From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 50 - March 11, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Wolf numbers up, rule proposed for other states

by Cat Urbigkit

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed its annual report for 2003 for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. The agency reported at the end of 2003, there were 368 wolves in the Central Idaho area, 301 in the Yellowstone region and 92 in northwestern Montana. Of these numbers, there were 345 in Idaho, 234 in Wyoming and 182 in Montana. There were 51 breeding pair of wolves in the Northern Rockies, FWS reported, making 2003 the fourth year in which 30 or more breeding pairs were documented in the tri-state area, meeting the recovery criteria.

Thirty-one of 94 known wolf packs were involved in livestock depredations, the federal wildlife agency reported, with the result being the killing of 59 wolves in the three states.

At the end of 2003, at least 174 wolves in 14 packs occupied Yellowstone National Park, a 17-percent increase from the year before. Thirteen of these packs counted toward the breeding pair objective for the Yellowstone recovery area.

FWS estimated that at least 76-88 wolves inhabited western Wyoming outside Yellowstone National Park in 2003, a 19-percent population increase from the year before. By the end of the year, Wyoming had a grand total of 16 breeding pairs of wolves, with 11 of those pairs in the national park and five located outside the park. Although the wolf population has recovered, FWS refuses to move forward with removing the animals from the list of federally protected species until Wyoming develops a management plan the federal agency deems acceptable. FWS has declared that "Wyoming must designate wolves as trophy game statewide so the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has legal authority to manage them, and Wyoming must clearly commit to managing for 15 or more well-distributed packs."

In other wolf news, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton announced a proposal she claims will give Idaho and Montana more authority to manage wolf populations in their states, consistent with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act.

"Wolf populations now far exceed their recovery goals under the act in the northern Rocky Mountains, and Idaho and Montana have both crafted responsible wolf management plans for their states," Norton said. "Although we are unable at this time to continue with the process to de-list the wolf population in the region because we do not have approved plans for all three states, we believe that it is appropriate for us to pursue as much local management for this recovered wolf population as we can."

The FWS proposal recognizes that both Montana and Idaho have developed wolf management plans that have been approved by FWS. Under the proposal, landowners would be able to take additional steps to protect their livestock and pets from attacks by problem wolves, and the state would be able to issue permits to allow landowners to control wolves that consistently pose a threat to domestic animals.

Under the proposal, Idaho and Montana could take wolves determined to be causing unacceptable impacts to elk and deer populations. In addition, the states could petition FWS to take over the lead role in managing and conserving wolves within their states.

The proposed changes would only have effect in the experimental population areas established in Montana and Idaho when wolves were reintroduced. It would have no effect in Wyoming because that state does not have an approved wolf management plan. The proposal also would not apply to wolf populations in the Great Lakes region or in the southwestern United States.

The proposal would not allow public hunting of wolves, which is prohibited under the Endangered Species Act for threatened and endangered species.

Among other things, the proposed regulations would provide that:

Wolves attacking livestock, livestock herding and guarding animals and pets on private land could be taken without a permit if they are attacking or about to attack such animals. A permit would be required for such take on public lands.

Wolves determined to be causing unacceptable impacts to wildlife populations, such as herds of deer and elk, could also be taken. This could be allowed when such populations are not meeting state management goals and are unlikely to rebound because of excessive predation by wolves.

The proposed regulations will be published in the Federal Register. The public will have an opportunity to comment on them for 60 days following publication.

Comments should be directed to: FWS, Western Gray Wolf Recovery Coordinator, 100 North Park, Number 320, Helena, Mont., 59601 or westerngraywolf@fws.gov.

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