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Game and Fish shares proposed updates to annual wolf hunting regulations

Ken Mills stands in front of a screen, on which is projected a map of northern Wyoming showing wolf hunt areas.
Dante Filpula Ankney
Wolf biologist Ken Mills was the sole presenter at Wyoming Game and Fish Departments's public meeting on proposed wolf hunting regulations this week.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has held meetings around the state on proposed updates to wolf hunting regulations in northwest Wyoming. These regulations are updated annually. Earlier this week, state wildlife officials presented the data and guidelines that inform their regulations aimed at keeping gray wolf populations healthy at Teton County Library in Jackson.

Scattered dot graphs and trend lines illustrated the various calculations WGFDuses to set mortality limits — the number of wolves that can be legally killed — in 14 different designated hunting boundaries in northwest Wyoming.

Mortality limits pertain to all human caused deaths, including legal and illegal. This year, that proposed number is 38.

“The mortality limit doesn't usually get met. That's the reason we call it a limit, not a quota. Because if you call it a quota, people think you have to meet it,” said Ken Mills, a wolf biologist with the department.

The limit was set by WGFD from a collection of data and analyses, including population objectives and other causes of death for the wolves.

Mills said there are about 191 wolves in the management area but to maintain a healthy wolf population, that number should be near 160.

“I think that the wolf management side of things is really fascinating. It's such a data driven process,” he said.

The health of the wolves that reside in the state has been under scrutiny since endangered species protections were lifted and the state took over management in 2017. Northern Rocky Mountain wolves are the only delisted population in the lower 48.

Most recently, in the cowboy state, an incident of alleged wolf abuse that led to the wolf’s death in Daniel, Wyoming garnered international attention. The incident, first reported by KHOL, has led to further investigation, a newly formed legislative subcommittee, lawsuits and activism.

Lisa Robertson, a Teton County resident and president of a local wildlife group, was one of four residents at the meeting. She would like to see the population of wolves in the northwest part of the state over 200.

“I don't believe that wolves should be hunted in our area,” Robertson said. “I think they're self-regulating, and we should let them do just that.”

Mills disagreed. He said that more wolves would mean a less stable population due to more human and livestock conflicts, more competition for suitable habitat and more disease.

Public comment on the proposed regulations, which are available online, ends on June 12. WGFD commission will review them this summer and expect to finalize the regulations with the governor’s signature soon after.

Dante Filpula Ankney comes to KHOL as a lifelong resident of the Mountain West. He made his home on the plains of Eastern Montana before moving to the Western Montana peaks to study journalism and wilderness studies. Dante has found success producing award-winning print, audio and video stories for a variety of publications, including a stint as a host at Montana Public Radio. Most recently, he spent a year teaching English in Bulgaria through a Fulbright Fellowship. When he isn’t reporting, you can find Dante outside scaling rocks, sliding across snow or winning a game of cribbage.
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