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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing changes to elk tags for out-of-state hunters

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The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing changes to out-of-state hunting licenses forelk that could come into effect in 2024. This comes as the state’s elk population is rising with some herds overpopulated and officials seeking ways to thin them out.

“This is a proposal that was forwarded from thetask force earlier this year and in July, the Commission at their meeting in Evanston asked the Department to take a look at the task force recommendation to remove the quota or the cap on nonresident licenses, and to look for ways to regionalize that, I guess, opportunity for nonresidents by a geographic area,” said Doug Brimeyer, Deputy Chief of Wildlife with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The task force was convened by Gov. Mark Gordon to study top-priority wildlife policy issues facing the state related to the allocation of hunting licenses, access to hunting areas, in addition to other issues. Currently the state has a statewide cap on how many licenses are issued on the first drawing for nonresidents. That number currently is 7,250.

“This proposal from the taskforce is to remove the 7,250 and look for ways to draw geographic areas in the state for nonresidents to participate in an elk hunt similar to what we do with mule deer management around the state,” Brimeyer said.

He said it’s similar to what the department is currently doing for deer.

“What that does is allows us to set a regional quota for nonresidents to participate in a hunt in that geographic area, he said.

This process would draw tags for a certain region and then move to other regions once tags are allocated. Brimeyer added that having a drawing for non-residents would also be beneficial to resident hunters in that it would reduce competition for elk in various regions.

The current elk tag allocation goes back to the 1980s and 90s. At one point in the 1970s, elk tags were allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. This was later capped to 12 percent and eventually 16 percent, which is where it’s currently set for non-resident licenses, he explained.

Brimeyer explained that each county in the state has elk herds that vary in size but that the eastern part of the state hosts larger populations than those in other regions. The number of elk in Wyoming has nearly doubled from approximately 65,000 in 1980 to just around 117,000 in 2021. There are currently 35 elk herds statewide with the largest being the Jackson herd. Population figures for each are reevaluated every five years to determine whether herd sizes are appropriate. Natural predation, such as from bears, isn’t sufficient to control elk populations, which can do well in different kinds of environments.

Elk hunting season dates vary, though it most often runs from mid-August for the earliest of the season until the end of January for the latest

The proposal will again be discussed at another meeting next month.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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