more than 7 percent to 1,774 wolves, as state officials look for more ways to reduce the population under pressure from hunters and ranchers who blame the predators for livestock and big-game losses.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services officials said the population estimates show that Montana and Idaho have done a good job in their first year of managing the species since Congress removed federal protections in May 2011.

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