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Game and Fish mulls lowering wolf harvest quotas in Dubois area

May 21, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Wyoming Game and Fish proposes to lower the gray wolf harvest quota for the hunt area around Dubois to three animals from the five allowed in 2012. The hunt season would remain the same, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

Regional wildlife manager Jason Hunter, large carnivore biologist Bob Trebelcock and carnivore conflict supervisor Brian Debolt met with the Fremont County Commission on May 7 to discuss the proposed wolf season.

"We're hoping to reduce the population slightly in 2013," Trebelcock said, referring to the wolves.

The hunt area covers all of Fremont County west of the Wind River Indian Reservation. The tribal game and fish agency manages wolves on the reservation, and wolves are considered predators east of the reservation and can be shot without a license.

The state agency has jurisdiction over the animals everywhere in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone National Park and the reservation. Game and Fish took over management of gray wolves in those areas Sept. 30, the day after they were removed from the endangered species list.

Trebelcock said the lower quota is the product of a large calculation. Game and Fish estimates 169 wolves reside in its management area, and the department wants to end 2013 with 160 wolves.

According to Game and Fish projections, the population will produce roughly 53 new wolves, and humans will kill about 33 wolves in ways besides hunting, such as vehicle collisions and control.

To keep the population at 169, the agency estimates, based on previous studies, it could allow 17 to be harvested by hunting. To bring the population to 160, it will have hunters kill nine more.

In the end, the total of quotas in the trophy game area will be 26, Trebelcock said.

Hunting, control kills and non-human deaths brought the wolf population Game and Fish manages down from 192 animals to 169. The agency was aiming for 172, but Trebelcock said it was satisfied with the result.

Trebelcock said only three wolves were harvested in Fremont County's hunt area 5, leaving the five-wolf quota unfilled. He attributed the lack of success to the difficulty in hunting wolves, and not a lack of interest among sportsmen.

One condition of the delisting required there to be 10 breeding pairs among wolves the state manages. Game and Fish estimates it needs at least 141 wolves to maintain enough breeding pairs, defined as an adult male and female with two pups.

Commission chairman Doug Thompson questioned the sense in managing to have wolves when they eat other game species, which bring income to Wyoming.

Debolt said the number of wolves is not Game and Fish's first priority.

"Regardless of numbers, we want to control damage," he said.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission would have to approve the quota changes at its meeting July 9-10 before they take effect.

The public can comment on wolf management by writing to Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Casper Regional Office, ATTN: Wildlife Division, Regulations, 3030 Energy Lane, Casper, WY 82604. Letters must be received by June 12.