Hunters planning on taking wolves in Wyoming starting next month will not be able to do so because of a federal judge’s recent ruling.
Until 2012, gray wolves were listed as protected under the Endangered Species Act. When those federal protections went away, it was up to the states to implement management plans.
Wyoming’s plan treated the wolves as unprotected predators in a zone that covers nearly 80 percent of the state, meaning in that area the animals could be shot on sight.
Environmental groups and animal-welfare organizations including the Humane Society of the United States filed suit, trying to reverse the de-listing.
Senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at the HSUS Jonathan Lovvorn said “Wyoming’s regressive wolf management plan is reminiscent of a time when bounties paid by state and federal governments triggered mass killings that nearly exterminated wolves from the lower 48 states.”
The state of Wyoming will refund hunters who already purchased wolf licenses and tags for this fall, and will fight the ruling.
“There are many positives in Judge Jackson’s decision,” Wyoming Governor Matt Mead wrote in a press release. “However, she held that Wyoming’s plan was not sufficiently formalized to support the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2012 rule allowing limited take of gray wolves. We believe an emergency rule can remedy this, and I have instructed the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Attorney General to proceed accordingly.”
Idaho and Montana also have state management plans for gray wolves that were put into place after the species was de-listed from the Endangered Species Act in 2012. While the federal ruling reverses that de-listing in Wyoming, the management plans in Idaho and Montana are still valid.
Idaho Fish and Game Spokesman Greg Losinksi, who was reached for comment the day after the ruling, said that Idaho Fish and Game is monitoring the situation across the border.
“We all looked at the Wyoming plan and wondered how long it would last,” he said. “And this is how it went.”
Idaho allows wolf hunting but does not feature a "predator zone" where the animals can be killed on sight.
Losinski said it is much too early to say how this will affect wildlife management in Idaho, not just for wolves but other big game species, but the Fish and Game commission will look into the ruling’s effects.
Wolf hunting and trapping is still legal in Teton County, Idaho. Trapping season is slated to begin Nov. 15.