Wyoming tribes propose wolf-hunt buffer zone
JACKSON, Wyo. — A Native American advocacy group is asking Wyoming wildlife managers for a ban on killing wolves along a wide swath of land bordering Yellowstone National Park.
A request sent to the Wyoming Fish and Game Department seeks a temporary suspension of wolf hunting altogether and a 31-mile no-hunting “sacred resource protection safety zone” along the outskirts of the 2.2 million-acre park in northwest Wyoming.
Protect the Wolves Director Roger Dobson told the Jackson Hole News & Guide that Wyoming’s insistence on allowing unregulated hunting of wolves outside areas where wolves are still protected was a motivation for approaching the state.
“It goes to show that Wyoming is not capable of managing their resources in the best interest of the public,” said Dobson, a member of the Pacific Northwest’s Cowlitz Indian Tribe. “They’re mandated under the Indian trust and public trust to manage our resources in the best interest of the public. It’s further mandated that they do not allow special-interest groups to suggest or affect policy change.”
Dobson’s contention is that Wyoming’s wolf management plan was a concession to the livestock lobby that stands to benefit, and thus an illegal betrayal of the public trust.
Protect the Wolves has no staff in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, but Dobson said it has “tribal endorsements” all over North America.
A March court decision once again turned wolves into a state-managed species, following a 2 1/2-year stint as a federally protected threatened species.
In Wyoming, wolves remain protected in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. The state has a tightly regulated hunting season in the adjoining greater Yellowstone area. But elsewhere in Wyoming, where wolves aren’t nearly as numerous, wolves can be shot on sight and without limit.
Game and Fish has begun planning for a fall hunt in the managed portion of the state, called the “trophy game area.” The intent of the hunt is to cut the wolf population in the that area by 50 to 160 animals, close to the lowest level possible that ensures there will be legally adequate numbers of breeding pairs.
A meeting on the wolf-hunting regulations is scheduled for May 22.
It’s through the season-setting process that Dobson seeks to amend Wyoming’s wolf-hunting regulations. The request likely would require redrawing the lines on hunt units that have been in place for years.
If the effort fails, Dobson said he won’t rule out suing the state of Wyoming.
Renny MacKay, Game and Fish’s statewide spokesman, said that altering hunt units to create a no-hunting buffer along Yellowstone’s periphery may be difficult to achieve at this time.
“I think people could give us feedback on that,” MacKay said, “but I don’t know if that could be done at this point.”
The only Native American territory in Wyoming’s portion of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Wind River Indian Reservation, is more than 30 miles from the park boundary.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2017 census found nine wolves on the reservation, where the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes have jurisdiction over the species.
There are about 400 wolves in Wyoming.