Green Right Now Reports

Wolf of Rockies, National Park Service photo

A gray wolf of the US Rocky Mountains. (Photo: National Park Service)

Wolf bounty hunters in Wyoming may have crippled a wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park, where tourists come to view the wildlife.

According to local reports, hunters killed five wolves in the Wyoming region abutting the park over the last several days. Wyoming game officials will not release details about the wolves killed, but advocates are concerned that they may be from the famous Lamar Valley pack.

Mike Koshmrl from the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports:

Wolf watchers in the Lamar Valley — perhaps the most famous place on Earth to spot a Canis lupus in the wild — fear the worst: that the animals killed were members of the Lamar Canyon Pack. It had 11 members at the end of last year.

One wolf advocate says he sought the identity of the wolves killed in area two from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department but didn’t get any answers.

“They’re hiding behind their statute that says they can only release so much information, which is a bogus excuse,” said Marc Cooke, president of Wolves of the Rockies. “They might as well face the reality that there’s a good possibility that wolves killed were from Yellowstone.”

Last year, the Rocky Mountain gray wolves were delisted in Wyoming as a protected species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The wolves also have been removed from federal protections in Montana and Idaho, the other states with the bulk of the wolf population in the West.

All three states now have legalized wolf hunting, with quotas set to try to maintain the wolves at sustainable, but lower population levela. The number of wolves had reached about 2,000-2,200 at the height of their recovery in the region, fostered by their reintroduction to the U.S. in the mid 1990s. Those numbers are now dropping, with the annual hunting in the three states.

Wolf advocates fear that the hunters will kill Yellowstone wolves, a popular attraction, and drive down the wolf populations across the northern Rocky Mountains region, hurting ecosystems that depend on the apex predator.

Most of Wyoming’s 300 or so wolves reside in the Northwest corner of the state, in the area around Yellowstone National Park. While the wolves cannot be hunted in the park, they can be legally shot the minute they step off the park grounds, into Wyoming, Montana or Idaho.

Wyoming has set up two hunting regions in the western third of the state, where an estimated 90 percent of its wolves reside, and has designated the rest of the state as a place where wolves are considered predators and can be shot on sight. Wolves also can be shot on sight in the Southwest corner of the state between March and October, outside of hunting season.

Wyoming explains its rationale toward wolves on the state fish and game website:

Wyoming statute specifies that wolves in Wyoming are designated as Trophy Game Animals in the northwest corner of the state and as Predatory Animals in the rest of the state. The northwest portion of Wyoming has suitable habitat to maintain wolf populations. The rest of Wyoming is largely unsuitable wolf habitat, and wolves in these parts of Wyoming often cause conflicts with livestock.