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As Wolf Numbers Slip, Game And Fish Reduces Number Available To Hunt

Yellowstone National Park

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department says it will allow fewer wolves to be killed in the next trophy hunting season because the last one contributed to a dip in their population below the state's objective of 160 wolves; right now, there are 152.

Large carnivore biologist Ken Mills said it wasn't just hunting that hurt them in 2018 but a variety of factors.

"Fewer pups were born, and we had some higher disease prevalence in the population as well last year that contributed to the decline, as well as wolves killing other wolves, so competition between packs."

Mills said the state will allow 34 wolves to be killed during the upcoming fall trophy hunting season, eight fewer than last year. He said they reevaluate the hunting targets every year in hopes of finding a sweet spot: not too few wolves and not too many.

"The wolf population was high, above 200 for three or four years in a row, and all the data we've collected suggests that that's unsustainable over the long term," he said. "The population gets nutritionally stressed and reaches what we call carrying capacity for the landscape."

But Mills said, overall, the wolf population is healthy with the number of wolf packs about the same as last year, a sign of a stabilizing population.


Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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