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Game and Fish says Wyo wolf population is above delisting criteria

WYOMING — Wyoming Game and Fish Department wildlife managers announced yesterday, May 17, that Wyoming has reached a stable wolf population, according to the 2020 Wyoming Gray Wolf Monitoring and Management annual report.

According to Game and Fish, this is the 19th consecutive year wolf numbers have remained above minimum delisting criteria.

Established population objectives for wolves are outlined in the Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan. The plan guides wolf management in Wyoming and is the plan the state will continue to implement following the 5-year post-delisting monitoring period.

Recovery criteria for Wyoming are 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. The wolf population for Yellowstone National Park is at least 123. The Wind River Reservation wolf population is at least 21.

As of Dec. 31, 2020, at least 147 wolves reside within the wolf trophy game management area (WTGMA), where Game and Fish focuses on management. An additional 36 wolves were documented in the seasonal WTGMA and predatory animal areas outside Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation, bringing the total minimum population in Wyoming to at least 327 wolves.

Reaching a steady wolf population is partially attributed to hunting in the northwest corner of the state. Wolf hunting seasons within the WTGMA and seasonal WTGMA require hunters to have a license and adhere to set mortality limits and other regulations. In 2020, hunters in the WTGMA and seasonal WTGMA accounted for nearly 43% of all wolf mortalities, while conflict attributed to 38% of the mortalities.

Ken Mills, the report author and the lead wolf biologist for Game and Fish, sees hunting as a tool to stabilize wolf populations. Mills said, “It lends credence to our management approach and how we are going through the recovery process.”

“It is significant that today we are reaching a point where we have predictability in our management,” said Mills.

Game and Fish is currently taking comments on the 2021 proposals for gray wolf hunting seasons. The public can review the draft regulations and submit comments until 5 p.m. June 4.

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