Wolf hunters in Wyoming are kissing their season goodbye after a U.S. District Court judge decided Tuesday that the state’s wolf-management plan was inadequate and reverted control of its wolf population back to the federal government.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) spokesman Jeff Obrecht told the Jackson Hole News & Guide that the decision makes it illegal for anyone to shoot a wolf. “It’s immediate,” Obrecht said. “Everything is suspended, [and] we just want people to know that. We’ve got a responsibility to get that word out.” A three-month wolf season in Wyoming’s northwest corner was set to begin October 1, but before this ruling, wolves could be shot on sight year-round in the rest of the state—a necessary act for some ranchers whose livestock was preyed upon by wolves, according to the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
From her bench in Washington, D.C., Judge Amy Berman Jackson sided with six wolf-advocacy groups, arguing that the state’s approach isn’t a legally-binding plan that ensures a viable wolf population. Some outfitters have expressed concern that the ruling could lead to an increase in poaching and that guides who may be off the grid for elk season will be the last to know.
Yesterday, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead, hoping to resurrect the season, signed and filed an emergency rule with the Secretary of State that essentially pledges the state will ensure at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs remain outside of Yellowstone National Park, as required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s delisting agreement. At last count, the state had 199 wolves in 30 different packs. “There are many positives in Judge Jackson’s decision,” Gov. Mead said in a news 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.”
If the status of Wyoming’s hunting season changes, the WGFD said that it will make an immediate announcement. In the interim, the agency ceased the sale of all wolf-hunting licenses, and is working on a way to issue refunds to hunters who already purchased a 2014 tag.