Wolves lose protection
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
March 28, 2008
Gray wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Area no longer enjoy the protection of the Endangered Species Act, but the delisting could be temporary if conservation groups successfully challenge the decision later this spring.
As of this morning, the states of Wyoming, Idaho and Montana will take over management of the carnivore.
The three states have committed to maintaining a minimum of 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves in each state, for a total of 450 wolves.
In Wyoming, wolves are considered predators in roughly 88 percent of the state and can be killed by anyone using any means without a license.
In the northwest corner of the state, wolves are now considered trophy game, which means licenses will be required to shoot them during a designated season. That area does not include Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks and John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway, where wolves will remain protected under the authority of the National Park Service.
In Jackson Hole, the distinction between the predator area, the trophy-game area and the national parks means the gray wolf will have three levels of protection within a distance of five miles. South of Highway 22, wolves are considered predators, and north and east of Grand Teton National Park, wolves will be hunted as trophy game.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is expected to set hunting seasons for wolves this spring.
But Wyoming Game and Fish spokesman Eric Keszler said conservation groups’ court challenges could derail opportunities to kill wolves.
“The real question is: We don’t know what is going to go on with these lawsuits,” he said. “There could be a change in the status of wolves as early as spring. There’s a chance that this could be a temporary thing.”
Defenders of Wildlife, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, the Sierra Club, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Western Watersheds Project and a number of other conservation groups joined together in late February to file a 60-day notice of intent to sue over the delisting. The lawsuit could result in an injunction as early as late April.
Keszler said the state would remain responsible for compensating landowners for livestock losses in the trophy-game area even if the groups successfully lobby a judge for an injunction.
Keszler urged people to remain apprised of lawsuits by visiting the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Web site http://gf.state.wy.us/ or by calling the department’s wolf information line at 307-777-4655 during normal business hours.
Wolves in the lower 48 states were mostly extinct by 1930, following a policy of eradication by federal and state governments.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service put wolves on the endangered species list in 1974. The agency set 66 Canadian wolves free in Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho starting in 1995. The total northern Rockies population is now more than 1,500 animals.