From Staff Reports
Wolf trapping and hunting in Montana has been suspended in a buffer area close to Yellowstone National Park. Montana’s wolf trapping season is set to begin Dec. 15, and widespread public debate of the shooting of collared wolves prompted the changes in how the state manages that process during a vote Monday by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission.
Citing the unusual circumstances of several collared wolves that frequent Yellowstone being shot in areas near the park this fall, the commissioners voted 4-1 to prohibit further hunting or trapping for the rest of the season in areas closest to the park.
Last week, a high-profile alpha female from Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Canyon pack was killed outside the park in Wyoming. The collared wolf had been widely spotted and photographed. And like other collared animals in the park, data collected about its activities aided researchers in their studies.
At least seven other wolves that frequent the park have been shot in wolf hunts outside the park over the past several months.
Wolf advocates have expressed outrage at the widely covered shootings, while wildlife managers say they had expected collared wolves to be killed as part of state-managed hunts, and that no single pack has suffered disproportionate losses.
The wolf hunts highlight how wildlife found in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks often spend time on public and private lands outside the parks.
While wildlife managers have long had to contend with weather, disease and other factors that cross park boundaries, this year is the first to see widespread wolf hunts in three states—Montana, Wyoming and Idaho—since the removal of wolves from the endangered species list in those three states.
According to the Associated Press, hunters have shot 58 wolves this year in Wyoming, while 87 have been killed in Montana and 120 have been killed in Idaho.
State wildlife managers have said that hunting is a management tool used with many species, including gray wolves, to maintain appropriate numbers based on habitat conditions and other factors.
Less than 100 of the more than 1,500 wolves in the Northern Rockies region live primarily in Yellowstone, and hunts are authorized in areas where wildlife managers say the animals are appropriately abundant and may prey on livestock or cause other conflicts. Areas are closed to further wolf hunting after previously set quotas are met each season.
Several conservation groups have sued to block wolf hunts, saying populations are not large enough to withstand hunting across the region, and calling wolf trapping and other elements of wolf control efforts cruel and inhumane.