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A bison resting

Even before Wyoming became a state, people in the area started to see the importance of their wildlife and other natural resources, and the danger of not taking care of them. They began to pass game and fish laws and create licensing procedures that often served as models for others.

In 1869, the first territorial legislature in Wyoming passed the “Act for the Protection of Game and Fish in the Territory of Wyoming.”

  • This act restricted the sale of big game meat, set dates when upland birds could be hunted, and stated that trout could be caught only “singly”—with a hook and line.
  • The law was hard to enforce, but it showed a very early concern for wildlife by the people.

In 1879, the position of “state” fish commissioner was established.

In 1882, other laws were passed that:

  • Set the first big game seasons (Aug. 1 - Nov. 15).
  • Stated that nets and dams in streams must allow for fish passage.
  • Tried to control water pollution.

Around this same time, the loss of many wildlife species was becoming critical.

  • In 1876, 80,000 buffalo hides were shipped from the Wyoming region to Missouri.
  • Eight years later, in 1884, no buffalo hides were shipped.
  • In 1889, the last wild buffalo found outside of Yellowstone National Park was killed.
  • By the early 1900s, the number of deer, elk, moose, and antelope also had decreased to very low levels, making these once common animals often hard to find.