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Workers can now talk of wolves

Panel loosens strings on Wyoming Game and Fish workers

CHEYENNE — Wyoming Game and Fish Department employees, long discouraged from saying anything about wolf management, will be allowed to talk about wolves again — as long as they don't say the wrong thing.

At the department's request, the Game and Fish Commission recently decided to give department employees more flexibility in answering the public's questions.

"At this point, we felt it is time to loosen those strings," commissioner Ron Lovercheck said.

About six years ago, when most, if not all, of the wolves in Wyoming were in Yellowstone National Park, the commission told department employees that because the state had no authority over wolf management, all questions should be referred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"Since then, we've been operating under instructions from the commission on wolves," Game and Fish Department director Terry Cleveland said last week.

But now that wolf populations have grown and packs have spread beyond the park's boundaries, the commission decided employees should be allowed to answer wolf questions.

One thing still is off-limits, though — criticizing the state's proposed wolf-management plan, which is the subject of a federal lawsuit. Wyoming's plan would classify wolves outside of designated areas as predators, allowing for them to be shot on sight.

In 2003, Game and Fish biologist Dave Moody was suspended briefly with pay after he told those attending a wolf-management conference in Montana that Wyoming's plan was cumbersome and could delay the animals' removal from the endangered species list.