Wyoming Wolf Plan Approved by USFWS

Wyoming Wolves Delisted“Under Wyoming’s management plan, the state is required to keep a minimum of 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. A minimum of five breeding pairs and 50 wolves are required inside Yellowstone.”

Read the rest of this article from the Casper Star Tribune

And the official statement from the US Fish and Wildlife Service

There is just one thing I’d like to clear up. The article quotes Jenny Harbine from Earthjustice as saying, “With today’s delisting decision, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is authorizing an open season on wolves across 85 percent of the state of Wyoming…”

To those unfamiliar with Wyoming, that may sound somehow unfair, as if protecting wolves in 15% of the state is selfish, or stingy, or not enough. Many people don’t realize the size of the state of Wyoming. The area in which wolves are protected comprises 9.3 million acres. That’s over twice the size of the entire state of New Jersey, and just under twice the size of Vermont or New Hampshire or Massachusetts.  Over nine million acres isn’t exactly a pittance.

The wolf reintroductions, recovery, and subsequent management are highly controversial, and finding information that isn’t emotionally charged and/or rife with propagandistic remarks, if not all out personal attacks, is hard to find. About a year ago I tried to update myself on the issue and  I was disgusted at the lack of objective discussion from any source online. It’s probably out there, but I didn’t find it.

I was in grad school when the wolves were reintroduced from Canada into Yellowstone National Park. I specifically remember when a wolf biologist from Canada spoke to a small group of us and shared his data about the wolf packs he monitored. He said it was not uncommon for a young male wolf to get up one day and go on a 500 mile walk about. This little piece of information signaled the focal point of the controversy from the very beginning: The wolves do not recognize park boundaries and any reintroductions will, down the road, mean wolves on private land.

Let the games begin.

Eighteen years later, that’s still the point of conflict. I would say on the whole, most people I know, ranchers included, have no problem with wolves in Yellowstone National Park, and somewhere in the process, they conceded to wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but there seems to be a feeling from other parties that still isn’t enough, as if the whole state should be a wolf protection area.

Wyoming has a lot of open space and a lot of government land. It’s what most Wyomingites love about living here, but it IS 2012, not 1812. I don’t see how we can expect any state to manage its open space to some point in the distant past. We can’t go back to a time when small bands of humans followed the game herds and gathered plants.

The fact is there will be conflict as wolves move into new territory, and the current management plan is a plan to mitigate that conflict while still allowing for wolf packs in Yellowstone National Park,  Grand Teton National Park, John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, the Elk Refuge, and the Wind River Reservation.

Current knowledge indicates that the required numbers of protected wolves will provide for healthy wolf populations, but not everything is known about wolf biology and pack behavior. This aspect of the wolf management plan, as well as the ability of Wyoming wolves to intermingle with Idaho and Montana populations are points that need continued monitoring.

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