I’ve been checking the kill data sheets on the Wyoming Game and Fish predator site every day. The data is divided into zones, with a quota in each except for the ‘predator zone’. In the Predator area, which constitutes over 85% of Wyoming, a wolf can be killed, by any means, any time of the year. In the Trophy Area, its October through December.
My zone is zone 2. We’ve had early snows, which drives the game further down from the high meadows. It also makes tracking easier. Wolves follow elk and so do hunters. The quota in my zone has been 4 wolves total.
With the large quota of 8 wolves last year that dispersed and mostly destroyed the existing pack, there have been few wolves here. Park wolves moved in this winter, although their pack was hit hard when several of the members moved outside the Park boundary and were killed, among them the Alpha female. Come spring the Lamar pack dispersed, a few had small litters, and although I’d watched a few lone wolves here and there, the wolf watching here, as well as Lamar valley in the Park, was poor. Summer in general is a time when wolves are tending their pups and not running in packs. Fall and winter they ‘pack up’.
This morning I looked at the Wyoming Game and Fish ‘harvest’ data (I hate that euphemism. I ‘harvest’ vegetables and fruits; I ‘kill’ animals), and it appears that over the weekend five (5) wolves were killed in my zone–one over the quota even. I don’t yet know the details, but I might assume they were running together, adults and pups, and all ‘harvested’ by elk hunters working high up with wolf tags in their pockets.
I find the whole wolf hunt, and how its being handled in Wyoming (as well as Montana and Idaho) a sad state of affairs. The Wyoming Game and Fish wolf site is extremely lean on data and statistics which makes me distrust what their final count for 2013 will be. They say they will have, at the end of this hunt, a total of 160 wolves. Yet with 50 wolves killed this year already in the predator zone and as control, these additional 26 wolves for the hunt amounts to approximately 75 wolves harvested. Wyoming’s final data report for 2012 estimated 186 wolves as of December 2012. Even with new pups, a kill rate of over 75 wolves will be cutting it close to the agreement with USF&W below:
Under the terms of the delisting agreement between Wyoming and USFWS, the state of Wyoming is required to maintain wolves at or above the minimum delisting criteria of ≥100 wolves and ≥10 breeding pairs in WYO, with YNP and WRR (Wind River Reservation) providing the additional buffer of ≥50 wolves and ≥5 breeding pairs necessary to meet the ≥150 wolf and ≥15 breeding pair requirement for the state.
My valley which is directly adjacent to the Lamar Valley, is a rich corridor that allows for genetic exchange. The Lamar elk herd migrates here in the winter, returning to the Park in the spring. The herd has been studied for its low cow-calf ratio, but the results of this study are not being used to make management decisions. The study shows the biggest impact to this herd has been compressed ‘green-up’ reducing feed quality (think climate change and drought), and to a lesser extent, grizzly take on young as the bears food (specifically cutthroat trout) has been reduced. With zone 2 as one of the largest quotas in the state for wolves, WG&F is trying to eliminate wolves in this area in order to build up the elk herd population–even though their own studies indicate wolves are not the herd’s main problem.
What must be said, that isn’t being said enough, is what is a landscape devoid of its full suite, bereft of predators, lacking that intricate network of fundamental relationships? Wolves operate as a family unit; they have emotions like ours. There is something magnificent and whole about having an abundance of wildlife, all of the members of one’s ecosystem, present. The Land itself becomes alive. That is why I love living here, and not in a ‘wilderness’ of only pretty views.
I end this post with a quote from Joe Hutto. He spent a year raising a brood of wild turkeys. Here he reflects upon his youth when he hunted turkeys for food. I would like to believe that this is what motivates hunters to kill for trophy or sport, killing an animal that you don’t even eat. I like to think these wolf hunters are attempting, unknowingly, to touch something magnificent, more alive, and more fully conscious. And possibly one day they might wake up and instead of killers of wolves, they will be advocates.
“I try to recall whether in my young mind, at that moment, I could have imagined, anticipated, or even longed for the irony of the present moment and this strange continuity. Like an arrow shot high and blind, it seems as though I have traveled very far although my path was peregrine. It appears, in retrospect, that my trajectory could only have brought me eventually to this singular experience. I realize now that as a young hunter, my intent was not merely to kill for food this elusive bird, but was rather my clumsy way of reaching toward something that enchanted and mystified me.”