By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department sold more than 150 non-resident annual fishing licenses over the weekend, down from just one compared to the same weekend last year.
However, department officials said the number did not necessarily mean people visited Wyoming to get their licenses. Instead, Game and Fish spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo said many of the licenses sold were annual licenses and it was likely many non-residents renewed their licenses online.
Daily non-resident license decreased by 21% over this weekend compared to 2019, DiRienzo added.
A non-resident annual fishing license can be purchased or renewed through the Game and Fish Department’s for $102. The department earned $15,606 with the weekend’s non-resident fishing license sales.
The information about license sales was raised in a tweet from Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr, who echoed the concerns of state officials about non-Wyoming residents avoiding travel to the state.
“Dear Visitors: We love that you appreciate all Wyoming offers, including recreation and our great outdoors. The fact 153 non-resident annual fishing licenses were sold this weekend alone signals you are not staying at home. Please stay away. We’ll welcome you back another day,” she wrote.
The tweet quickly generated a number of responses, with some suggesting that the Game and Fish Department stop selling non-resident hunting and fishing licenses altogether during the coronavirus pandemic and others recalling examples they have seen of people not practicing social distancing.
DiRienzo said the department has no plans to cancel any hunting or fishing seasons.
“Game and Fish has actually been reaching out to non-residents who have hunting or fishing licenses and we’re actually asking them to stay home,” DiRienzo said. “As of now, we’re not planning to close any of our hunting or fishing seasons, because we recognize that being outside is important to residents’ mental health.”
The spokeswoman reiterated that the department is asking all Wyoming residents to practice safe social distancing when going outside to enjoy all of the state’s natural glory and to avoid crowded spots while outside.
Many variations of hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased online. However, if a permit has a “carcass coupon,” those will need to be purchased in person at any licensed selling agent (Walmart, for example). The Game and Fish regional offices are still open for business and will sell permits, but DiRienzo asked that people call in advance to let staff know.
“If you want to get out and recreate, do so safely and find areas less dense with people,” she said. “Anyone from Colorado who is coming up here to hunt or fish right now is actually violating their state’s stay-at-home order, so we would encourage everyone to be responsible and be safe.”
Last week, Gov. Mark Gordon extended social distancing orders until April 30, but hasn’t called for an official shelter-in-place order, noting that he believes Wyomingites will follow social distancing recommendations.
Gordon also imposed an order that all visitors from other states self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in Wyoming, a move designed to discourage travel to the state.
When alerted to the fact that more than 150 non-resident annual fishing licenses were sold over the weekend, Gordon’s communications director Michael Pearlman echoed the governor’s sentiments delivered during a Friday press conference.
“The Governor’s directive issued Friday is absolutely intended to discourage non-residents from visiting Wyoming at this time,” Pearlman said in an email. “‘We know that travel from another state or country is a source of COVID-19 infections in Wyoming, Visitors from neighboring states have strained the resources of many Wyoming communities so we are asking them to do the right thing to protect the health of our citizens and the resources of our rural healthcare facilities.'”