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29 Wolves Killed During Wyoming’s Trophy Hunt

Wyoming’s wolf trophy hunting season, which ran from September 15 to December 31, 2021, saw a total of 29 wolves slaughtered. Wolves in the northwest corner of Wyoming, which borders Yellowstone National Park, are considered to be trophy animals and can be killed during a designated hunting season each year. Wolves throughout the rest of the state (approximately 85% of Wyoming) are classified as “predatory animals” and can be killed any day of the year.

Each wolf, no matter where they reside, is a crucial component of Wyoming’s varied ecosystems and heritage – their deaths are a dark mark on the state.

Wyoming’s Recent Resurgence in Wolf Killing

Gray wolves in Wyoming lost federal protections in 2012 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stripped Endangered Species Act-coverage for WY wolves and returned oversight to Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD). Wyoming’s wolf management plan called for the state to:

  • Deem wolves predators in 85% of the state (all but the northwest corner of Wyoming), where they could be killed by any means, at any time, without a license. 
  • In Wyoming’s northwest corner, right outside Yellowstone National Park, classify wolves as trophy game animals meaning they could only be hunted with a license. 
  • Maintain only 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park 

In 2014, a ruling from a Federal District Court Judge invalidated the statewide delisting of wolves in WY and reinstated their protections. 219 wolves were killed from 2012 – 2014 under state management.

In 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals reveresed the 2014 district court decision and the FWS officially granted wolf management authority to WGFD – despite the still-in-place policies that would allow for rampant killing in 85% of the state. The state has held trophy hunting in the northwest corner since resuming control and continues to allow the unregulated killing of wolves throughout the rest of the state.

The 2021 season, which began in most areas of the trophy zone on September 15, had a quota of 47 wolves that could be slaughtered – hunters managed to kill 29 wolves.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department Wolf Kills by Zone, 2021. Credit: Wyoming Game and Fish Department

A Bleak Future for Surviving Wolves

Although Wyoming’s wolf trophy hunt season has come to an end (except for Zone 13, which closes on March 31, 2022), wolves state- and nation-wide will feel the impacts for years to come. Hunting destroys wolf families and can make it more challenging for the remaining family members to find adequate prey sources, breed, and more. An increased tolerance for wolf killing also encourages poaching, as wildlife managers appear to send a message that wolves are no longer worthy of protections and respect.