Wildlife Harassment in Wyoming
The Game and Fish Department is concerned about an increasing trend of wildlife harassment in parts of Wyoming during the winter, and invites the public to open houses scheduled around the state to discuss the issue.

It’s no secret that winter is always a difficult time for wildlife and Wyoming typically loses a portion of every big game herd this time of year, according to the G&F. Any added winter stress humans inflict on wildlife only adds to the number of animals that die. Some activities that can cause unnecessary disturbance include antler hunting, wildlife photography, snowmobile and ATV use, and skiing.

“We’re seeing a general increase in activity on all of our big game winter ranges in western Wyoming, and unfortunately it’s resulting in these animals being pushed around into less suitable habitat,” says Neil Hymas, Cokeville game warden “We’ve always had some people out on the winter ranges from time to time, but now the activity is so constant that these animals just don’t get much of a break and it’s compromising their ability to survive the winter.”

One of the potential solutions being considered is a modification to the existing state statute regarding wildlife harassment, which currently only prohibits wildlife harassment with a motor vehicle. “I think most people aren’t even aware that we currently don’t have a state regulation prohibiting wildlife harassment in ways other than with a motor vehicle,” says Hymas. “Updating this statute to prohibit other forms of wildlife harassment would be one way to help address the problem.”

The G&F is asking the public for feedback on a variety of potential solutions being considered including:

• Modification of the existing state statute prohibiting wildlife harassment with a motor vehicle.
• Developing agreements with federal agencies allowing state game wardens the ability to enforce federal motor vehicle restrictions and winter closures.
• Creating an antler hunting season for certain problem areas during certain times of year.
• Creating an antler hunting season with a limited-quota license being required.
• Increased education effort.

The G&F has conducted an internal survey about the problem and circulated a public questionnaire to the many interested people across the state. Based on the 240 questionnaires returned by the public, 73 percent believe there is a detrimental level of disturbance occurring to wildlife on big game winter range in Wyoming. When asked how to solve the problem of wildlife harassment, answers varied.

For individuals unable to attend an open house, written comments will be accepted through May 31 at: Wildlife Harassment Process, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, 351 Astle, Green River, WY 82835.

“We are accepting written comments, but people should keep in mind that we are only seeking new ideas at this point,” said Gocke.

The G&F could pursue any or a combination of the potential solutions. The recommendations could vary from region to region.

“I guess the bottom line is, we wouldn’t be going through this process if we didn’t believe there was serious problem,” says Gocke. “As the state’s wildlife management agency, we have a responsibility to protect the wildlife resource. We also realize the wildlife-related activities we are discussing here mean a lot to people, and we certainly have no intention of putting an end to them. We just want to do our part to make sure we do them in a way that’s good for wildlife and people.”

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