Jim Zumbo - Everything Outdoors

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My Take on Wolves

Posted by on in Hunting
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As one who lives in wolf country, with wolves commonly seen around my home in northern Wyoming, and as one who has been researching and writing about wolves long before they were introduced into Yellowstone and Idaho more than 20 years ago, I'd like to clear the air. At least -- my perspective.

wolfThere was a huge hue and cry in the 1980s and 90s to introduce wolves into Yellowstone Park and parts of Idaho. I recall pro -wolf organizations in Yellowstone in their little booths passing out badges and bumper stickers saying "Little Red Riding Hood Was Wrong." With this kind of marketing (condoned by the US government), it's no surprise that millions of visitors, who have nary a clue about wolves, or anything else about the outdoors, contacted their legislators in support of reintroducing wolves into the park.

For whatever the reason, despite a huge fight within the Senate and House, (basically western legislators against everyone else) it was decided to implement the profoundly controversial introduction and put wolves back in Yellowstone. In the mid-90s, some two dozen wolves were captured in Canada and turned loose in the park. I recall one park wildlife official making the idiotic comment that "wolves won't leave the pantry," suggesting that wolves would stay in the park and dine on the prey within, notably elk. Did he not realize that there's no fence around the 2 million plus acre park, and that a huge number of the elk migrate out of the park each year? Did he not have a clue that the wolves would follow the elk? Obviously he didn't, and obviously, the elk indeed left the park, and the wolves followed them, almost immediately after they were introduced. In no time, wolves had litters outside the park in Montana and Wyoming, and it was only a matter of time before they spilled into country far from Yellowstone's borders.

Wyoming, Idaho and Montana were charged by the Feds to come up with a wolf recovery plan once a minimum number of wolf packs had been reached. As it turned out, the wolves multiplied quickly and reached those minimum levels, and the Idaho and Montana plans were eventually accepted, but Wyoming's plan was not. This plan allowed for much of the northwest part of Wyoming, which holds the bulk of the remote mountains and wilderness areas, to be included in a management area where a limited number of wolves could be hunted with a season and bag limit of one. But, and here's what doomed Wyoming's efforts, any wolf crossing out of that area's boundaries could be shot on sight, no license required, no season. In other words, they'd have the same status as a coyote. The rationale was to allow wolves to maintain acceptable numbers in the northwest mountains, but they were unwelcome in the rest of Wyoming.

Again, there were battles in court, but Wyoming won, and wolves were allowed to be hunted for two seasons, in 2012 and 13, with quotas of 50 for each season. But wolf advocates found a sympathetic judge in DC who put wolves back on the Endangered Species in Wyoming. The hunts ended.

That's where it stood until last week when a Federal Appeals Court in DC ruled that wolves would be removed from the Endangered Species list in Wyoming. Wildlife officials hope to have a wolf hunt this fall. Kudos to the state of Wyoming for sticking to their guns and not giving in to pressure.

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