May 2, 2012
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is moving forward with removing the Wyoming gray wolf population from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife following the state of Wyoming’s approval of a wolf management plan and regulatory framework.
The move was criticized by the Center for Biological Diversity, which fears a large-scale wolf kill across the state once the wolf is delisted. “Wyoming’s wolf-management plan is a recipe for wolf slaughter that will only serve to incite more of the prejudice against wolves that led to their destruction in the first place,” said CBD’s Michael Robinson. “Removal of federal protections for wolves has been a disaster in Idaho and Montana and will be even worse in Wyoming.”
Once Wyoming’s plan is finalized, USFWS noted the following actions would be triggered:
- The gray wolf would be delisted in Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act
- The wolves’ nonessential experimental population designation would be removed
- Future management for gray wolves would be conducted by the appropriate state, tribal or federal wildlife managers
To reach this stage, the state of Wyoming completed four documents clarifying its approach to wolf management after delisting, including:
- Revised state statutes
- Revised gray wolf management regulations (chapter 21)
- Revised gray wolf hunting season regulations (chapter 47)
- An addendum to the Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan
The USFWS said it reviewed these management documents and concluded that the revisions are consistent with the conditionally approved Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan.
“Wyoming’s recent approval of a revised state law, regulations and management plan amendment are important milestones in our cooperative effort to return management of this iconic species to the states,” said Steve Guertin, USFWS regional director. “These documents demonstrate a strong commitment to maintain the Wyoming wolf population well above minimal recovery levels after delisting. Responsible state management will ensure that this remarkable conservation success endures for future generations.”
Reduced population from 500 to 300 wolves
The agency believes Wyoming’s regulatory framework is likely to maintain a population of at least 10 breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. It expects the Greater Yellowstone Area wolf population to be gradually reduced from around 500 wolves toward a likely long-term average of around 300 wolves in portions of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Across the Greater Yellowstone Area, central Idaho and northwest Montana, the agency said, the gray wolf population is biologically recovered, with more than 1,774 wolves and 109 breeding pairs. This population has exceeded recovery goals for 10 consecutive years, fully occupies nearly all suitable habitat, and has high levels of genetic diversity, USFWS added.
Unlimited wolf kill outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton
While acknowledging that wolves would remain fully protected in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, CBD said that Wyoming’s plan would increase to 83 percent the portion of the state where wolves would be designated “predators” and could be killed without limit. The group said the plan would also keep in place a “trophy game management area” where hunting would dramatically reduce wolf populations from approximately 29 packs to around 10.
“Along with the killing of wolves in Idaho and Montana, which had their protection taken away last year through a back-door congressional rider, this planned persecution of wolves in Wyoming could be devastating to the beautiful animals’ survival in the northern Rocky Mountains,” said Robinson. “Killing most of Wyoming’s wolves will hurt wolves in Colorado too, where they’re only starting to return by way of Wyoming.”
Since wolf hunting and trapping seasons opened last fall, CBD said, 378 wolves have been killed in Idaho, which the group said has no cap on killing and several ongoing open seasons. An additional 166 wolves were killed in Montana, according to CBD.
The USFWS is accepting public comments about the proposed delisting of the gray wolf in Wyoming until May 16. More information about the USFWS comment period may be found on the U.S. federal rulemaking site at http://www.regulations.gov. In the search box, enter FWS-R6-ES-2011-0039, the docket number for this rulemaking.