Montana Considers Limiting Gray Wolf Hunting After 23 Harvested in Yellowstone National Park

by Megan Molseed
(Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Montana wildlife commissioners have announced that they are considering whether or not to continue gray wolf hunting and trapping along the borders of the Yellowstone National Park. The announcement comes after reports of the hunting of 23 wolves known to reside in Yellowstone National Park.

The wolves often wander outside of the park’s borders. This then makes them susceptible to hunters. Each of those killings has occurred in the span of just a few months. And, Yellowstone National Park officials are now asking that the state of Montana suspend hunting along the park’s border. This request comes as an effort to avoid long-term harm to its wolf packs that have become world-renowned for their existence within the park’s ecosystem.

Eighteen of the 23 Yellowstone gray wolves that have been hunted this season were located in Montana. Additionally, three of the hunted gray wolves met their fates in Wyoming and two of the 23 harvested predators found their end by hunters in Idaho.

A Push To Reintroduce An Area Predator

In 1995, the gray wolf was reintroduced to the Montana area. These introductions included an area stretching into the northern Rocky Mountains. These reintroductions are part of an effort to re-establish the wolf populations in the area. Experts note that the wolf population was facing danger as the numbers were quickly decreasing in these areas before 1995.

Now, the number of wolves tracked down throughout Montana this hunting season is not outside of the Montana average. However, these killings occurring just outside of the beloved national park have brought the issue to light. Wildlife advocates have been speaking out against the harvesting of the Yellowstone wolves. Wildlife advocates have spoken against the current hunting laws; as have some area businesses that currently depend on Yellowstone tourism.

Additionally, one wolf pack, the Phantom Lake Pack is facing terrible consequences of these hunting changes. This pack is now considered to be “eliminated.”

Gray Wolves Face Challenges Outside of National Park

Researches report that most of the Phantom Lake Pack’s members have been killed. Many of these Phantom Lake Pack wolves met their fate during this season – over just two months last fall.

Rules protecting these predators were long enforced after the 1995 reintroduction. The focus at this time was solely on growing the wolf population. However, the wolf numbers were beginning to expand over the years. This, of course, is a catalyst for adjusting the previous guidelines. As a result, many of these guidelines were easing up on the rules held in place for many years. But, these population increases were creating some issues in certain areas. Ranchers in the area report an increased number of these predators on their properties. As a result, Montana and Idaho lawmakers loosened the hunting and trapping laws. Additionally, these new laws allowed for higher “harvest” limits. The adjustments also bring the addition of night hunting and an aerial hunting option in Idaho.