Wolves come off the Endangered Species List again

It’s too early to know exactly what it means for Wyoming hunters and livestock owners, but a federal court has once again removed gray wolves from the Endangered Species List.

Last Friday, the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals issued a ruling that once more takes gray wolves off the Endangered Species List in Wyoming.

Wolves were protected from the time they were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 until 2008, when a court ruling put them under management by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. That ruling was challenged, and a Montana court of appeals put them back on the Endangered Species List. They remained protected again until 2012, when they were again delisted briefly, but that ruling also was challenged, and wolves wound up under federal protection again.

But the most recent decision by the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals considered the genetic connectivity of the wolves, the amount of their former range they now inhabit, and the efficacy of Wyoming’s wolf management plan. The court decided on all three criteria, the wolves in Wyoming have met the stipulations needed to be removed from the Endangered Species List.

To keep the wolves off the list, Wyoming has to maintain at least 100 individual wolves in at least 10 breeding packs in addition to the wolves that live in Yellowstone and on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Estimates show we have far more than those necessary numbers. Back in May, wolf biologist Mike Jimenez said we had more than 380 wolves in 48 packs in the state.

It’s not clear yet whether we’ll have a hunting season for wolves this fall in the northwest corner of the state, where they’ll be considered trophy game animals, or an open season for them in the rest of the state, where they’ll be classified as predators. But you can bet the Game and Fish will be working on a plan immediately. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out what they say.