CODY, WY — The image on a new billboard in Cody, Wyoming is adorable: a tiny, fluffy wolf pup in a field of flowers. The overlying text, on the other hand, is meant to shock.
“Odds are this pup won’t live to see her first birthday,” the billboard reads.
It was funded and placed by Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. The goal is to educate the public about Wyoming’s wolf management policies, which Wyoming Wildlife Advocates call “outdated and anachronistic.”
“Wolves are being born in Wyoming only to be killed by hunting or because of conflicts with livestock,” said WWA Executive Director Kristin Combs in a press release. “The state is setting up a conveyor belt of wolves so that trophy hunters can have a recreational opportunity to kill them.”
Wolf hunting was re-introduced in 2017. Wolf populations over the last few years have been healthy, but officials this year say that Yellowstone National Park’s gray wolf population has dropped to 80 wolves, which is less than half of the highest population mark in the park. Wolf numbers in the Gros Ventre Wilderness are also down this year after increased hunting quotas.
Most of the wolves in question live outside of the national parks and inside a trophy game management area. Wyoming Game and Fish increased the wolf hunting quota to 58 in 2018. The idea is to keep wolf populations in check and prevent wolf-livestock conflict. Wyoming also allows anyone to kill wolves in an area where they are classified as “predators,” which is over 85% of the state.
But according to the press release from Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, almost half of the wolves alive in Wyoming died in 2018, and 90% of those deaths were at the hands of humans. Meanwhile, only 70 livestock animals were confirmed to have been killed by wolves in 2018 out of the millions in the state.
WWA also claims that wolves are critical for managing ungulate populations and preventing the spread of diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease.
“We are killing off our wolves when we should be promoting healthy, robust populations of predators to help combat disease in our ungulate herds,” Coombs said. “Wolves are our biggest allies against chronic wasting disease. The state should be treating them as such.”
The billboard will be up through the summer. Coombs says she hopes it challenges the ” outdated cultural hatred and the era of seeing carnivores as pests to be eradicated.”
“It’s time for the archaic and unscientific management policies that Wyoming employs to cease. Our wolves are allies, not enemies.”