The population of gray wolves in Wyoming continues to be healthy and exceed all criteria established to show that the species is recovered. As of December 31, 2017 the total minimum population in Wyoming was at least 347 wolves. Specifically, the count shows at least 238 wolves living outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. The population count for Yellowstone National Park is at least 97 and at least 12 for the Wind River Reservation.
In order to provide transparency and educate the public on wolves in Wyoming, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, in cooperation with other partners in Wyoming, produces an annual report on wolf population monitoring and management. This latest report shows a 16 percent decline of the gray wolf population outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation between 2016 and 2017. This is moving towards established population objectives outlined in the Wyoming Gray Wolf Management Plan. Where the State of Wyoming has management authority, wolf numbers went from 285 at the end of 2016 to 238 at the end of 2017.
“After having management of wolves returned to Wyoming in April of 2017 we made a strong commitment to ensure we would be responsive and responsible managers. Part of that is providing an accurate population estimate and we have that now,” said Dan Thompson, large carnivore section supervisor. “It is significant that today we are now managing recovered and healthy populations of all of Wyoming’s native large carnivores.”
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and cooperating agencies added significant numbers of radio collars to better track, study and collect data on wolf populations in Wyoming. At the end of 2017 there were a total of 83 collared wolves statewide in Wyoming. Total spending on wolf management by the State of Wyoming was approximately $280,000 with an additional $310,000 spent to compensate livestock producers for damage caused by wolves. In 2017, there were 191 confirmed livestock depredations in Wyoming outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. That’s down from 243 in 2016. Additionally, the number of wolves removed for conflicts with livestock went from 113 in 2016 to 61 in 2017. Legal hunting in Wyoming led to the harvest of 43 wolves last year. This was the first year for wolf hunting since 2013. An additional 33 wolves were killed under predatory animal designation.
“Recovery criteria for Wyoming is 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. This is our 16th year exceeding those criteria. Now, with our new population information we can make informed recommendations on how to manage wolves in 2018 and moving forward,” said Ken Mills, the report author and the lead wolf biologist for Game and Fish. “Fortunately, we do not have any disease concerns at this time, but continue to test for that and to gather genetic samples of wolves to ensure genetic interchange is occuring.” Mills added that more accurate wolf population information will help managers in recommending wolf harvest strategies that target areas of livestock conflict and areas where there are concerns with how wolves are affecting certain big game populations.