Interior, Wyoming Officials Reach Agreement On Hunting Wolves; Critics Say It Will Be Devastating

An agreement reached by officials from the Interior Department and the state of Wyoming, if enacted, would make Yellowstone National Park a sanctuary for wolves. Most elsewhere in the state wolves could be shot on sight under its guidelines.

The agreement, announced Wednesday, was immediately criticized by Defenders of Wildlife officials, who called it "completely unjustified," and questioned by a member of Congress.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, however, maintained the agreement would ensure "the long-term conservation of gray wolves" in Wyoming. Under the plan, the state would commit to maintaining a minimum population of at least 100 wolves outside the parks.

"This is far from the end of this process, but I think we have come up with something that fits with Wyoming’s values and economy,” Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead said in a prepared statement. “For years ranchers and sheep producers have been asked to sacrifice and they have. We have lost significant numbers of elk and moose, and we have not had a say in the management of an animal inside Wyoming. It is time for that to change and I appreciate Secretary Salazar and the US Fish and Wildlife Service working with us. Wolves are recovered in Wyoming; let’s get them off the Endangered Species List.”

In his own release, Secretary Salazar said the state's revised plan -- which requires the state Legislature's approval -- would have to ensure "a healthy wolf population at or above the Service’s recovery goals, provide for genetic connectivity with other wolf subpopulations in the Northern Rockies, and otherwise ensure that gray wolves in Wyoming are managed so that they will not need to be returned to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife."

Once Wyoming revises its management plan for wolves, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service would then propose a rule to allow for the species to be removed from the Endangered Species list. That rule would be open for public comment.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said the agreement with Wyoming officials "enables us to recognize the successful recovery of the gray wolf across the Northern Rocky Mountains. This success is a testament to years of hard work by the states, tribes, landowners and our other conservation partners, all of whom have enabled us to get where we are today."

“Responsible management by the state wildlife professionals of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department– which includes regulated, limited trophy game hunts in certain areas similar to those conducted for other game species like elk and mountain lions – will ensure the long-term conservation of this population of wolves," he added.

But at Defenders, Suzanne Stone, the organization's Northern Rockies representative, said "(A)llowing wolves to be shot on sight across the vast majority of Wyoming is completely unjustified."

"It was this attitude that led wolves to become endangered in the first place. Wolves are an essential part of healthy ecosystems in the region and should be treated as such," she added. “Wyoming has settled on the indiscriminate shooting of wolves as the primary management tool in the state, which is a huge step backwards. Instead, the state should be working with all stakeholders to promote tolerance and prevent conflict by implementing nonlethal, proactive management tools."

In Washington, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who is the ranking member on the House Natural Resources Committee, dispatched a letter to Interior Secretary Salazar questioning the agreement.

"The backbone of the Endangered Species Act has always been its commitment to use science to protect species from extinction. Science, not politics, should ensure the conservation and management of the gray wolves in Wyoming, should they be delisted," wrote Rep. Markey.

The congressman's office added that, "(T)he agreement creates a 'dual-status' plan under which wolves in a small portion of northwest Wyoming would be considered 'trophy game,' requiring a license to be hunted. Wolves outside of this area would be considered predators and could be shot on sight without a license. It is currently unclear if the 'flex-line,' which would determine the seasonal 'trophy game' area, has been established using the best-available science."

According to Defenders, at last count there was a population of 246 wolves outside of Yellowstone, and so under the agreement nearly 150 -- nearly 60 percent -- could be killed. At the same time, the 2010 Fish and Wildlife census of wolves in Yellowstone showed just 97 animals inside the park.

During 2010 there were 26 confirmed wolf kills of cattle in Wyoming, and 33 confirmed kills of sheep, according to the FWS records.

Up until September 2010, Defenders had compensated ranchers who could prove wolves killed their livestock. During the 23-year life of the program the organization paid out more than $1.4 million. Defenders ended its program when a similar federal program came about.

An interesting aside to the agreement announced Wednesday is that U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, a Wyoming Republican, recently amended the Interior Department's funding bill to block legal challenges to any delisting decisions made by the Fish and Wildlife Service. The bill has not yet been acted upon by the Senate.

Another interesting development is that Teton County (Wyoming) officials plan to ask Gov. Mead to see that wolves in their county, which embraces Grand Teton National Park, are not hunted as predators under the agreement.

Comments

People have such a misunderstanding of wolves. Why the need to shoot any wolf is mind boggling. How many wolves have killed a human? Let me help - NONE!!!!!

What's the biggest animal draw in Yellowstone? Wolves!

For years I have pleaded with news publishers and others to do their research and report the truth about Wyoming's "management" of wolves. I've relayed the facts below to news organizations and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as well as the Department of the Interior.

Kurt, I am extremely disappointed that you've reported "Most elsewhere in the state wolves could be shot on sight under its guidelines."

This is not the case. Read the Wyoming Statute: 23-3-103(a) which states predatory animals may be taken "in any manner and at any time."

With Wyoming's modified "management" plan, where wolves are not classified as big game in Wyoming, they will be classified as predators and may be killed IN ANY MANNER AT ANY TIME BY ANYBODY, no license required.

