Volume 7, Number 44 - January 24, 2008
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Wolf Meetings Draw Crowds
About 70 people at the Wyoming Game and Fish’s (G&F) wolf meeting Tuesday night discussed two draft regulations that define the gray wolf’s dual status (as predator or trophy game animal) and compensation for confirmed livestock kills.
About half were Sublette County ranch families who had just met with Wyoming Stock Growers Association’s (WSGA) Jim Magagna for a pre-meeting question-and answer session on how the draft rules could affect livestock operations.
Questions at both meetings centered around obtaining lethal-take permits, killing predator wolves, trapping and hunting seasons and funding – how G&F will pay for the $2 million-plus annual wolf program when wolves are delisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The wolf draft rules comment period runs through Feb.14. No comments were recorded at the G&F meeting.
Just over 30 people gathered at the Stockman’s and Magagna told them that G&F has “worked really hard to put together a set of regulations.” “We worked very closely with them,” he added.
It is important for the livestock industry to make a “strong showing” and comment in time to make a difference, Magagna said.
Several ranchers said that wolves have killed as many, if not more, cows than calves, but the compensation ratio for cows is “one to one” of its market value whereas for calves it is seven to one.
“That’s not fair,” rancher Jane Wardell said. “A lot of what we find of a calf – bear or wolf kills – there’s only a little bit of hide left. Maybe you can read a brand; maybe you can read an earmark. That’s about all.”
“Predator” wolves can be hunted like coyotes, Magagna said, but “if you kill a predator wolf you have to report it in 10 days” to G&F.
Several people said that once wolves learn there’s a “line” they can cross, they will congregate inside the trophy-game area where they can’t be easily taken.
After asking specific questions about definitions of pivotal words and funding, the group left for the G&F meeting.
“We appreciate working with people in Sublette County because you do show up and you are involved,” Magagna told them. “More than any county in the state you’re willing to step up to the plate for ranching issues.”
G&F Assistant Chief of Wildlife Division Bill Rudd faced a full house that focused heavily on how G&F will pay for wolf management, hunting seasons, a more definite wolf count, lethal-take permits and impacts on the state’s wild ungulate herds.
Hunting and trapping regulations will be looked at this spring to bring to the July G&F Commission meeting, he said. Rudd
also pointed out that the number of breeding pairs needed to keep the wolf delisted will need a cushion with “predator” breeding pairs because (due to open hunting) those numbers could vary quickly. Monitoring will give the G&F a more accurate count of the breeding-pairs’ status.
“Who’s paying for this,” asked outfitter Sam Coutts. “The responsibility will fall to the (G&F) Department,” Rudd replied.
When several commented that the “feds” brought wolves into Wyoming and should pay for them, Rudd agreed.
“We think that’s fair based on how wolves arrived in the state” but “realistically” G&F can’t expect federal agencies to pay for Wyoming’s wolf management, he said.
Regarding compensation for livestock kills, rancher Kevin Campbell asked, “Do you have that money? Do you have money allocated?” Rudd stated that G&F is requesting $2.6 million from the Wyoming Legislature for this biennium. “It’s our hope that will be approved,” he said. “We think it’s a fair request.”
If the state isn’t forthcoming, will funds come from license fees?
“Primarily, yes,” he replied.
“This thing is going to go to $4 million in a heartbeat,” Coutts said. “... It will be the death of the G&F. This is really really going to be ugly.”
Rudd said a new FWS 10-j rule (guiding interim management between state-plan approval and delisting) to be published in the Federal Register “within days.” It would then take effect in 30 days and the FWS delisting rule posted “within the next 40 days,” he estimated.
“The best-case scenario is delisting occurs,” he said. “The next best is the 10-j.” And yes, Rudd sees lawsuits on the horizon.
“I think there’s a large probability that federal delisting will be appealed.”
If delisting doesn’t occur by Feb. 28 a state “sunset provision” erases everything back to the beginning, he said.
To read or comment on the draft regulations, go to http://gf.state.wy.us/wildlife/GrayWolvesSurvey/index.
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