CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming is estimated to have at least 347 wolves roaming within its borders after the state regained management of the animals and allowed limited hunting of wolves, according to an annual report by state wildlife managers.
The number of wolves counted by state game managers at the end of 2017 is down from about 380 estimated the year before.
State Game and Fish Department officials say the wolf population level continues to be healthy and exceeds all criteria established to show that the species is recovered.
“It is significant that today we are now managing recovered and healthy populations of all of Wyoming’s native large carnivores,” Dan Thompson, large carnivore section supervisor, said in a statement Wednesday.
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But a wildlife advocate decried the drop in wolf numbers.
“Wolves won’t persist outside Yellowstone National Park if Wyoming continues to eradicate them at this appalling pace,” Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, said.
Wolves in Yellowstone and on the Wind River Indian Reservation remain under federal protection.
The state report released Wednesday said 43 wolves were legally hunted last year in the state outside Yellowstone and the reservation. It was the first time since 2013 that the state held a wolf hunt after the federal government allowed the state to resume management of the wolves last year.
According to the report, wolves killed 191 livestock outside Yellowstone and the reservation in 2017. That’s down from 243 in 2016.
And the number of wolves removed separately from the legal hunting season for conflicts with livestock fell from 113 in 2016 to 61 last year, the report said.
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. Wolves were reintroduced to the Northern Rockies, including Idaho and Montana, in the mid-1990s.