Letter to the Editor: Retired Game Warden shares information on wolf case

Dear Editor,

I retired from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department in 2014 after a 40 year career as a Wyoming Game Warden. During that career, I wrote several hundred citations to people violating the laws and regulations that dealt with illegal taking of wildlife in Wyoming, and spent many sessions in courts around southwest Wyoming dealing with the aftermath of these violations.

I am as sickened as most folks are after hearing of the injured wolf at the Green River Bar in Daniel. No one should treat wild animals like that and make them suffer. Even though killing predatory animals is legal and there are few restrictions on how humans can go about that-firearms, archery, traps, snares, etc.-some care should be taken to reduce the suffering of those animals.

What surprises me is the lack of understanding of how laws and regulations are developed to protect wildlife. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and how its law enforcement officers operate are governed by Title 23 (WY game and fish laws) and Title 41 (boating laws) which are created by the Wyoming Legislature. Just about all of these laws are misdemeanors that have maximum penalties of fines and some possible jail time, and some can include revocation of hunting and fishing privileges by a court. A person issued a citation can appear in court to answer a violation, or can normally post a required bond amount which can usually be forfeited in lieu of a court appearance. A few serious violations can require a court appearance without the ability to post and forfeit a bond. Hunting and fishing regulations are developed by the Game and Fish Department and approved by the Game and Fish Commission under authority of laws passed by the legislature.

Because of the way game and fish laws are developed, often the Department's officers' hands are tied in what can be cited even if the violation seems more serious than what the charge is. Possession of live wildlife, which seems to be the charge against the person who took the wolf to the bar may have been the only thing at the time that could be charged, and I also assume the alleged $250.00 "fine" was the bond amount required for such a violation. The few restrictions on taking/killing predatory animals, such as a wolf in parts of the state are the way they are because of laws passed by the Wyoming Legislature, not the actions of the Game and Fish Department. The schedule of bonds for game and fish violations, traffic and speeding violations handled by state troopers and county deputies is developed by the Wyoming Supreme Court with input from the different agencies that use the bond schedule.

I assume further investigation of the wolf possession and killing is underway, and we might hear more on this whole episode as time passes. Until then, why don't some of the people most horrified by this episode try and educate themselves about the process required to deal with game and fish law violators instead of throwing out their ideas on penalties and how harsh they ought to be. I see there is a petition now to for the Game and Fish Department to revoke the violator's hunting and fishing privileges for life. The laws in place don't allow for that, particularly since it requires court action. Let's make sure things get done the way the system allows, not wildly speculate on things that we'd like to see happen.

Duane Kerr

Green River


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