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Wolf hunt scrutiny

Oct 23, 2013 - By Steven R. Peck

It probably will be years before a consistent hunting season is established

The second season of legal wolf hunting in Wyoming is getting close scrutiny from all sides.

A clear, if somewhat unexpected, realization is that hunting wolves in the state is relatively easy to do so far. The maximum wolf quotas in several hunt areas have been filled quickly. The season is open until the end of the year, but many hunt areas were bagged out on wolves by mid-October, just days after the season opened.

Partly that's because the quotas have been cut in half this year. It follows that taking five wolves in a hunt area instead of 10 would lead to a faster quota fill.

Whether it also has to do with how the wolves are responding to being hunted will be an interesting subject of study -- and, set assured, it will be studied inside and out.

Wolves are famously -- or infamously -- adaptive, smart and resourceful creatures. If a sense develops among packs that something out of the ordinary is going on, then some say it's possible that they will learn to linger inside the no-hunt area during hunting season -- Yellowstone National Park, essentially -- and not show their faces so much in areas where they can be shot.

That certainly hasn't happened so far, however. Perhaps owing to the confidence that only a top-of-the-food-chain predator has, the wolves have been easy to find and kill by hunters.

If there is one prediction that can be made about hunting wolves in Wyoming, it might be this: Don't get comfortable. It took more than 15 years for a hunting season to be permitted at all following wolf reintroduction. It took just one year for the quota to be sliced in half. It took just a week or so for that quota to be filled in many areas.

What might next year bring? It will depend on the kind of winter the wolves have, how much livestock they attack, how the political winds blow and shift, how insistent new courtroom challenges are, and ... what? With wolves, humans and their interactions, history demonstrates that one never knows. Whatever happens, it will continue to take place under a microscope.

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MAIL SUBSCRIBERS: Tuesday's edition of The Ranger was delivered to the Riverton post office by 3:30 p.m., in time to meet the postal deadline for next-day mail delivery.

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