Cheyenne, Wyo. • The federal government is ending protections for wolves in Wyoming.
The announcement Friday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service endorses a plan that allows the wolves to be shot on sight in most parts of the state. It retains protections in certain areas.
The move quickly sparked promises of legal challenges from environmental groups, which argue wolves still need protection to maintain their successful recovery.
There are about 270 wolves in the state outside Yellowstone National Park. There are about another 1,100 or so in Montana and Idaho where wolves were delisted earlier.
Wyoming has been chaffing under federal wolf protections for years. Ranchers and hunters complain that wolves kill too many cattle and other wildlife.
Wyoming's management plan, which was agreed to last year by Gov. Matt Mead and U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, calls for the state to maintain at least 10 breeding pairs of wolves and at least 100 individual animals. Additional wolves inside Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway which is located between Yellowstone and Grand Teton and the Wind River Indian Reservation in central Wyoming will maintain protection from being hunted.
The state will classify wolves in the remaining 90 percent of Wyoming as predators, subject to being killed anytime by anyone.
The state will take over management of the wolves under its purview effective Sept. 30.
The Wyoming Game Commission has approved wolf hunts starting Oct. 1. The state is prepared to issue unlimited hunting licenses but will call a halt after hunters kill 52 wolves.