Yellowstone National Park and the state of Montana are butting heads over Montana’s hunting season. Recently, hunters killed two pups and a yearling from the Junction Butte pack, the most viewed pack in Yellowstone.
Yellowstone National Park superintendent Cam Sholly gave a press release on Monday, according to Big Country News. “These wolves are part of our balanced ecosystem here,” they said, “and represent one of the special parts of the park that draw visitors from around the globe.”
Sholly advocated for more restrictions on hunting and more protections, stating that they were “extremely vulnerable.”
Montana recently loosened up on hunting regulations; hunters can now bait, snare, and night hunt. The legislature also lengthened the hunting season overall. It also removed the quotas that had been in place for 8 years. Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to adopt these new “aggressive” regulations after legislature requiring agencies to reduce the population. The legislature cited lower elk populations in wolf areas as a reason for the new regulations.
These new rules have caused outrage from conservation groups; they have also prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review how the lower 48 states manage their wolf populations.
There are some that support the new regulations, however. Last year, a non-profit organization sued the Fish and Wildlife Commission over the wolf quota–one per hunting season–saying the quota had “no legitimate purpose.”
Some Wolves Are Thriving, Others on the Verge of Extinction
According to a paper published this month, the Indian wolf‘s lineage goes back eons. First of all, the Indian wolf is closest in genome to the Tibetan, which is older than the grey. Second of all, according to the research, Indian wolves are even older, stretching back 700, 000 years.
The Indian wolf only exists in small areas of Pakistan and India, and there are only 2,000 to 3,000 left. There are some counted that should actually be cited as Tibetan, so the numbers are skewed a bit. This leaves the Indian wolf in even more dire straits.
Wolves evolved from a common ancestral population, existing as recent as 20,000 years ago. There is evidence of an “evolutionary bottleneck,” meaning the original population died out in favor of a new species. The first wolf species, canis lepophagus, is the ancestor of both modern day coyotes and gray wolves. Through canis etruscus and canis mosbachensis, we have the gray and red wolves, and the family dog.
In their environment, wolves play key roles in keeping the ecosystem healthy and happy. They help keep elk and deer populations in check, which can run rampant; and the carcasses of their kills redistribute nutrients to the soil and provide food for scavengers. In 2017, is was reported that the United States has about 18,000 wolves; many of them live in national parks.