Governor Gordon claims Wyoming’s state wolf management program deserves praise for its recovery numbers and use of scientific data. That could not be further from the truth.
Wyoming’s policies are bad for Wyoming wolves and residents, and the Governor should stop pretending otherwise. When Wyoming assumed responsibility for managing gray wolves after they were removed from the Endangered Species Act in response to a lawsuit in 2017, the state was obligated to provide sound, science-based management. Instead, Governor Gordon has supported unnecessary wolf killings that cost our state revenue, do not align with wolf recovery methods, and implemented policies just as brutal as other states.
The data is clear – wolves are good for Wyoming tourism. Our current wolf policies are causing Wyoming to miss out on a multi-million dollar industry. Visitors and many locals alike are excited by the prospect of seeing a wolf, and willing to spend money to see one. Wolves provide 82 million dollars in annual revenue for Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. One study found that 44 percent of all Yellowstone National Park visitors recorded the wolf as one of the animals they would like to see most. Jackson Hole has achieved international recognition as a sought-after destination for wolf-watching. However, when Wyoming assumed control over wolf management it quickly created seasons for wolf hunting and trapping, despite the proven economic and ecological benefits of wolves. At least 77 wolves were killed in the 2017 hunting season, only months after the delisting. In the years that followed without federal protection, the wolf-watching industry in Jackson Hole collapsed and Wyoming lost the opportunity to profit from this lucrative industry.
Governor Gordon justifies his war against wolves by pointing to ranchers’ livestock concerns despite the fact that wolves only account for 0.01 percent of unwanted livestock deaths. Impacted ranchers are reimbursed for livestock killings by wolves at a rate of seven times the market value yet very few proactive protection measures are supported. Non-lethal options to minimize wolf-livestock conflict, like fencing and range-riding exist, but the state of Wyoming has failed to invest in these conflict reduction methods.
Wyoming’s wolf management plan, touted by Governor Gordon as one of the best in the nation, cannot effectively recover wolves. Trophy hunting is restricted to the Wolf Trophy Game Management Area (WTGMA), but this covers only 15 percent of the state. The other 85 percent is known as the predator zone, where wolves are categorized as “vermin” that can be killed immediately. Notably, wolves within the predator area are not included in the wolf management plan. So while the Governor boasts about exceeding management recovery goals, he leaves out the important fact that these numbers do not apply to the majority of the state, including areas like Sheridan and Lander that would benefit from a robust wolf population.
Wolves have a long way to go toward full recovery, contrary to Governor Gordon’s claims. Allowing wolves to spread and family groups to form, is the key to properly recovering wolves and Wyoming wolf policies have made this nearly impossible. Parks and wilderness areas simply aren’t big enough. Wolves are dispersing farther south from areas like Yellowstone, but if they move into Wyoming, they run into open expanses of land where they can be killed. At least 5 wolves who roamed outside of the Park were slaughtered in Wyoming and Idaho last year.
While Wyoming likes to claim its wolf policies are superior, it is not so different from other states when it comes to animal cruelty. Wyoming allows hunters to use guns, snares, explosives, trucks, and even snowmobiles to hunt wolves. There is no limit on the number of wolves or wolf pups that can be killed in the majority of the state.No matter what Governor Gordon claims, Wyoming has proven itself unable and unwilling to effectively manage our state’s wolves, and our residents deserve better. Governor Gordon, we urge you to recognize that Wyoming wolves are far from recovered and support the reevaluation of wolf management and conflict reduction.
Kristin Combs, Jackson Wyoming
Wyoming Wildlife Advocates