Can the Wyoming landscape handle more than 160 wolves?
When we calculate the number of wolves Wyoming has roaming the landscape, I think most wouldn’t think about adding the number of wolves Yellowstone National Park (YNP) has to that number. Well, think again. The majority of YNP lands firmly in the north west corner of Wyoming and yes, the number of wolves allowed to reside in the so called “trophy game area” of Wyoming are counted with those wolves that reside in the park.
What does this mean?
It means the state of Wyoming, outside of the park, doesn’t have to manage a whole lot of wolves.
Wyoming is federally mandated to hold 100 wolves or 10 breeding pair. This number was pushed a bit higher with what is called the population buffer, and that number is 150 wolves or 15 breeding pair. Wyoming can, by law, go below the 100/10 count for 2 consecutive years without USFW intervening. Wyoming’s wolf count for 2018 was 153 and the powers that be wanted to push the numbers even lower. Ken Mills, the biologist in charge of wolf management for Wyoming Game and Fish was able to push that number to 160. By using population analysis they determined the land could sustain this number.
Seems like a pretty small number for such a small population of people and a whole lot of mountain range with prey populations. Part of that analysis is taking into consideration who else lives and works on that land -- ranchers. It also takes into account hunters and their need to prey on the wolves main food source - elk.
So, the big question is this -- does Wyoming have the land and prey population to support more wolves and why are we putting aside a more balanced ecosystem for ranchers and hunters?
Hang tight folks -- we are going to delve into this subject further.
Look for our new Podcast coming in the next month!
All Things Wolf and Wild Podcast