From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 3 - April 10, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Sublette County Is Hub Of Wolf Kills
G&F: 10 reported were all here
by Joy Ufford

Hunters have 10 days to report a wolf kill in the new predator management area and it takes for information to reach the top. As of Tuesday, Wyoming Game and Fish (G&F) had 10 confirmed predator kills, the same number as in their Friday weekly report.

So far, all are in Sublette County.

G&F took over management of the state’s gray wolves March 28 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) formally released the Northern Rocky Mountain population from its Endangered Species List.

Beside the four wolves taken on “opening day” on March 28, G&F has issued “kill” or “lethal take permits” after livestock depredations occurred in the county and on the South Fork of the Shoshone, according to Eric Keszler, G&F spokesman.

A lethal take permit for four wolves was issued (for the trophy game area)was actually carried out in the predator area by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services Monday on a Sublette ranch very close to the boundary between the two zones, Keszler confirmed Tuesday. He declined to say any more than the kills were in the “Pinedale area” because he is unfamiliar with the location.

“We have a cooperative agreement (with USDA Wildlife Services) where if we need some wolves removed we can use them to do it, ”Keszler said."

Cat Urbigkit of the Sublette County Predator Board reported on PinedaleOnline the location the Cora/Pinedale area and said “the control effort was in response to livestock predation on the ranch, in which four calves have been killed and the wolves continued to return to the calving pastures during the night since at least last Thursday.”

G&F also issued kill permits outside the county in the previous week for a total of six wolves in the trophy game area, for four on the Shoshone’s South Fork“ due to problems with wolves harassing (a landowner’s) cattle” and two near Dubois where “there has been a confirmed wolf depredation of cattle on this ranch,” states the G&F weekly wolf report.

Keszler said reports of two predator wolf kills near South Pass weren’t confirmed as of Tuesday. In Sublette County, there is another unconfirmed report of a predator wolf killed within the last several days.

Cause for concern?

There are differing perspectives as to whether killing 10 or more predator wolves negatively affects the population needed to maintain the gray wolf’s delisted status.

Ed Bangs, FWS Gray Wolf Recovery director, said this week there aren’t that many wolves in the state’s predator area.

“We estimate there are only about 30 wolves outside of the trophy game area in Wyoming,” he said. “The predatory animal area doesn't have much suitable wolf habitat in it and wolves there are typically removed by agency lethal control because of chronic livestock depredations. “So removal of those wolves by private citizens reduces future livestock depredations, the need for future agency control actions and reduces agency costs – and doesn't impact the overall status of the Wyoming portion of the (Northern Rocky Mountains’) wolf population.”

Keszler agreed with Bangs’ estimate of about 30 predator wolves (minus the 10 or so already confirmed killed).

“I’d say that’s pretty close,” he said.

He also said G&F isn’t concerned about the predator-wolf hunting because it was anticipated and the habitat “ in that part of the state” generally isn’t suitable for wolves.

“Long-term, there have been a lot more than 10 wolves killed in that area (due to livestock depredation) before (delisting),” he said. “It’s just the reality of wolf management in this kind of landscape.”

Bangs said FWS also anticipated losses to predator hunting when the state took over. “I think by the end of summer there will be very few wolves left in the predatory animal area, as we predicted, as is normal, because most get into trouble anyway and in the past were removed by agency control,” he said.

“I'm not sure how many hunters were out there but my experience has been that wolves are very vulnerable to being located, closely approached and shot in those open agricultural habitats, like those in the portion of Wyoming designated (for) predatory animals. ... We fully anticipated the effect of predatory animal status in Wyoming,” he said. “I anticipate (and we stated so in the delisting rule) that very few wolf packs and probably no breeding pairs will occupy those types of areas in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho because of high levels of human caused mortality.”

Conservation groups and people against wolf killing air concerns not just about the number of kills but that they are occurring quickly – and in Sublette County.

One letter to the editor this week (page 5) states, “I will not visit your community, bringing invaluable tourist money to your towns, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one, and when the lawsuit is brought against the feds on April 28 your community will have a negative light shed on it.”

When the lawsuit is brought

Earthjustice represents 11 conservation groups including the Jackson Hole Alliance in suits against the FWS’ new 10(j) rule and delisting rule. Earthjustice filed against the 10(j) rule under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and also gave 60-day notice in late February it would file against wolf delisting under the ESA, according to attorney Jenny Harbine.

“We have an existing lawsuit challenging the 10j rule,” Harbine said Wednesday. “This rule governs wolf management ... in the event that delisting is enjoined,” she said previously. “In other words, this rule would allow Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to kill all but 600 wolves in the northern Rockies even if a federal court judge determines that delisting is unlawful.

Earthjustice will file its claims challenging delisting on April 28, the day the 60-day notice period of intent to sue under the ESA expires, she said.

“The claims will proceed simultaneously,” Harbine said. “The 10j rule is not currently in effect because it was superseded by delisting when delisting took effect on March 28. However, the 10j rule would spring back to life if we were successful in obtaining an injunction of the delisting rule. Thus, it's important that we pursue our challenges to both rules in parallel.”

Bangs is also preparing for the courtroom.

“I'm working pretty much non-stop on just (getting) the administrative record together for the coming litigation,” he said Tuesday. “I expect the litigation to be filed April 28 and they'll probably ask for an preliminary injunction then too, to keep federal management while the case works its way through the legal system. No idea where they will file yet. Of course I think we have a very strong case on both: no need for an injunction given the State's management plans and commitments and the biology is rock-solid on the overall merits of the delisting case.”

Harbine said the court wouldn’t automatically issue an injunction when Earthjustice files suit.

“We need to demonstrate to the court that delisting causes irreparable harm to wolves and that we are likely to succeed on the merits of claims,” she said.

Bangs said “symbolically” the wolf issue is “a huge target and source of controversy but the biology/science part will be just fine as wolf recovery is clearly secure in the suitable wolf habitat.”

Hunting season

G&F will introduce the topic of trophy game wolf hunting seasons at public meetings this spring, according to Keszler.

“We’re focused on maintaining the population of wolves in the trophy game area,” he said.

“It will be very conservative hunting to start with. We will have public meetings to get input on those probably in May but we don’t have dates set.”

For the G&F weekly wolf report and other wolf information, visit the Web site at: or call the G&F Wolf Information Line at 307-777-4655.

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