Bad news from Yellowstone National Park. Gray wolves are declining. Mange, parvovirus and or canine distemper were partly responsible but the misguided Montana hunt did it’s part to reduce their numbers. If you remember Montana opened it’s hunt in the backcountry, right outside the borders of Yellowstone. The famed Cottonwood pack was decimated, specifically alpha female 527F, her mate and daughter. It was like shooting fish in a barrel since those wolves certainly were not expecting to be shot. They had lived their whole lives unmolested in the park and routinely crossed over Yellowstone boundaries, since they can’t read signs.
“While parvovirus and mange continue to reduce the population, part of this year’s decline can be traced to the fact that wolves lost protection in the Northern Rockies under the Endangered Species Act in 2008. Wolves, like all wildlife, are protected inside the park, but when they roam beyond the borders, they fall into the state’s wildlife management practices. Idaho and Montana, which border Yellowstone, permitted hunting of wolves this fall. Idaho recently extended its hunt until March.”
Anti wolf detractors constantly talk about wolves reproducing themselves each year to make up for the fallen. Wolves on the contrary are not like coyotes, they don’t tolerate rapid change well, especially when there are wolf hunts, Wildlife Services War on Wolves, mange, parvovirus and wolf territorial disputes all coming together at once, it seems wolves are mortal after all.
“The wolves have it hard enough inside the park,” says Rolf Peterson, a wildlife biologist at Michigan Technological University. “The Yellowstone wolves should be treated like national treasures and protected.”
Wolf watchers are lamenting the decline of wolves in North Yellowstone. The beloved Druids, now number only ten members AND are battling mange, which was introduced by the state of Montana in 1905 to eradicate the wolf population. Hard to believe but it’s true. Mange in humans is called scabies.
So the once robust wolf population in Yellowstone is down to 116 wolves from the high of 174 wolves in 2003.
“The gray wolf population is declining, says Doug Smith, the coordinator of the reintroduction efforts and leader of the Yellowstone Wolf Project that studies and manages the wolves. Wolves are killing each other at a higher frequency to compete for elk, their primary food source, which is less abundant now, he says.
“The good times are over,” Smith says. His annual census of the park’s wolf population is expected to be the lowest in 10 years, he said. Smith is still gathering data but says the number of gray wolves in the park will be 116, a 33% drop from 2003, when the population was at an all-time high of 174.”
Living on an island like Yellowstone has it’s consequences for wolves. With the introduction of hunts, wolves dare not venture outside the park, which makes the chance of dispersal and genetic exchange even more difficult.
Being a wolf in Yellowstone and throughout the Northern Rockies in general, is as hard as it’s ever been since their reintroduction. Stopping the wolf hunts and the assault by Wildlife Services will go a long way to help them recover. I’m hoping Judge Molloy agrees.
Updated December 15, 2009
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Posted in: Yellowstone wolves, biodiversity, wolf recovery
Tags: Yellowstone wolves, Montana wolf hunt, wolf recovery, Wildlife Services