By LEW FREEDMAN
At the same time Game and Fish is proposing an increase in the wolf hunting quota for this fall, another plan being recommended is to increase license numbers from one to two per individual for a calendar year.
Department wolf biologist Ken Mills introduced the ideas at the Park County Library Tuesday evening, though to a sparse crowd.
Last year was the first time since 2013 it was legal to hunt grey wolves in Wyoming and the quota of 44 was met.
After studying the hunt and the population of wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park and Wind River tribal lands, the quota for the 2018 Oct. 1-Dec. 31 wolf hunt will be 58.
That is pending Game and Fish Commission approval at its July meeting.
Mills said the reason to increase licenses to two helps trappers.
“In Idaho you can have five tags for hunting and five for trapping,” Mills said.
In Montana a person can obtain a five-tag combination for hunting and trapping.
“The number of people who will kill more than one wolf (in Wyoming), is small,” Mills said.
Wolf management was returned to Wyoming in April of 2017, removing the animal from the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
However, the federal department must monitor and approve of Wyoming wolf control measures for a five-year period. This is the second year of that.
As a basic requirement, Wyoming must maintain a minimum of 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs in trophy management areas outside of the Park and tribally controlled lands.
To set a new quota, aided by widespread use of radio collars, Game and Fish counted wolves to determine a population as of Dec. 31, 2017.
When setting last year’s hunting season, Game and Fish used a figure of 210 wolves. The Snake River wolf pack moved into Wyoming management territory, however, making for 229 wolves.
It was predicted after the hunt there would be 160 wolves, but the count showed 198.
Normal mortality from old age and other natural causes, plus purposeful killing of problem wolves that attack livestock, are factored into setting a quota.
The key, Mills said, is stabilizing the population. To be sure of remaining above minimum levels, the target population is much higher, 160 wolves including 14 breeding pairs.
Some other revisions of wolf regulations are proposed, including the boundaries of hunt areas near Cody along the Clarks Fork, and the North and South forks of the Shoshone. Mills said the alterations represent more convenient boundaries.
It is recommended hunters study maps before they head into the field.
Only a handful of members of the public turned out for the meeting for what has been a contentious and controversial issue over a many-year period.
Last year, when Mills visited Cody for a similar season-setting session, the resistance he met was not from anti-wolf hunting people, but from those who wanted higher quotas. This year they are being proposed.
Carl Sauerwein of Boulder Basin Outfitters said he likes the quota increase and new boundaries.
Sometimes, on guided hunts, as a byproduct, he said, clients might kill a wolf.
“It happens on an elk hunt,” he said.
Mark Bruscino, a retired Game and Fish official, who worked on wolf programs for the department some years ago, said, “I think wolves are here for the long-term (for hunting).”
He took note of the small crowd and recalled the fervor created when wolves were introduced to Yellowstone nearly 20 years ago.
“There were 450 people at the Cody Auditorium (for a discussion),” he said.
Mills would like to think Game and Fish’s policies implemented last year and supervision of the hunt made people happy and diffused controversy.
“The less dramatic the better,” he said.