Wyoming wildlife official says wolves unlikely to thrive outside state’s northwestern corner

A male wolf from the Canyon Pack stands in shallow water in Yellowstone National Park. (Mike Wheeler - click to enlarge)

A male wolf from the Canyon Pack stands in shallow water in Yellowstone National Park. (Mike Wheeler – click to enlarge)

By Ruffin Prevost

CODY, WYO. — After nearly two decades since their reintroduction in Yellowstone National Park, population trends show that gray wolves are unlikely to thrive in sections of Wyoming outside the northwestern corner of the state.

Many wolf supporters remain dissatisfied with Wyoming’s so-called “dual status” management approach, which classifies wolves as trophy game in the area around Yellowstone and as predators elsewhere. But a state wildlife official said Thursday that policy changes won’t have much effect on wolf numbers across most of the state.

Relatively poor habitat and higher rates of development make most of Wyoming a place where wolves have had—and will continue to experience—trouble establishing thriving packs, said Mark Bruscino, supervisor of the large carnivore section of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Bruscino spoke about the past and future of wolf management in Wyoming during a lecture at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.

Bruscino said the state’s first regulated wolf hunt, held this past winter, went “incredibly well.”

Wyoming wolf hunts in areas around Yellowstone are highly regulated, and hunting of any kind is not allowed inside the park. But wolves across most of Wyoming are considered predators, and may be shot without a license.

The legal killing in December of a high-profile alpha female from Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon pack that wandered outside the park drew criticism from many wolf supporters. Several other wolves that frequent the park, including animals collared for research purposes, were also legally shot in state-managed hunts.

Out of a quota up to 52 wolves that could be killed during Wyoming’s hunt, licensed hunters killed 42, and a few additional wolves were poached east and south of Yellowstone.

Bruscino said that wolves, like other wildlife, regularly move across the park’s boundaries, and that “we need to be careful about assigning ownership” of wolves to a particular place.

“It isn’t like there is a Yellowstone National Park subpopulation. It’s all the same population of wolves right now,” he said.

Wolves may disperse to find a mate or seek better habitat or sources of prey, and often cover vast distances, Bruscino said.

He said Wyoming’s wolf hunt did not disproportionately affect any single pack, and that “all the packs are pretty much in tact” heading into spring.

Pack sizes in hunt areas were reduced on average from seven to five wolves, he said.

Wolf numbers in Yellowstone have “flattened out” to approximately 100, he said, and that number is likely to remain in the same range in years to come.

Outside the park, Wyoming’s northwestern region probably has a carrying capacity of between 200-250 wolves, Bruscino said, and a long-term average of about 200 wolves is likely to emerge across the region outside Yellowstone.

Regardless of where the numbers end up over the long term, it is likely to be too many for those who don’t want wolves in Wyoming at all, and too few for those who would like to see wolves restored to their historic range across North America.

But wolves should be neither vilified nor placed on a pedestal, Bruscino said.

“They’re just like any other critter out there, and we need to manage them like other wildlife,” he said.

“Wolves are easy to manage. They’re very resilient and there is a whole wide range of management options you can use on wolf populations, and the wolves do quite well,” said Bruscino, who helped capture wolves in Alberta, Canada in 1995 that were later released in Yellowstone.

Bruscino, who plans to retire later this year, said it has been “the socio-political aspect of this thing that’s been incredibly challenging and difficult.”

Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or ruffin@yellowstonegate.com.

16 thoughts on “Wyoming wildlife official says wolves unlikely to thrive outside state’s northwestern corner

  1. - “I hope this issue will help raise awareness that humanity today so that in the near future no longer need to defend ourselves from other species.”

    Florianópolis Sta Catarina BRASIL

  2. ” He said Wyoming’s wolf hunt did not disproportionately affect any single pack, and that “all the packs are pretty much in tact” heading into spring.”

    Oh come on. We know that hunting decimated the Lamar Canyon, effectively ending it. Why does the guy blow smoke like this?

  3. what’s curious is that so many of the wolves who had collars were killed, whether by licensed hunters or poached. seems as if a collar is a “shoot me” badge of sorts.

    the predator status that allows anyone to shoot a wolf out of the greater yellowstone area is what limits the wolves capacity to thrive elsewhere in the state. there are plenty of areas in wyoming that are very remote and could support wolves.

  4. No good soon be no more animals like them really stupid idiots is all you can really say about some peoples way of thinking

  5. This reasoning seems to go with the fallacy “we own this land and we can use it and abuse it anyway we want.” Nothing seems to matter except for an individuals own personal interest. Mother nature shows us in many ways(hurricanes, floods, droughts etc.) that our footprints are having an adverse affect and must be scaled back.

    • Recently watched an old PBS documentary by Ken Burns about the establishment of our National Parks. Seems Wyoming (Jackson Hole specifically) put up a lot of resistance, and made things very difficult to establish. It took many years and private monies to overcome the obstacles the people of the area created. The “it’s my land, I can do what I like with it mentality apparently has few persons who believe in stewardship of the land. No modern day John Muir here.

