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Fremont County resolution declares wolves predators

Fremont County resolution declares wolves predators

The Associated Press

RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) – Fremont County commissioners are trying to make
something clear to lawmakers across the state: wolves are not welcome in
their county.

The commissioners voted to reinforce an earlier, controversial
resolution declaring wolves as predators.

Predators can be killed at any time and any where.

The latest action was taken, according to chairman Doug Thompson, to
reinforce the county’s position with state lawmakers as they grapple with
how to manage the state’s wolf population.

State Rep. Mike Baker, R-Thermopolis, has drafted a bill that
parallels a Wyoming Game and Fish Commission plan that would classify the
gray wolf as a predator in some parts of the state and as a trophy game
animal in areas around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.

Trophy game animals can only be hunted with licenses and during
specific seasons.

Game and Fish is planning to adopt the plan even if state lawmakers
have not passed legislation on the dual classification by Feb. 24, the
commission’s original deadline.

Wyoming, along with Montana and Idaho, must have a federally
approved management plan in place before the wolf can be removed from the
Endangered Species List in the Yellowstone area. Wolves were reintroduced
to the state in the mid-1990s.

The Fremont County resolution, passed unanimously at a Jan. 14
meeting, says Wyoming’s citizen legislature had, in the past, classified
wolves as predators, and says the animals “have historically proven to be
detrimental to the health, safety and livelihood” of state residents.

The document says the presence of wolves “will dramatically reduce,
and may eliminate, recreational hunting opportunities and subsistence
hunting” for local and state residents.

Commissioner Crosby Allen, who drafted the resolution, said Fremont
County should send a “strong message about how we feel” to Cheyenne,
because a proposed wolf management plan advanced by the Wyoming Game and
Fish Department “is taking darts from both sides.”

Allen told his colleagues he did some research on the history of
wolves in Wyoming before preparing the draft resolution.

“Between 1897 and 1907, a total of 20,819 bounties were paid on
wolves in the state,” Allen said. “Because of wolf predation, by 1915, big
game species were nonexistent in the DuNoir area, and they didn’t recover
until 1937. Historical records show that as the wolf declined, big game
populations increased.”

He said Wyoming’s wolves are increasing in numbers by a rate of 29
percent a year.

Allen said wolves will mean the end of elk hunting in certain

But the wolf management coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service in Wyoming takes some issue with Allen’s conclusions.

Mike Jimenez of Lander said the wolf population in Yellowstone Park
is increasing at a rate of 11 percent annually, while outside of the park
the rate is higher, around 20 percent.

Jimenez said a pack of wolves will
typically kill 20 elk a month. Inside Yellowstone, a pack usually
consists of 10 wolves; outside the park the pack is smaller, from eight to
nine wolves.

“So that is 240 elk per pack per year, or about 24 elk per year per
wolf,” he said, basing his comments on winter studies of elk in
Yellowstone the USFWS and other researchers have done.

But Jimenez said the wolf kill numbers include some elk that would
die during the winter whether there were wolves present or not. He said
reductions in elk herd size, especially in the northern elk herd, are hard
to pin on just wolves.

In Fremont County, Joe Nemick, Wyoming Game and Fish wildlife
management coordinator in Lander, said the best estimate is that there are
about 10,000 elk between Lander and the DuNoir areas, with another 500-600
elk in the Jeffrey City area. He said the objective for the Lander herd
above town is to maintain a wintering population of about 3,300 elk.

Despite officials attempts to allay concerns many remain troubled
about the wolves – including many ranchers.

According to the Rocky Mountain Wolf Recovery annual report, wolves
were responsible last year for the deaths of 25 calves, one heifer and one

“That’s a minimal number,” Jimenez said, “because of the ones we
don’t find, or don’t get reported.”

Jimenez urged all ranchers who think livestock has been killed by a
wolf to report it immediately. He says it’s impossible to confirm a wolf
kill – or arrange compensation – without being able to examine the

“When it’s something that big, and that recent, you can usually
tell what killed it, even if the coyotes have been at it,” he said. “The
problem is that once wolves are spotted in the area, people start going
“Aha!’ and suddenly, everything that’s missing gets blamed on the wolves.”

A nonprofit organization, Defenders of Wildlife, will pay the
producer fall market prices for confirmed wolf kills and partial
payments for probable kills when wolves are suspected but there is not
enough evidence to decide what definitely killed the livestock.

The next step is to prevent any further depredation. Wildlife
Services says if all other methods fail, wolves are killed.

“We will continue to remove wolves until the problem stops,”
Jimenez said.

In the past year, six wolves had to be removed from the population
after repeated predation in Wyoming.