Montana's been the center of attention wolf-wise this summer, what with the state's proposal to allow wolf trapping. But last week, Wyoming took back the limelight. Our neighbor to the south that's been a constant source of wolf-related woe is now prepping to end federal protections on the species.
The debates that have raged in Montana and Idaho over the past year are small potatoes compared to what's going on in Wyoming. The state has proposed what equates to a shoot-on-sight hunt designed to cut the wolf population outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation by almost two-thirds, from 270 to 100 animals. Apparently, 10 breeding pairs makes for a stable population in the country's 10th largest state. That hunt could open as soon as next month.
Environmental groups are again challenging the war on the wolf. Defenders of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity intend to collectively sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, alleging that delisting of wolves in Wyoming was premature. Defenders stated publicly this week that the state's management proposals could both undermine wolf recovery in the region and "hinder the spread of wolves to other areas" where federal protections are still in effect.
We've defended the need for states to effectively manage wolves. And yes, that means hunting. But Wyoming's blatant "if it's a wolf, shoot it" approach is the worst we've seen yet. According to Wyoming Fish and Game, wolves are to be considered a predatory species, except in a small slice of forest where they're classified as trophy game. Folks across roughly 85 percent of Wyoming will be free to shoot wolves without a hunting license, provided they report the kill within 10 days and surrender any radio tracking devices they might recover.
There were 653 wolves estimated in Montana in 2011, and more than 740 in Idaho. Wyoming's population seems modest in comparison, certainly not high enough to justify such a large reduction.
You want to manage wolves? Fine. But let's not be Elmer Fudd about it.