Half of the 12 wolf hunting zones in the Greater Yellowstone area have closed earlier than the December 31 deadline because quotas were already met. Meanwhile, 25 wolves were killed just outside that protected zone where no quotas are enforced.
Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore biologist Ken Mills said one reason so many wolves are getting shot is that it’s the first hunting season most have experienced in their lives.
“It’s been three years since their last hunting season. We’ve got a whole new generation of wolves out there that haven’t been exposed to public hunting. So you’re in a scenario where they’re probably a bit naïve, for sure. And that’s part of potentially why some of the areas closed early,” said Mills.
Mills said wolves will likely be harder to hunt in coming years as they grow more skittish. As that happens, he suggested hunters locate the wolves' core territory and hunt nearby.
“Wolves are elusive,” said Mills. “They travel over very large territories covering on average ten miles a day. So they’re not necessarily easy to catch up with. So if folks want to hunt wolves, spend time where their centers of activity are, the areas that they’re moving through fairly commonly and hunt those areas."
A court decision shut down Wyoming’s wolf hunt in 2013 even though the number was up to 380 in 48 packs, well above the 150 in 15 packs the state agreed to keep. Last spring, that ban was lifted. A total of 58 wolves have been killed so far this year.
Mills said the wolf population grew a lot while it was under federal protections, causing more conflicts with landowners as they moved farther afield.
“We expected there to be a fair number of wolves because there were a fair number of wolves that had moved out into those areas while they were listed under the Endangered Species Act. We certainly expected to have more wolves this year than we will probably have next year and the year following.”
Mills said the Game and Fish will use such data to evaluate this year’s hunt as they propose new hunting seasons in the future.