Wolf hunting closed
Montana wildlife commissioners have closed a wolf-hunting season north of Yellowstone National Park after several radio-collar-wearing gray wolves were legally killed by hunters.
The commissioners voted 4–1 to approve the closures, which shuts down hunting and trapping in areas east and west of Gardiner on the north boundary of Yellowstone National Park.
Reports say at least seven of Yellowstone’s estimated 88 wolves have been shot by hunters outside the park.
That includes five wolves fitted with tracking collars for scientific research, said Dan Stahler, a biologist with the park’s wolf program.
Among the collared wolves shot was the alpha female from the well-known Lamar Canyon pack known as 832F to researchers and among tourists as ‘06 (“oh-six”), after the year of its birth.
Radio collars are used by researchers to monitor wolf populations and movement.
Gray wolves in the Northern Rockies population lost federal protections last year, and Montana’s first wolf trapping season in four decades began Saturday.
Hunting seasons already are under way in Wyoming, Utah and Montana.
Dave Hallac, Yellowstone’s chief scientist for the park’s Center for Resources, acknowledged the recent shootings have an impact on the park’s wolf research but said that possibility was anticipated once wolves came off the endangered list.
The number killed so far does not threaten the park’s overall population, he said.
Hunters have shot at least 87 wolves across Montana this fall. At least 120 have been killed in Idaho, and 58 have been shot in Wyoming.
The Northern Rockies region had an estimated 1,774 wolves at the end of 2011, including at least 653 in Montana.
Officials in all three states want to reduce pack numbers to address livestock attacks and increase elk numbers that have dropped in some areas.
Montana wildlife commissioner Shane Colton voted for the closure and said using collars is a way to study the animals and manage their numbers.
“We don’t want to close any area off if we don’t have to. But if we keep losing collared wolves ... management becomes difficult,” Colton said. “We want to do this first trapping season right.”