FWS delists Wyo. gray wolves

Wyoming gray wolf

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it had approved Wyoming’s proposal for managing wolves in most of the state as predators, removing them from the list of protected endangered species. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — click to enlarge)

Reprinted with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. Not for republication by Wyoming media.

By Laura Petersen, E&E reporter

The Obama administration announced the removal Friday of Wyoming gray wolves from the endangered species list.

The Fish and Wildlife Service said it had approved Wyoming’s proposal for managing wolves in most of the state as predators, allowing the animals to be shot without a hunting license. The state takes over wolf management on Sept. 30.

Wolves will be managed as trophy game in a “flex zone” around Yellowstone National Park. The zone expands between October and February to allow wolves to disperse to Idaho.

The Wyoming Game Commission has already approved a hunting season for the zone to start Oct. 1 that set a total quota of 52 animals.

The plan calls for maintaining at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park. In 2011, FWS estimated there were 328 wolves in Wyoming. Of those, 230 wolves and 19 breeding pairs lived outside the park, the agency said.

Most of the state’s wolf population lives within the trophy game managed area. That’s why it’s not necessary to manage hunting as closely through the rest of the state and still meet recovery goals, FWS Director Dan Ashe said in a teleconference today.

While Ashe said he expects to hear “voices of protest,” he said that fair-chase hunting won’t harm the species recovery and “in fact support long term conservation of wolves as it has other predators like mountain lion, black bear and grizzly bear.”

Wolves will remain under federal management inside Yellowstone, which does not allow hunting. No wolf hunting will occur in the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, the National Elk Refuge, and the Wind River Reservation in 2012, though it could in future seasons.

After being extirpated from the region in the 1930s, Rocky Mountain wolves were reintroduced in Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s. Federal biologists consider the species to have successfully recovered, with more than 1,774 wolves throughout the region.

“The population has exceeded population recovery goals for 10 consecutive years,” Ashe said.

The management framework adopted by Wyoming is designed to maintain at least 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs throughout the entire state, including 50 in Yellowstone and Indian reservations. This is the same management objective as was adopted by Montana and Idaho.

Wyoming is the last state in the region to delist the animals because of legal challenges to its management plan. The animals were delisted by Congress in April 2011 with passage of a rider to an appropriations bill that let Idaho, Montana and parts of three other states establish their own management plans.

The Interior Department proposed a delisting of the Wyoming population last October, after reaching an agreement with state officials on this management plan (E&ENews PM, Oct. 4, 2011) .

Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife and former director of Fish and Wildlife, slammed the decision.

“This administration is rewinding the clock and setting wolf recovery back at least a decade based on the numbers alone,” Rappaport Clark said in a statement. “The goal should be to sustain a fully recovered wolf population, not put it right back on life support.”

The nonprofit said it plans to pursue legal action to stop the management plan from going forward.

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Published on September 3, 2012

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