Wolves may be run over by snowmobiles, pups in their dens may be burned alive with gasoline, shark hooks may be baited and hung from trees in order to catch a wolf through it's mouth, their leg tenons may be cut and dogs allowed to shred them alive and so on. These methods, and others, have been used in the past and will be used in the future if the law is not changed.

So yes, in Wyoming wolves may be "shot on sight" where classified as predators. This isn't the whole truth. Wolves may also be tortured at will.

murder is despicable management - shame on all of you who think killing wolves is a valid solution - how about eat less beef and lamb and let the wolves live. I'm horrified at this!

REMIND ME TO NEVER EVER MOVE TO WYOMING!

The "leadership" of Wyoming have once again proven what most of America knows, one of the most geographically beautiful states is run by a bunch of ignorant, ass-backwards, science-denying, politically and morally corrupt idiots. This is clearly a political issue - it has no merit in the realm of science and the majority of the rest of the nation are well aware of this. I especially am disturbed by the "clause" that wolves can be classified as "predators' which states they can be killed in "any manner". I find this barbaric. How can a nation that considers itself civilized still allow wanton cruelty to animals? Wolves are sentient (look it up) beings. As much as I object to your lack of scientific data to back up your decision, I wouldn't be quite as upset if the wolf was at least listed as "game" animal. At least this would mean hunters were bound by an ethic of a humane kill. And the fact that you are trying to "outlaw" any litigation proves that you KNOW your policy is wrong! In a state known for its rampant ignorance, where even a young human was beaten to death by rednecks (remember Mathew Shepard) you can in no way assure people that wolves will not be horribly tortured. You are sanctioning the brutal wanton killing of animals with absolutely NO consequences! You are essentially saying “go forth, have fun and brutalize them any way you want". Why don't you go ahead and decriminalize all animal cruelty laws in your state. Feel free to stomp, burn, sodomize, run-over, skin alive your cats and dogs. You laugh and shake your head that I am being absurd! No! You are the ones who are absurd. Dogs, cats, wolves, cougars, elk etc. are all sentient beings and if (some) humans choose to kill them (for meat, fur etc.) at least these animals should be awarded the protection by law that they must be killed humanely. I know you (as a state) are determined to pursue the culling of wolves but please, for god’s sake, do not classify them as predators (we humans after all are the "greatest" predators of all) and allow indiscriminate killing. If you think you are looked down upon by the majority of the nation now, just wait until news gets out of the first of a string of sickening stories of how your citizens have committed unspeakable crimes and caused immeasurable suffering to these creatures. I for one will boycott Wyoming and I will continue to educate my fellow citizens about your regressive, ignorant and disgusting decision. Don't be surprised if your tourism drops dramatically. I wonder if any of you have ever loved a dog? I know there are genetic differences between dogs and wolves, of course, but if you would take the time to study the wolf and observe him in his natural habitat, you would see a highly evolved, intelligent animal that feels and exhibits love, devotion, fun, joy, fear, terror, grief and sadness. I truly believe that any human being that can willfully look into the eyes of another sentient being and still be able to cause terror and harm to that animal is a sociopath - this is not extrememe. The definition of a sociopath is: a lack of empathy for other living things and lack of a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience. Please do not open the door for sick, ignorant and violently inclined individuals to have free reign to exercise their will upon animals that are simply going about their daily lives. The day the mass public hears of wolf cubs being mutilated or burned alive in their dens, you will hear uproar of outrage from the American public. I just find it so hard to believe that individuals such as yourselves that although I disagree with your stand on "management" policy, can in good conscience allow wolves (or any other animals for that matter) to be killed "in any manner". Would it really kill you to at least classify the wolf in all regions as a game animal so that it is awarded at least some protection of the law and individuals that want to kill a wolf (for whatever reason) will be aware that if they do not kill the animal humanely - they will face criminal charges. You are sending a very ugly and dangerous message to your citizens that cruelty is OK. AS I mentioned above, in a state where your citizens brutally murdered a young man (their motive was born of ignorance), do you really think you can afford to actually publically sanction and announce that "IN OUR STATE OF WYOMING, CRUELTY IS JUST FINE BY US" "ALL SADISTS AND SOCIOPATHS, SPEND YOUR VACATION IN WYOMING WHERE YOU CAN KILL, MAIME, BURN, TORTURE TO YOUR HEARTS CONTENT..." I really am not kidding here - this is EXACTLY the message you are sending LOUD & CLEAR. And if you won't change the anti-cruelty aspect of this new legislation then you are as sick as the people who will exercise this new freedom.......
I beg of you and appeal to any sense or shred of humanity you might possess – DO NOT ALLOW WOLVES TO BE KILLED “IN ANY MANNER” . The imagination of the sociopathic human is cruel beyond what any other species could do onto another. Man is the only species that kills for fun……….

Twenty-six confirmed kills of cattle in Wyoming in 2010 equals .00195%; 33 confirmed kills of sheep equals .009%. These numbers far from justify any killing of wolves, much less the killings that are condoned under the August agreement!