Yellowstone National Park officials reported that hunters bagged 20 wolves that wandered from the premises in recent months. This is the most that hunters have killed in a single season since reintroducing the species to the region more than 25 years ago.
Recently, hunters shot 15 wolves that ventured beyond the national park’s northern border into Montana’s public lands. An additional five wandered to Idaho and Wyoming where they died. In Yellowstone National Park, hunting these animals is off-limits. However, according to Montana state law, once a wolf crosses the park’s border, it’s fair game during the hunting season. Of course, this is assuming that the hunter has the proper trapping licensing and registration.
Now, 94 wolves remain in Yellowstone National Park. Officials claim that the depleted number is “a significant setback for the species’ long-term viability and for wolf research,” per Associated Press.
As a result of the recent bag numbers, Park Superintendent Cam Sholly has called on Montana Governor Greg Gianforte. Sholly hopes to halt all hunting on wolves temporarily. On December 16, 2021, Sholly addressed a letter to Gianforte, citing “the extraordinary number of Yellowstone wolves already killed this hunting season.”
However, Gianforte’s response didn’t seem to indicate a repeal.
“Once a wolf exits the park and enters lands in the State of Montana it may be harvested pursuant to regulations established by the (state wildlife) Commission under Montana law,” Gianforte wrote back on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported that it would be monitoring the species and the effects of recent huntings seasons. Based on the findings, the department will determine whether it needs to reinstate U.S. wolves as endangered species. Originally, the Service lifted protections from these animals under the assumption that the states could maintain the population.
Yellowstone National Park Officials Fear for Effects of Trapping Wolves
Outside of Yellowstone National Park, Montana is full of ranches, and therefore, cattle. Initially, when hunting began for wolves, this was to help curb the number of livestock lost to these wandering predators. However, park officials now fear that bait trapping, which began December 21, 2021, may lure the animals outside of the park borders.
“Allowances for trapping and especially baiting are a major concern, especially if these tactics lure wolves out of the park,” Yellowstone spokesperson Morgan Warthin stated.
Not only do the loosened hunting restrictions potentially threaten the wolf population, but they could also affect park visitation. According to Marc Cooke of the advocacy group, Wolves of the Rockies, these animals are one of the main attractions.
“People love these animals and they bring in tons of money for the park,” Cooke said. “This boils down to the commercialization of wildlife for a small minority of special interest groups.”