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By Mark Davis
The quota of gray wolves in the four hunt areas in the Cody region was filled on Sunday, ending the region’s first hunt since Wyoming won the right to manage wolf packs in the state earlier this year.
In the northwest part of the state, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department set a quota of 44 wolves and 41 had been taken as of Monday, according to department figures. The remaining three wolves left in the statewide quota are outside of the Cody region and are located in areas that receive less hunting pressure, said Dan Thompson, Wyoming Game and Fish Department large carnivore section supervisor.
Hunters harvesting wolves within the trophy zone — an 8,248-square mile zone surrounding the borders of Yellowstone National Park — are required to purchase a tag. The rest of the state is known as the “predator zone,” where wolves can be taken without a license and don’t count against the quota. As of Monday, 30 wolves had been harvested in the predator zone, said Dusty Lasseter, Bear Wise coordinator for the Game and Fish.
Wolves outside the trophy zone are not included in population estimates and harvests aren’t regulated. That’s in part to relieve the state of the liability of reimbursing livestock producers for predatory losses, said Tod Stutzman, president of the Park County Predator Management Advisory Board.
Wolves have moved far beyond the borders of Yellowstone, where they were reintroduced in 1995, and the trophy zone. Seven of the wolves killed in the predator zone were harvested between Casper and Rawlins.
The state sold a total of 2,517 tags for the chance to harvest a wolf in the trophy zone this year. Hunters are required to call a hotline prior to hunting to check on the status of the quota. After harvesting an animal, hunters are then required to call in the harvest and a running total of mortality is kept on a daily basis. The quota for the Greybull River area, west of Meeteetse, was exceeded by one wolf due to hunters taking wolves on the same day — an issue resulting from using the hotline reporting system, but not entirely unexpected.
“One was harvested right after the other,” said Lasseter.
As of the end of November, 45 wolves had been “lethally removed” by wildlife managers in the trophy zone as part of efforts to control the animals’ damage to livestock, while 13 were removed in the predatory zone.
Last year, 113 wolves were removed through damage control efforts. The lower total of 58 removals this year reflects both the success of population management through hunting and the damage control work done in 2016, Thompson said.
“Wolves being removed is cyclical with the damage work we have to do,” Lasseter told the Park County predator board.
There’s still a surplus of wolves, well above the minimum of the 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs that the state has agreed to maintain outside of Yellowstone National Park, the Game and Fish says.
“We’ve been well above the minimum numbers for more than a decade [and] the last two years were the highest on record,” Thompson said.
The minimum numbers were required as part of an agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when Wyoming regained the right to manage the species earlier this year. Estimates of the wolf population for 2017 are being currently calculated through ground and air counts and that data will be available early next year.