December 28, 2006
December 29, 2006 - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday that the agency will start removing federal protections from gray wolves in Montana and Idaho by January, regardless of whether Wyoming has submitted an acceptable plan to manage its own wolves.
Under the federal plan, states could have complete oversight of their wolves within 12 months. When this change occurs, wolves in Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington and Oregon and a small area in northeastern Utah would no longer have federal protection.
Currently, Idaho is estimated to have 650 wolves in 60 packs and Montana has 270. Idaho's wolf-management plan requires maintaining a minimum of 15 packs, while Montana has a benchmark of 15 breeding pairs.
Wyoming currently has 309 wolves, and the state is in negotiations with the federal government to develop a wolf-management plan acceptable to federal officials.
Wyoming's original plan was not approved because federal officials felt the area where wolves would be considered trophy game - national parks and wilderness areas - was too small to support the minimum amount of wolves and packs. The state also wants the animals to be classified as predators outside parks and wilderness areas, which would allow them to be shot on site, like coyotes.
Most recently, it has been suggested that the trophy game area be extended to a greater area outside parks and wilderness areas. Outside of this extended area, there is no natural prey for wolves, which leads to conflicts with livestock.
Wyoming's plan and federal requirements are biologically not that far apart. The requirements call for 30 breeding pairs, and 300 wolves, equally distributed among Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
A Wyoming Game and Fish Department official said the proposed trophy game status would mean that wolves can only be killed with permission from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Licenses would be issued during hunting and trapping seasons, and some wolves may be killed by federal agents if they get into conflicts. 'Take' permits may also be issued to landowners.
This shift in federal position regarding the Wyoming's wolf plan may herald a new way for states to deal with federal government. Taken in part from Wisconsin Ag Connection and The Casper Star-Tribune