WY G&F asks Feds to control their wolves
January 10, 2005
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to remove or relocate wolves from the Daniel pack in western Wyoming that have been chasing large numbers of elk from winter feedgrounds onto private lands and, in some cases, highways.
In a recent letter to FWS Wyoming Wolf Recovery Project Leader Mike Jiminez, G&F Director Terry Cleveland points out that the FWS has the authority to remove wolves that are "negatively impacting ungulate populations."
Currently, because wolves are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, the state of Wyoming has no authority to manage wolves. Cleveland has asked the FWS to respond to his request by Jan. 17.
The current problems are centered around feedgrounds near Daniel, specifically the Finnegan, North Piney, Bench Corral, Jewett and Franz feedgrounds. For the past several weeks, wolves in the area have been chasing elk from these feedgrounds onto private property, causing property damage and leading to increased commingling of elk and livestock. On two occasions, the wolves have chased elk onto highway right-of-ways, creating public safety concerns.
"Having large numbers of elk displaced from feedgrounds onto private property creates poor public relations with local livestock producers, increases damage problems and greatly increases the potential for brucellosis transmission from elk to cattle," said Cleveland. "It also costs the Game and Fish Department thousands of dollars in administrative expenses each time elk must be returned to established feedgrounds after being displaced by wolves."
During December, G&F personnel dealt with six separate situations involving the displacement of more than 3,400 elk from established feedgrounds. Currently, wolf interactions with elk on feedgrounds occur daily.
Brucellosis is a disease found in free-ranging elk and bison in the Greater Yellowstone Area in northwest Wyoming and in adjacent portions of Idaho and Montana. Recent cases of brucellosis in Wyoming cattle herds have caused the state to lose its brucellosis-free status. The G&F is working diligently with a number of other state and federal agencies to regain Wyoming’s brucellosis-free status. Preventing elk and cattle from commingling is a key to preventing new cases of brucellosis in cattle.
Wolves were extirpated from Wyoming in the 1930s. The species gained federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. With the goal of reestablishing a sustainable wolf population in the northern Rocky Mountains, the FWS reintroduced 31 wolves to Yellowstone National Park, and 35 wolves to Central Idaho in 1995 and 1996. According to the latest available data, today there are more than 200 wolves in Wyoming alone. These wolves form 27 distinct packs, well above the FWS goal of 15 packs in the Greater Yellowstone wolf population.
To compensate for the loss of winter habitat and to prevent damage to stored hay, elk feedgrounds were established in the early and mid-20th century. Currently, the G&F manages 22 elk feedgrounds in Teton, Lincoln and Sublette counties on BLM, forest service, state and private land holdings. In addition, the National Elk Refuge feedground near Jackson is managed by the FWS.