By Joy Ufford
Via Wyoming News Exchange
PINEDALE – One of the anticipated changes to this year’s hunting season regulations will be the trophy-game gray wolf quota set by Wyoming Game and Fish each year.
This year, with most trophy wolf hunt areas opening on Sept. 1, Game and Fish is proposing a lower harvest of 34, compared to the quota of 58 set in 2018. The proposed wolf hunts as well as changes in furbearing, falconry, firearm cartridges, archery and mountain lions regulations will be discussed and are open for comment through June 17.
The proposed 2019 wolf quota appears conservative, with some quotas almost halved from 2018, but large carnivore biologist Ken Mills of Pinedale said the end-of-year objective remains at about 160 wolves. Higher human-caused mortality rates are expected – and much larger litters are expected, he added.
“The main data from which the mortality limits are derived include the number of wolves in the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area and the estimated mortality rate required to move the population toward the end-of-year objective,” he said.
Last year ended with an estimated 152 wolves within the trophy-game management area, eight below the wildlife agency’s objective. Balancing all of the factors includes gaining eight more wolves to be right at 160.
“We had at least 152 wolves in the WTGMA, which is 28 percent less than what we had at the start of 2018,” Mills explained. “However, we estimate a much higher human-caused mortality rate will be required to offset population growth (49.5 percent this year vs. 25.8 percent last year) because the population is lower and should reproduce at a higher rate.”
Mills added, “Note we are proposing the same end-of-year population objective as we did last year, 160 wolves, which means a slight increase in the population (eight wolves) to be sure we continue to remain above minimum recovery criteria, mostly the 10 breeding pairs.”
Mills said Game and Fish will keep the “same approach to depredation response as usual, not more or less aggressive.”
In 2018, predator conflicts declined but about the same number of wolves were removed as in 2017.
“We usually have had around 23-percent human-caused mortality, which includes lethal control in addition to hunting since 2009, so (it is) pretty constant.”