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Natural Resources & Energy

Montana And Idaho Allowing For More Wolf Harvest; Will This Affect Wyoming's Population?

Photo Doug Smith via nps.gov/yell

State legislatures in Montana and Idaho have recently passed policies that increase the number of wolves that can be harvested, and methods to harvest.

Both Montana and Idaho wolf populations are much higher than Wyoming's. Currently, the state population is just above the minimum population requirement set by the federal government, when the wolves were taken off Endangered Species Act protections.

The new policies by Montana and Idaho will allow for many different methods to reduce their wolf populations. Franz Camenzind, a wildlife biologist and environmental advocate, said it is very similar to what drove local populations extinct in the past.

"Aerial gunning, fixed wing helicopter, trapping on public or private land, no bag limit," said Camenzind. "One tag, and you can kill as many wolves as you want. Trapping, so forth. We're moving back to the late 1800s. The only thing missing is poison."

Camenzind said Montana and Idaho's new policies matter for Wyoming because their wolf populations may dramatically decrease. This could threaten the connectivity between the states.

"The chances of there being connectivity between the population in Idaho and Wyoming is just about zero," said Camenzind. "And Wyoming wolf managers should be concerned about that. We risk losing the genetic diversity that a population needs for long term survival."

Even though the wolves are delisted, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service still has some oversight and has indicated that certain scenarios could trigger a status review to determine if northern Rockies wolves need protection again. And that potential litigation could impact Wyoming wolf management.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers say the state's population is stable, which means there isn't much flexibility for the population to decrease in size.

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