CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has had no difficulty taking over monitoring wolves outside Yellowstone National Park since the federal government removed Wyoming's wolves from endangered species protection last summer, according to the biologist now in charge of keeping an eye on the state's population.
Wyoming must report annually on the status of its wolf population under its agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that got the animals delisted.
As a result, Wyoming has begun tracking about 40 radio-collared wolves in some 20 packs east and south of Yellowstone, a job that previously fell to Fish and Wildlife in that area.
Meanwhile, Wyoming's first wolf hunt since delisting in August also has been providing data for the state agency. State biologists have been able to examine and take genetic samples from wolves killed by hunters this fall, said Mark Bruscino, large carnivore section supervisor for Game and Fish.
"By and large, hunters have acted ethically. They're working with us, reporting harvests immediately," Bruscino, who is based in Cody, said Tuesday.
The trophy hunting season for the area surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks in northwest Wyoming began Oct. 1. As of Wednesday, at least 34 wolves had been killed toward the 52-wolf season limit.
The wolf hunt will continue until the limit is reached or the season ends Dec. 31. A third possibility: The judge in a lawsuit environmentalists filed Tuesday to contest Wyoming's wolf management plan could issue an injunction halting the wolf hunt, which is what happened after Idaho and Montana's wolves were delisted in 2009.
Outside Wyoming's trophy game zone for wolves, wolves can be killed on sight without a license. Since August, about 15 wolves have been killed outside the trophy game area and as far away from Yellowstone as the Red Desert north of Rock Springs, Bruscino said.
Wyoming was home to about 300 wolves outside Yellowstone before delisting. The state has committed to maintaining at least 100 wolves and at least 10 breeding pairs outside Yellowstone and the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming.