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Nesvik touts success of state-managed wolf plan

A wolf in Yellowstone National Park’s Hayden Valley. (Ashton Hooker/National Park Service)

• Livestock depredations at lowest level since 2010.

Wolves are always a hot-button topic in Wyoming and recent news regarding the killing of a wolf outside a Pinedale bar recently has made International headlines. But in a recent interview with SVI’s Weekday Wake-up radio program, Wyoming Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik says the incident has overshadowed an important fact. State-run management of wolves can work and work well. The recent numbers of the 2023 Wyoming Gray Wolf Monitoring and Management Annual Report support this statement.

“This is a great example of when states are allowed to manage species that have met all of the criteria, that state management plans really work,” Nesvik stated. “We’ve been implementing this for six years and we continue to have a healthy, viable  wolf population that exceeds the criteria that was laid out by the Fish and Wildlife Service. [The fact is] we had a decrease in livestock depredations [which were] as low as we’ve seen since 2010. That is good news.”

Nesvik commented on the challenge of having a successful program for wolves in particular.

“They are an apex predator so there is no control on their population other than themselves,” he said. “It’s really important to have hunting as a management tool for a species like wolves. They are extremely prolific. They have high reproductive success and they can withstand high levels of human mortality and still survive.”

Wyoming’s plan is based in part on a dual status designation.

“The most unique part of our plan, there really isn’t any other place that has a dual status system,” Nevik continued. “in other states where’s there’s not suitable wolf habitat, they are listed as predatory animals; similar in status to a raccoon a skunk or a coyote. In northwest Wyoming they are managed like a trophy game animal like a black bear or a mountain lion. The plan has several hunt areas, it has mortality limits that are set by the commission to ensure that we maintain a population that has more than 100 wolves and more than ten breeding pairs. So in order to make sure that we confidently can do that we usually manage for 160 wolves and 12-14 breeding pairs. That ensures that we don’t fall below that criteria.”

While Nesvik is pleased with the positive numbers he commented on the wolf torture incident in Sublette County which has put the Wyoming Game and Fish under the public microscope and given a black eye to an area.

“Very very unfortunate,” he said. “Very disrespectful to wildlife. Disrespectful to law. That was not hunting. That was not predator control. That was illegal activity. We did investigate it. We did charge the suspect with a violation of Game and Fish regulations that were applicable. It’s unfortunate and I hope people can remember that Wyoming has a good management plan that works in our state.”

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