CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Not much given to making brash political statements, Gov. Matt Mead is passing up an opportunity to get some attention by shooting a wolf.
"Just in terms of time, I wouldn't be able to go do it," Mead said Tuesday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed wolves from endangered species protection in Wyoming in August. The state's first public hunt since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s began Monday.
Just like they've become in the Yellowstone region, wolves are well-established in the region's politics. Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter has said repeatedly that he wanted one of the available licenses to shoot a wolf in his state. He isn't known to have actually gone wolf hunting, however.
Mead said he once asked the Wyoming Game and Fish Department if he could buy the first Wyoming wolf license with an eye for eventually giving it to a charity to sell at a fund-raiser.
There is ample precedent for that. The Wyoming governor's office has a long tradition, provided for under state law, of giving away big-game licenses to wildlife charities.
Each year, the Game and Fish Department allocates five moose, five bighorn sheep and 10 elk, deer or pronghorn licenses to the governor's office. Charities that benefit from auctioning off the governor's licenses include the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Wild Sheep Foundation.
Mead said Game and Fish told him Wyoming's wolf licenses aren't numbered. In other words, no "Wolf License No. 1" exists for somebody to buy and hang behind his basement bar as a conversation piece.
Also, the new wolf licenses aren't difficult to get. They cost just $18 for Wyoming residents ($180 for nonresidents) and more than 2,200 people have bought them. About 95 percent of the Wyoming wolf licenses sold to date have gone to Wyoming residents.
The quota for this year's hunt is 52 wolves out of an estimated 328 in Wyoming. As of Tuesday at noon, hunters had killed four: one each in the hunt areas due northeast of Yellowstone and due west of Meeteetse, and two in the hunt area south of Yellowstone and just northeast of Grand Teton National Park, according to a Game and Fish wolf hunt hotline.
Wyoming's elected officials were almost unanimous in seeking the now-realized "dual classification" of wolves as trophy game in northwest Wyoming and predators that may be killed on sight in the rest of the state.
More than a few pols would gloat by grabbing a rifle and a television crew and heading into the woods to shoot a wolf. Not this governor.
Mead said he might get a wolf license "just to get one." Otherwise he said he will stick with the annual Two-Shot Goose Hunt in the Torrington area and the annual One-Shot Antelope Hunt in the Lander area.
"So three shells, two days," he said. "I don't see having time to go wolf hunting."