Wyoming Game and Fish reflects on top stories of 2022

(Cheyenne, WY) – With 2022 behind us, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is reflecting on some of our most notable projects and news stories over the year. Each year is different, but one thing remains the same — the department worked tirelessly to conserve more than 800 species of fish and wildlife that call Wyoming home.

“I feel very fortunate to lead a team that is passionate about our mission and has the talent and dedication to get big things done,” said Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik. “Wyoming’s wildlife and their habitat faced many challenges in 2022, and I’m grateful to the public and our partners for supporting our work and wildlife conservation.” 

The following is a look back on some of the highlights of the year with a collection of top stories from 2022. 

Wyoming still free of zebra and quagga mussels
Aquatic invasive species continued to be a major concern for Wyoming. For more than 10 years Game and Fish has prioritized keeping AIS out of the state’s lakes and reservoirs. 

Game and Fish faced a major challenge when zebra mussels were identified in South Dakota’s Pactola Reservoir, only 27 miles from the Wyoming border. The expansion of invasive mussels toward our state’s border is significant as Wyoming remains one of the few states yet to have the destructive species. Game and Fish, alongside the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, mobilized to enforce watercraft inspection check stations at Glendo and Keyhole reservoirs.

Over the boating season Game and Fish watercraft check stations inspected more than 65,000 boats across the state to protect Wyoming’s waters from invasive aquatic plants and animals. To date the department hasn’t identified zebra mussels in natural waters in Wyoming, nor its municipal systems.

Successful year of species recovery 
Game and Fish made a strong commitment to wolves and grizzly bears in Wyoming, and the populations are healthy. For the 20th consecutive year wolf numbers have remained above minimum delisting criteria showing that Wyoming’s wolf management plan works. Similarly, grizzly bear populations have reached population levels and distribution far-beyond recovery. As a result of the hard work of Game and Fish wildlife managers and the contributions of all of those who work, recreate and live in occupied grizzly bear habitat, the state continues to have a healthy recovered population. In January 2022, Wyoming announced it would formally seek state management of grizzly bears again.

Cody Office construction finished
The new Game and Fish regional office in Cody is complete and open to the public. Construction on the building finished in October, and Game and Fish moved operations the next month, welcoming the public to the location at 2 Tilden Trail. The new office was funded by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to ensure the public had a permanent place to receive services from Game and Fish. 

New game warden graduates earn top marks, special recognition at Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy
Game Wardens Elise Huysman, Gavin Dougherty and Jesse Niemeir were honored for their outstanding performance at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy Peace Officer Basic Course in Douglas. The wardens received recognition for their academic, marksmanship and physical fitness skills. 

Saratoga Lake restoration
Fisheries biologists in the Laramie Region successfully completed a rotenone project at Saratoga Lake to remove illegally-stocked yellow perch. The project cost nearly $140,000 and took 1,150 man-hours to complete. The lake will be restocked with trout in the spring of 2023. Game and Fish encourages anyone with information regarding the illegal stocking of perch to contact Game and Fish at 1-877-WGFD-TIP. 

Dry Piney wildlife crossing project construction underway
The Dry Piney wildlife crossing will include nine highway underpasses in western Wyoming that are designed to reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions. The project is located in an important wintering area for one of the more premiere mule deer herds in the west. The Dry Piney wildlife crossing project, led by Game and Fish and the Wyoming Department of Transportation, is slated to be complete by October 2023.

Game and Fish launches 5-year mule deer study
In an effort to answer questions regarding declining mule deer populations, Game and Fish biologists and University of Wyoming researchers launched a five-year project that seeks to obtain more information on mule deer than ever before. The goal is to interpret data in a faster, more immediate and usable way. The project looks at six areas considered critical for mule deer management: abundance, composition, data management, survival, herd health and harvest management. The first task of deploying collars has already begun. The public can expect quarterly updates regarding the project in 2023.

Three men convicted of numerous charges in one of the largest poaching cases in Wyoming history
Three men were charged with more than 100 wildlife violations in one of the largest poaching cases in Wyoming history. The felony and misdemeanor charges were the result of a seven-year, multi-agency investigation spanning four states and involving thousands of hours of investigations and efforts by state and federal wildlife law enforcement officers, county and federal prosecutors, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department forensic laboratory personnel and others. The charges were prosecuted across four Wyoming counties, concluding in Park County in September 2022. Russell Vick of Alabama, Robert Underwood of Oklahoma and David Underwood of South Dakota were convicted of numerous wildlife offenses and cumulatively fined $171,230 and $131,550 in restitution. 

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