CHEYENNE — Gov. Matt Mead says there won’t be a mass killing of wolves when hunting the predators is allowed to begin Oct. 1.
During a news conference Thursday, Mead said he was pleased with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision last week to delist wolves from the Endangered Species Act and hopes the state can take over management of the animals Sept. 30.
People have mixed views on the decision, with some favoring and others strongly objecting it, Mead said. Some people are opposed to killing any wolves and anticipate mass killings, he noted.
“It does seem to be more of a comment that we shouldn’t hunt these wolves,” Mead said.
Mead said Wyoming has 328 wolves, 48 packs and 27 breeding pairs, according to the latest count.
But, he said, only 14 percent of the wolves live in the predator zone where they can be killed on sight, while 86 percent live in the trophy game management area where they will have levels of protection.
Wyoming’s wolf population is more than twice the federal requirement of 150 wolves.
The Endangered Species Act is meant to protect species threatened with extinction.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and other officials and experts concluded Wyoming’s wolf population has more than recovered and no longer needs federal protection.
Wyoming’s wolf management plan, Mead said, has been peer-reviewed by five scientists on two different occasions and been found appropriate.
He said the Wyoming Game and Fish Department will manage the wolf plan conservatively to allow for a viable wolf population.
Earthjustice, a nonprofit law firm representing conservation groups, plans to seek an injunction to halt Wyoming’s wolf hunt.
But the attorneys must wait 60 days to file a legal action and can’t get an injunction before November, or one month after the hunting season begins.
Wyoming is the last state in the northern Rocky Mountain region to have wolves removed from the endangered species list.