Last year we were able to hunt wolves again in Wyoming. The wolf season didn't come easy. It was a hard fought battle in the courts, and the state was able to get the Federal Court of Appeals to sign off on it late last winter of 2017.
A season was established from Oct 1 to Dec 31, with a quota of 44 wolves allowed in 12 total units. When the season ended, all 44 wolves were taken.
This wolf season was held in the so-called Trophy Zone. This is the zone surrounding Yellowstone Park in northwest Wyoming, and includes millions of acres in national forests. Of course, there's no wolf hunting in Yellowstone or Teton Parks.
Wyoming has another wolf hunting zone, called the predator zone, which is all of Wyoming outside the trophy zone, taking in 85% of the state. Wolves can be shot in the predator zone year-round, with no season, or bag limit. No license is required. The predator zone was established to prevent wolves from becoming established throughout the state outside the trophy zone.
There's no assurance that we'll have another wolf season next year. It all depends on any forthcoming litigation. Unlike Montana and Idaho, which also have wolf seasons, Wyoming is under a magnifying glass. When the three states were required to come up with a Wolf Recovery Plan, Wyoming insisted on the Predator zone. Montana and Idaho did not. Bottom line, Wyoming was singled out and battled in the courts. A wolf hunt was allowed a few years ago, but quickly terminated afterward because of new litigation.
Some people scoff at the relatively small number of wolves allowed in the hunt, when there are several hundred wolves in the state. They want an open wolf season in the trophy zone as well, similar to the predator season. Some want all the wolves killed off.
That sort of thinking would lead to serious litigation. Pro-wolf groups would quickly pounce on that effort. We're walking on eggshells now, hoping to appease the courts and those who want zero wolf hunting. As disagreeable as it seems to those of us who would like to see a larger wolf quota, moderation is the only way to secure any wolf hunt at all.
So let's say you want to shoot a wolf in Wyoming. You can come here anytime and hunt the predator zone, but you're looking at a few wolves in tens of millions of acres. Unless you live here and spend a lot of time in the mountains, your chances of stumbling into one are slim to none.
If you want to hunt the trophy zone where the majority of wolves live, you'll need to buy a wolf license, and plan on a hunt next fall -- IF there's a wolf season. But there are pitfalls. Most wolves will be in the remote backcountry, typically in wilderness areas. Nonresident hunters must have a guide to hunt a wilderness in Wyoming. Many wolves are taken by elk hunters who also have a wolf tag.
I had a wolf tag, and had high hopes of scoring, but it didn't happen. Maybe next year. One can always hope.
People often ask what I personally think of the wolves. First, some history. I wrote articles about wolves in Outdoor Life magazine long before they were introduced in Yellowstone Park in the mid-90's. My editors taught me to "slay the dragon" in controversial articles, rather than being objective and presenting both sides of an issue. So slay it I did, and I opposed the introduction. That got me a bunch of death threats from the loonies, and I worked with the FBI on a couple cases.
I remember wolf advocates in Yellowstone in their booths, with a sign saying, "Little Red Riding Hood Was Wrong." Mind you, these activities were condoned by the Park Service, a Federal Government Agency. They wanted to reach as many people as possible with their false rhetoric, and they achieved their purpose. The introduction became reality, and the wolves were turned loose. Now, some 20 years later, wolves have become well- established in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. In the latter state, wolves were also introduced by the government.
It's no secret that wolves have been a major predation factor on wildlife and domestic livestock. Recently, a pack of Wyoming wolves killed 17 calf and 2 cow elk in a massacre called "surplus killing," a term describing their penchant to kill for the love of killing, and not eating any of their victims. Surplus killing goes on everywhere there are wolves.
So, to answer the question -- no, I'm not happy the wolves are here. Many say that they complete the big circle of nature and are essential in our environment. That all depends on your perception of the natural scheme of things. But, the wolves are here. There's no getting rid of them. You might very well like the idea of this top predator in our wildlands. And that's your privilege. Different strokes for different folks.