Wildlife officials didn’t really know what to expect with the opening of the first wolf hunting season in Wyoming this October 1. So far, just over one-third of the state’s quota has been reached, even though the state is only 17 days into its three-month season. By the end of October 16, there were 24 wolves harvested in the entire state.
Only 20 of those wolves count against the state’s allowable quota of 52 wolves. The quota was set in the “trophy game” area of Wyoming, the northwest corner of the state, including Yellowstone National Park. Licenses are required to hunt wolves there during the open season. Wyoming Game and Fish Department Public Information Officer Eric Keszler said about 90 percent of the state’s wolf population resides in this area because there is adequate habitat to support the wolf there. There are an estimated 328 wolves in the entire state.
The area outside the trophy game area is known as the predation area. In this area, there are only believed to be 20 or 30 wolves. Here, wolves can be harvested at any time by any means so long as they present a threat to livestock, humans or property. Four of the 24 reported harvested wolves this year were in the predation area, but they do not count against the 52 total allowable for the state’s quota harvest.
The quota of 52 wolves is not as simple as it seems. Keszler said that quotas are arranged by hunting units within the trophy game area. Once a quota is reached within one unit, no more wolves can be taken in that unit, even if the overall state quota has not been reached yet. So far, three of these units are one wolf away from reaching their quota. The season will end once the unit quotas totaling 52 wolves are reached, or on December 31, whichever is sooner.
Keszler said the department didn’t know how this wolf hunt was going to play out since they do not have previous years to compare to. “We didn’t know what to expect, we [the state] didn’t have a wolf hunting season in Wyoming,” Keszler said. “It’s hard to say if it [the harvest] is fast or slow, but I think it’s important for people to understand that there isn’t a huge wolf slaughter going on. This is a regulated hunting season.”