The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has released a final version of their State Wildlife Action Plan, or SWAP. This is an update from the 2010 document they have been using to guide management of all non-game species in Wyoming.
The list includes more than 800 species, 229 of which the state now considers Species of Greatest Conservation Need. That designation allows Wyoming to apply for federal grants to conserve species whose numbers are dropping, or who are most vulnerable to threats like development and climate change. Most of the animals added this year are birds and mollusks.
Non-game Supervisor Zack Walker said the funds available to Wyoming are the same, no matter how many species the state adds to the list.
“The state gets a specific amount of money that the Congress approves for that legislative cycle,” Walker said. “So it’s a fairly small – in the grand scheme of things, it’s a smaller number, and so we just have to prioritize what species are in the most need of it at that point in time.”
Wyoming receives about half a million dollars for the State Wildlife Action Plan each year. In order to receive the funds, the state is required to update its plan every five to ten years. Walker said this time, state biologists issued 49 new designations because they now have more data on these species. But for many animals, Walker said, they still want more information, which is the case with the spotted skunk. Currently state law treats it the same as the more prominent striped skunk, providing it little in the way of protections.
“The spotted skunk was actually petitioned for federal listing, which drew our attention because as we were looking at it we realized that we just had very little information about that species in particular,” Walker said.
Walker said several of the species may also be removed from Wyoming’s list if it seems safe to do so based on their monitoring.