  6. “He said Wyoming’s wolf hunt did not disproportionately affect any single pack, and that “all the packs are pretty much in tact” heading into spring.”
    The Lamar Canyon pack was devastated by the killing of the alpha female, 06. Her mate, 755 has struggled and so have her offspring. The effect of removing this one wolf affects more than any of us can foretell in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. What a travesty.

  7. It really is simple, let the folks who really, really love and want wolves raise them and deal with them. Don’t expect someone else to spend their money, time, and sacrifice their animals for what you want.

    • Be happy to move out there and help restore what man destroyed. What gives man the right to decimate any population human or animal. We were give dominion over the earth with the expectation we would exercise stewardship, not free reign to decide a native species was undesirable because they could hurt us. Man is the scariest predator, he is the only creature that kills indiscriminately and for any reason.

  8. Very false statement about the hunt not affecting the packs. Lamar Canyon pack lost their alpha female and another high ranking hunter in the pack 754. This fractured the pack, causing the alpha male to need to find a new mate who the other members of the pack ended up killing. You don’t just affect the wolf that is shot or trapped you affect the whole pack. Will also affect visitors in the park since the Lamar Valley was the premier wolf watching area and is not devoid of a pack.

  9. I would call Mr.Mark Bruscino a liar, and a joke but it would fall on his deaf ears and mean nothing. He would have to have a conscience for it to have any effect. The Lamar pack of Yellowstone as well as many other packs within the boundaries have been destroyed. Until the powers that be that are set against a wolf living in their declared state of Impunity, the wolves will continue to die. They lie,and manipulate the uneducated informed populace of false data and glide all the way to their den’s of inequity called ‘law making’. I have no respect for ‘puppets’. In person I would spit at your feet! Your a disgusting lot. Your ‘legal’ killings of the wolves is a mockery of everything America stands for and as a representative of your state and it’s people you are a pathetic failure.

  10. I believe the time has come for a revolt to take back control of our wildlife and put control in the hands of those who want them protected. Especially our native predators.

  11. Collared wolves outside of Yellowstone should be illegal to kill. Personal emotional feelings aside it costs thousands of dollars to collar and monitor these wolves and to allow them to be killed is a travesty. To allow hunters to bait them at the border of the park is just beyond belief.

  12. Bruscino espoused the Company Line with his treatise on Wyoming Wolf Management. A tidy piece of propaganda if I have ever heard it. Of course wolves will never prosper away from Yellowstone and the wilderness areas surrounding it….not when they are shot. The only tool in Wyoming wolf management’s toolbox is the long rifle. Bruscino has not in recent years uttered the words ” Non-Lethal Control ” to my knowledge. With Wyoming, Control = Kill. We will likely never know if a wolf pack could take hold elsewhere in Woming than the Trophy Game Management Area surrounding the Park, because that experiement is not allowed. But we have some clues. A pair and maybe as many as four dark grey uncollared wolves made it to the Big Horns a few summers ago. They eluded all efforts to capture or kill, even though agents of Wildlife Services spent months trying to do so ( and how much money ? Tens of thousands of dollars, no doubt , but those figures are almost impossible to obtain from Wildlife ( Dis) Services). The dark wolves made it all the way to Casper and headed back west along the Sweetwater Rim country. yes, they ate a few domestic sheep in the Big Horns, but those sheep were running loose without adult supervision…. no romantic Basque sheepherder or rugged photogenic cowboy tending the flock . It was an all you can eat mutton smorgasbord for ANY mesopredator or apex predator. What management? What control ? What Nonlethal control efforts were applied ? One other thing abnout Wyoming’s wolf management machinery is very very disturbing. Information concerning wolf work is withheld from the oublic , by law. it was written into the plans. We the People cannot find out how where and what is being done to ” control” wolves beyond the most basic nonspecific information. The Stockgrowers are extremely sensitive ( read: paranoid) about releasing information that might be detrimental to their image and enterprise, so they use their considerable political clout to sequester that info outside their own circles. it’s common with Ag reporting. A few years ago a Wyoming State Senator tried tor am a bill thru the Legislature to make it either a high misdemeanor or felony to ” disparage agriculture”. It would have been a crime to say ” Bullsh_t” in public, I suppose. That’s how easily brusied the ranchers are these days. So getting pertinent and timely wolf information ain’t gonna happen , either. All we get from Wyo G&F as custodians of wildlife is the Company Line.

  13. Bruscino, who plans to retire later this year, said it has been “the socio-political aspect of this thing that’s been incredibly challenging and difficult.”

    Sounds like he got tired of the battle. You can’t just “manage” the wildlife, you have to deal with all the power mongering, financial opposition, strong willed, intolerant,closed minded people and sometimes it just gets to be too much too balance.