CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission on Wednesday approved a wolf hunting season this fall that allows for hunters to take up to 58 wolves, which is up from the 44 wolves that were allowed to be hunted last year.
There are about 350 wolves roaming Wyoming, including about 210 in areas where the state manages their numbers with hunting.
State game managers who are tasked with trying to control the animals that can prey on domestic livestock want to see that 210 brought down to about 160.
Game and Fish wolf biologist Ken Mills told commissioners that 160 wolves would leave the state with about 14 breeding pairs, easily meeting the state’s commitment to maintaining at least 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs.
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Wolf advocates have been critical of Wyoming’s management of wolves and have opposed the increased number that could be hunted this fall.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Commission continue to focus on reducing the wolf population toward the bare minimum, Jonathan Proctor, of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement Wednesday.
“Wolves are an important component of Wyoming’s natural heritage, and should be managed toward achieving healthy and abundant populations across large landscapes so that they may perform their important natural role,” Proctor said.
Changes approved by the state commission include allowing hunters to kill up to two wolves and starting the season a month earlier in some places on Sept. 1. The commission met in Laramie.
Wolf hunting remains prohibited in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, the National Elk Refuge near Jackson and on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Neighboring Montana and Idaho also have established wolf hunting seasons.
A federal appeals court in early 2017 lifted endangered species protection for wolves in Wyoming, allowing the state to take over management of the animals and re-establish its wolf hunting season.
Wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies in the mid-1990s. Since then, the animal has been the subject of debate between conservationists who want to see wolf numbers grow and livestock operators who want wolf numbers controlled to protect their businesses.