PINEDALE — As gray wolves keep pushing through the edges of Wyoming’s trophy game management area, the federal agency Wildlife Services responds to requests from Wyoming Game and Fish to manage their predations.
“Game and Fish manages the trophy game area and handles livestock predations,” said Wildlife Service-Wyoming Manager Mike Foster. “We work for Game and Fish.”
A helicopter was seen reportedly carrying one large wolf slung underneath as it flew to the Dell Creek elk winter feedground last week.
Foster confirmed that WS made two separate trips by helicopter and killed three wolves one weekday and another one on Sunday from the Dell Creek Pack.
“On this most recent incident we authorized USDA Wildlife Services personnel up to five wolves to be taken in the trophy game zone in response to depredations … on private and public lands in several instances over the course of the past year (or more),” Large Carnivore Section Supervisor Dan Thompson said in an email Friday. “We have no further control actions planned at the time.”
Thompson said at least seven beef calves have been killed or injured by wolves from last year’s grazing season and so far this year.
“The intent of these removals is to alleviate further damage and is part of a multi-faceted response to situation specific circumstances,” Thompson said. “The animals were collected in order to obtain biological samples and collect data to inform wolf management throughout Wyoming (genetics etc.) All data collected on wolves handled for monitoring or through mortality allows insight into the overall population demographics of wolves and allows for better management of localized populations.”
At the end of 2019, Wyoming counted at least 311 wolves in 43 packs, according to Game and Fish’s annual report.
The state is required to have 150 wolves – 100 in the trophy-game management
and 50 inside Yellowstone. At least 175 wolves in at least 27 packs were in the state’s trophy-game area, the report says.
The state’s goal is to “stabilize the population” at about 160 wolves in the trophy-game area, with a population recovery requirement of 100 wolves with 10 breeding pairs.
Each year Game and Fish applies a formula for predicted mortality and calculates a quota number for its late-year gray wolf hunts. Lethal removals are part of that formula.
In 2019, wolves killed 42 cattle, 27 sheep, one donkey and one dog and injured nine calves, two cows and one donkey.
“Thirty wolves were lethally removed by agencies or the public following livestock conflict in an effort to reduce livestock losses to wolves,” the report says. Foster said Wildlife Services has worked all over the state this year on lethal wolf control in the trophy-game area. “There have been large-scale efforts in the recent past,” he said, adding that the population “renews” itself in spite of lethal controls.
“Wolves are an ongoing issue … on the fringes of the trophy-game zone there’s a lot of interaction.”
The federal agency is called upon directly when livestock kills by wolves in the predator zone are confirmed, including Boulder ranches last year where WS maintained a large presence as the “lead agency.”
Foster said he is “not at liberty to say” who requested assistance with wolves last year, due to privacy laws, except that it was a private rancher.
County predator boards can also ask WS for assistance in the predator zone, where Game and Fish does not manage the wolves.
An estimated 26 wolves in five packs were in the state’s predatory animal zone at the end of 2019.