Wolf and Elk Hunters Have Successful Year - KULR8.com | News, Weather & Sports in Billings, Montana

Wolf and Elk Hunters Have Successful Year

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Hunters killed fewer wolves in Wyoming in 2013 than last year after hunting was allowed. Elk hunters enjoyed their biggest harvest in state's history, even before wolves were hunted. KULR 8's Penny Preston explains.

Wolves do take elk, no doubt about it. But dire predictions that wolves would wipe out elk in the state of Wyoming have not proved true.

A Wyoming Game and Fish report from last March announced the highest elk harvest ever recorded in the Cowboy State, with more than 26,000 elk taken by hunters in 2012. The report credited a growing elk population, among other things.

Wyoming's first wolf hunting season started late in 2012. Hunters took 42 wolves in trophy game areas from October to December. 25 more wolves were killed in predator zones open year round outside the trophy game areas in Northwest Wyoming.

Shortly after that first wolf season, Wyoming's Game and Fish Department started counting wolves. Gunners shoot nets from a helicopter, to capture the animals, collar them, and collect samples.

"Trying to get an end of the year population estimate to report to the Fish and Wildlife Service, and as part of that requires radio collared wolves that we can count," Ken Mills, Wyoming Game and Fish Large Carnivore Biologist.

In order to keep wolves under Wyoming management, and not federal control, the state must maintain at least 100 wolves, in ten packs. Wyoming's large carnivore biologist, Ken Mills says the 2013 count indicated a healthy buffer.

"We had 186 wolves outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation, and 15 breeding pairs."

The biologists are back in Northwest Wyoming prepping for more trapping, and collaring. Mills says contractors, like this group from New Zealand, do the aerial work and bring the results back to him. Although only 24 wolves were taken in 2013 hunts, he thinks the population may have dropped.

"We estimated based on previous mortality and the hunting quotas we offered, that we would be around 160 wolves and 14 breeding pairs at the end of the year."

What about poaching? Mills says the state has prosecuted two cases, and is investigating three others. One still unsolved is the killing of a wolf between Cody and Yellowstone.

From Cody, Penny Preston, KULR 8 News.

Wyoming's 2013 wolf count will be used to set quotas for this year's fall hunt. Mill says the state wants to keep more than the minimum number of animals required to maintain a safe buffer.