Now that I am at peace with hunting, I try also to see the bigger picture around the continued battle between man and wolf. The entire controversy centers around one issue: ranchers want to raise livestock but wolves will sometimes kill and eat from the herds. It is a simple battle.
The situation right now is as follows:
- Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in 2011, by the Feds.
- As the population of wolves expands, they are moving out of Yellowstone into ranching areas.
- In fall 2012, wolf hunting was allowed for the first time. State officials designated 52 wolves out of the total 192 wolves for the hunt, in a special zone near Yellowstone that first year. Hunters killed 42 wolves.
- In 2013, officials reduced the quota to 26 wolves. So far this year, four wolves have been killed in the hunting zone. Officials said when announcing the 2013 quota, “ this year is 26, and the reason it’s lower is we’re not really attempting to reduce the population to the extent we were last year. We’re wanting to have a slight reduction this year, but really just wanting to maintain that level.”
- Any wolves outside this hunting zone and Yellowstone National Park are classified as predators that may be shot on sight.
Management of wolf populations outside Yellowstone falls under the jurisdiction of state game wardens who skillfully control thriving populations of other animals, a number of guidelines are spelledout. According to the Casper Tribune, the state of Wyoming agreed to preserve “at least 10 breeding pairs of wolves and at least 100 individual animals outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation, in the central part of the state. The game department considers other factors, in addition to hunting, that kill wolves when it sets hunting quotas.”
Cheyenne lawyer Harriet Hageman represents the Wyoming Wolf Coalition, which includes several Wyoming county governments, agricultural and sportsmen groups that have entered the litigation to support wolf hunting. She says, “I think that Wyoming’s wolf management plan obviously is appropriate and necessary to protect our other industries as well as to protect the wolf population, so I think we’re on the right track with that,” Hageman said.
I agree with most of the policy and I believe that wolf populations will thrive in our state and ranchers will live in peace. Western lands must be managed to accommodate multiple users, including man. Emotionally, I hate to see magnificent wolves shot. However, life on the range, where daily battles are often between predator and prey, lends a different perspective to everything. If I have learned anything while living here it is: don’t judge until you know all the facts.
As so,I am still thinking through the final provision of the law: “shoot on site” any wolves seen outside the designated hunting zone. I hope that people will proceed with some discretion, and consider the distance from and potential danger to livestock before randomly shooting a wolf. Wolves hunt in a pack, and a random wolf loping across the hills is probably on the move to new range. Besides, wolves have many more options than livestock on their menu. In Yellowstone, elk is the meat of choice, but wolves will also take down deer, moose, mountain goat, antelope and bighorn sheep.
I hope we get further clarification and rulings on the “shoot on site”, at least as it applies to non-ranchers. The ranchers that I know respect wildlife and are good stewards of the land, not random killers. It is the bored town people who could drive around looking for a wolf to shoot that really worry me. Besides needlessly killing a wolf,I can think of all kinds of mayhem this scenario could cause, especially with alcohol as a factor.
To read more about wolf hunting and some other controversies, check out the articles below, which reveal that Wisconsin residents have already killed 85 wolves this year, and in B.C, wolf-hunting may become unregulated.
- Wyoming kicks off downsized wolf-hunting season (trib.com)
- 85 wolves killed in first six days of 2013 Wisconsin season (jsonline.com)
- Wolf advocates: Hunters may have killed 5 wolves in well-known Yellowstone pack (ravallirepublic.com)
- Unlimited wolf kill proposed for Thompson region (timescolonist.com)