Wolves and wolf management are issues that have certainly been buzzing and circulating across the entire mountain west region for some time now, with recent discussion to end federal protections of the animals and allow wolf hunts. Public sentiment toward the wolves have not commonly been seen as popular, especially with recent actions of wolves in the Jackson area; but now, that public opinion is being sought by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to gather feelings toward the new wolf management and wolf hunting regulations.

According to the Game and Fish Department, these regulations are the next step towards getting wolves removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in Wyoming.

Last August, Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar reached an agreement to move forward with delisting the animal, and under that agreement, Wyoming will maintain at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. The current Trophy Game Management Area in northwest Wyoming will extend about 50 miles to the south from its current location near the Wyoming/Idaho border. Wolves in this seasonal expansion area will be managed as trophy game from Oct. 15 to the last day of February. During the rest of the year, wolves in this seasonal expansion area will be designated as predators.

In September 2011, after a public comment period, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved changes to its Gray Wolf Management Plan that incorporated the elements of the agreement. Subsequently, in October, the US Fish and Wildlife Service published a notice in the Federal Register of their intent to delist wolves in Wyoming. The Wyoming Legislature recently made changes to the statutes, which allow Wyoming to move forward with its management plan.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will consider the proposed regulations governing gray wolf management and gray wolf hunting in Wyoming at its April 25-26 meeting in Casper. These regulations incorporate elements of the agreement between Governor Mead and Interior Secretary Salazar, recently passed legislation pertaining to gray wolves within Wyoming, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s Gray Wolf Management Plan. The regulations specify the Trophy Game Management Area boundary; the department’s process for collecting genetic material to monitor genetic connectivity within the northern Rocky Mountains; rules for lethal take of gray wolves; options for non-lethal gray wolf control; population management goals; hunt areas; and seasons and bag limits for a potential 2012 gray wolf hunting season. However, since these regulations are just proposed, so technically still a draft, there will be meetings across the state leading up to the Casper meeting in late April.

The public meeting in Laramie will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 at the Albany County Fairgrounds Cafeteria. Subsequent meetings across the state will be held in Cody, Sheridan, Casper, Afton, Pinedale, Green River, Jackson and Lander. For more information on the Game and Fish proposed regulations on wolf management, or the public meetings, go to the Wyoming Game & Fish Department website.