Gray wolves in Wyoming have had a turbulent past. They were wiped out around the turn of the 20th Century, then they were reintroduced in the 1990s. Since then, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared them recovered, and removed them from the Endangered Species List. Wolf advocacy groups immediately sued, and they were relisted. Then they were delisted again, and almost immediately relisted. And now a judge’s ruling has gotten the process started to delist them yet again.
In my opinion, this is good news for everyone – the landowners and hunters of Wyoming, the wolf advocacy groups, and the wolves themselves.
Wolves are a contentious subject here. Many people feel they were forced down our throats by the federal government, and the longer wolves are protected, the more those people resent them, especially when the animals have outgrown their available habitat and food supply, and begin to turn to livestock for food.
And that’s where we are now. The definition of a recovered wolf population included a mandate of 100 wolves in the state, outside Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation. We have had far more than that for more than a decade, and they’re expanding outside their suitable habitat.
If they keep drifting out, more people who currently feel good about having wolves back in the state will change their minds as wolves get into things they shouldn’t be getting into. That will hurt the wolf advocates’ momentum, and ultimately hurt the wolves.
There’s no hunting season yet – the Fish and Wildlife and Game and Fish still have some work to do. But we’re on the right track to do what’s right for Wyoming, and for wolves.