Volume 8, Number 9 - May 22, 2008
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Wolf News: State Refutes Suits’ Claims
The state of Wyoming has joined up with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) as a defendant in the wolf-delisting lawsuit filed April 28 by conservation groups and on Friday, challenged the groups’ claims gray wolves are still endangered.
The dozen groups, represented by Earthjustice, seek the wolves’ immediate relisting under the FWS Endangered Species Act with a hearing for a preliminary injunction set for May 29 before U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, Mont.
The state argued Friday that Wyoming’s and the Northern Rockies’ wolf populations are not at risk from “a moderate amount of human-caused mortality in any given year,” citing FWS lethal control actions in 2007 resulted in 63 wolves killed for livestock depredation – but the state population still grew from 311 to 359 wolves that year. The state also argued wolves are not in “peril” because over the last 14 years, the Northern Rockies’ population has grown an average of 24 percent each year even with 23 percent of that total population dying each year.
The conservation groups claim FWS needs to resume control of the wolves because Wyoming, Idaho and Montana state plans do not “ensure a sustainable wolf population in the region.”
“Since delisting, Wyoming has implemented its ‘kill on sight’ predator law in nearly 90 percent of the state,” they said on April 28.
G&F spokesman Eric Keszler responded by saying Wyoming has five times as many wolves as were called for in the original recovery plan. As for the most of the state being designated a predator area, G&F and FWS officials have stated perhaps only 30 wolves at delisting actually live in the predator area outside the northwest corner trophy-game area.
“In Wyoming’s case, 90 percent of our wolves are in the trophy game area where we have controls in place to limit mortality,” he said.
On or after the May 29 hearing if Judge Molloy orders the injunction against delisting sought by the groups, Northern Rockies’ wolf management presumably returns to the FWS. Before Wyoming agreed to take over wolf management, state law required FWS to rewrite its “10(j) rule” to offer citizens and agencies broader control over problem wolves. The trophy and predator designated areas would be suspended in that event.
Earthjustice has also filed a suit against the FWS’ final 10(j) rule.
Keszler reported May 15 that one female wolf was illegally found killed off the highway between Moran Junction and Togwotee Pass in Teton County, in what is designated as northwest Wyoming’s “trophy game” management area.
G&F is offering a reward of up to $3,000 for information about the kill.
On April 21, G&F personnel received a call about a wolf carcass found near Highway 26/287 in Buffalo Valley, east of Moran Junction and west of Togwotee Pass, according to Keszler.
“They found the female wolf carcass about 25 feet from the main highway, where it had apparently slid down an embankment,” he stated. “The cause of death was not apparent so the carcass was sent to the Game and Fish Laboratory in Laramie for further analysis. A necropsy found small traces of a bullet in the carcass and wounds suggesting the animal had been shot at least once.”
Conviction could yield a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to a year in jail.
“Compliance with state laws related to wolves is an important component of successful wolf management in Wyoming,” said Wyoming Chief Game Warden Jay Lawson. “The public can help us achieve that compliance by reporting violations in a timely manner. I want to make it clear that our game wardens and investigators are taking their new responsibilities related to wolf management very seriously. We will thoroughly investigate all reported violations to determine if prosecution is appropriate.”
This incident is the first evidence of any illegal killing of wolves in Wyoming since delisting, Keszler said, adding FWS estimated before delisting 10 percent of annual wolf mortality in the northern Rocky Mountains was attributable to illegal kills.
“Anyone with information – even second-hand information – may be eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to a conviction,” he said.
Callers to Wyoming’s Stop Poaching Hotline can remain anonymous and any reward money can be collected anonymously. Report information to the Stop Poaching Hotline at (877)WGFD-TIP (877-943-3847).
The number of wolves reported killed in Wyoming’s predator area stands at 16 since the March 28 delisting date. There were no new reports of wolves legally taken as of May 16, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s (G&F) weekly update posted on May 16.
Five of the total killed since the March 28 delisting were shot after livestock depredation, four by USDA Wildlife Service predator control officers and one by a rancher. All but one were reportedly killed in the Sublette County predator management area; that one was taken in Park County.
For more information about the weekly wolf reports, trophy-game and predator areas and other frequently asked questions, call Wyoming G&F’s Wolf Information Line at 307-777-4655 or visit the Web site at: http://gf.state.wy.us.
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