A much smaller trophy game quota for gray wolf hunting is being proposed for this year’s fall season by Game and Fish.
The plan being discussed by officials would reduce the number of wolves that can be harvested during the Sept. 1-Dec. 31 season from 58 in 2018 to 34 this year.
The goal is to establish an end-of-year population of 160 wolves with 14 breeding pairs after hunting – incidental deaths and eradication of problem wolves are factored in.
“To hold it pretty stable” is how Ken Mills, the department’s wolf biologist, described the reason for that target population at a Tuesday night meeting at the Cody Library.
The 160 figure was the hoped-for wolf population count for 2018, but the actual count was 152 in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area.
Wyoming must maintain a population of at least 100 wolves with 10 breeding pairs to follow regulations established when gray wolf management was turned over to the state after the animal was delisted from Endangered Species Act protection. However, the department does not want to come close to skirting the minimums or risk dipping below them.
“Pup recruitment was low,” Mills said of the wolves’ birth rate. “Only about 40 percent of the packs met breeding pair criteria.”
And there was a higher than anticipated human-caused mortality rate.
Recommendations will be advanced from such hearings with public comments to the Game and Fish Commission at its July 18-19 meeting in Green River for final approval.
A formula is applied to set a harvest limit based on minimum regulations, hunting pressure, wolves killed because they preyed on livestock, or for other causes.
Under this plan, the following quota limits have been proposed for Cody area hunt areas: Clarks Fork, 4; North Fork Shoshone River, 6; and South Fork Shoshone River, 2. Hunt seasons in given areas close when quotas are met.
The boundaries of the hunting areas themselves would not change.
Only a short time ago the population was more than 200 wolves.
“That is why the limit was so high,” Mills said.
Game and Fish is also recommending a hunting quota increase in area 19 for mountain lion. The proposal would boost the limit from 20 to 25. The quota for area 20 would remain at 18.
Some mountain lion hunt areas do not even approach their quotas, said biologist Justin Clapp.