Yellowstone Wolves Declining

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.


Gray wolf population declining in Yellowstone

Updated December 15, 2009


Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Yellowstone wolves, biodiversity, wolf recovery

Tags: Yellowstone wolves, Montana wolf hunt, wolf recovery, Wildlife Services


Rock Star Wolves….The Druid Peak Pack


Update: March 6, 2010 The Druid Peak Pack is down to just one wolf.  This is a tragic end to a legendary wolf pack.  Click here for the sad story


Wolves are the rock stars in Yellowstone National Park.  No animal is more popular, with the exception of the Great Bear. Wolves are charismatic, social, smart, great parents and completely captivating.  One pack stands out against the backdrop of Yellowstone’s little Serengeti” Lamar Valley….The Druids. 

For years they ruled the Lamar Valley, battling other wolf packs for dominance BUT they’ve suffered a setback in recent times.  The pack that once numbered 37 have diminished to just 10 wolves, who are plagued by mange.  BUT the Druids are making a comeback and if they can beat the mange as the Mollies Pack  have, they may once again take their place as the rulers of the Lamar.

Still the  Druid Peak Pack are the most celebrated wolf pack in the world, having been featured in several National Geographic documentaries, specifically: Wolves: A Legend Returns to Yellowstone and In The Valley of the Wolves.   Since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 and the subsequent formation of the Druids, they have been and will continue to be studied and researched by teams of  biologists and wolf researchers such as Doug Smith and Daniel MacNulty. They attract tourists from around the globe,who breathlessly observe them through high powered viewing scopes. The Druid’s lives are played out, against the backdrop of Lamar, like a lupine version of  a famous soap opera. (click this link for the full Nature version of: In the Valley of the Wolves)

Here is the beginning of their story, told through the lens of Bob Landis, famous filmmaker, director and photographer.  Sadly, the Druids famed alpha’s #21 and #42 are no longer with us but the Druids live on in their beloved Lamar. 


The Director, Bob Landis, discusses the Druids and the making of this spectacular glimpse into their lives.

Yellowstone wolves are worth their weight in gold, bringing in $30-$35 million per year, in tourism dollars, to Greater Yellowstone.  They are more profitable then hunting in that area.

Instead of killing wolves we should be re-thinking ways to increase eco-tourism, which could generate big revenue across Montana, Idaho and the west.  Ninety percent of the public does not hunt.  The majority of Americans want their wildlife living and breathing.   We must stop living in the past, using  arcane and cruel methods to control our predators for agriculture and move forward into the twenty first century, respecting wolves as top dog predators who are necessary for a balanced and healthy ecosystem.  It’s the wolf who honed the elegant elk into the beautiful creatures they are, not man.  Nipping at their heals, down through the ages, canis lupus bequeathed to the elk, their fleetness of foot.  

For many Americans wolves remain a symbol of freedom, an icon of the West.  The wild canine’s continuing recovery and presence will help preserve the wild places for our children and their children.  But if we continue down the destructive path we’re on will our legacy to them be a West Without Wolves?

alphas 42 and 21 druids

legendary Druid alpha’s #42 and #21


Howling Druids

Yellowstone Druid Wolves I

Photo: Wikemedia Commons

Categories posted in: Yellowstone wolves, biodiversity

Tags: Yellowstone wolves, gray wolf


Wolf tourism in Yellowstone region

eyes of the wolf

Published in: on November 6, 2009 at 7:53 pm  Comments (1)  
Tags: ,

Wolf Hunts…..Ignoring the Science?

soda butte yellowstone national park

Wolf photo by SigmaEye on Flickr

The drama wages on, it’s Wolf Wars, Part Two.  We exterminated them in the West once, is this the sequel?

Three wolves were poached in the North Fork of the Flathead in Montana, close to Glacier National Park.  Everyone was expecting the quota numbers to be adjusted downward but they would be wrong because you see it’s all about the numbers.  Wildlife “managers” like Sime states Montana researchers have tracked wolves for a long time and know what they’re doing.  They have mathematical models they’re following about how many wolves we can afford to lose. Apparently, according to FWP, 5 to 8 percent of Montana’s wolves are killed by humans each year, so these poached wolves are just added to that percentage.

Disposable?  Convenient huh??


“On average, Sime said, people kill between

5 percent and 8 percent of Montana’s wolf population each year. Armed with that data, and with total wolf numbers – births, deaths, dispersals, arrivals – wildlife managers used computer models to “create a range of scenarios” that simulated the state’s first-ever fair chase wolf hunt.

At one end of the modeling spectrum was a quota of about 200, and at the other was no hunt at all. They landed, finally, somewhere in the middle – a statewide hunting quota of 75. That’s about 15 percent of the state’s estimated 550 wolves.

The two wolves poached by the Columbia Falls man, as well as another poached in the same general area, had already been accounted for in Montana’s “biologically conservative” system, Sime said.”

That really makes me feel confident. Apparently the “wolf managers” are so busy calculating numbers of dead wolves they might be missing out on the research that does not support the hunts as a way to “manage” them.

It turns out, older wolves are not great hunters.  Apparently wolf hunting skills peak at age two to three,  by age four, wolves are considered old.


“Shortly after gray wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, Daniel MacNulty was puzzled by something. The breeding pair in one of the packs frequently stopped during their elk hunts to rest. “They sat on the sidelines while their offspring did the work,” says MacNulty, an ecologist from Michigan Technological University in Houghton. “After their kids made the kill, they would amble up to feed.”Laziness? Not at all. The two were almost 5 years old, which MacNulty has learned is fairly old age for wolves. His new study is one of the first to look at the effects of aging in predators, and it raises questions about current methods of controlling wolf populations.

alpha female yellowstones hayden valley pack SigmaEye

(Alpha Female Yellowstone Hayden Pack: Photo Sigma Eye Flicker)

Nulty has followed 94 radio-collared wolves in Yellowstone for 13 years, closely monitoring their hunts for two 30-day periods during each of those years. His research on these individual canids shows that wolves age rapidly. Indeed, by age 2 they’re in their hunting prime, drawing on youthful endurance and sudden bursts of speed to take down elk. But just as quickly, they lose that talent, MacNulty’s team reports online in Ecology Letters. “Wolves are old when they’re 4,” he says. The median life span for wolves in Yellowstone is 6 years, although some have lived as long as 10. Those older wolves manage to survive because the younger ones in their pack pick up the slack, killing elk and letting all the pack members feed. Older wolves are also heftier and may come in at the end of a hunt to use their weight to help pull down the elk, says MacNulty.

As one might expect, aging predators are good news for prey. The wolves’ kill rate on elk in Yellowstone declined significantly as the number of geriatric hunters in the wolf population increased. And that could have cascading effects on the ecosystem. For instance, elk may linger and browse on woody plants when elderly wolves are around. More browsing could slow the recovery of willows and aspen trees, which have come back since the wolves’ reintroduction.”

So it seems the indiscriminate hunting  going on will have the opposite effect of what “wolf managers” are aiming  for,  pun intended.  With the killing of older wolves and alphas and disruption and chaos in packs, younger and younger wolves will be filling the gaps, increasing the chances of livestock depredation.

The whole livestock issue is just another reason to kill wolves, I’m seriously tired of hearing about cows.  It’s not as if these animals are rancher’s beloved pets.  They’re raised to be eaten and suffer a cruel death when sent to slaughter.   Ranchers are also reimbursed by the feds and Defenders of Wildlife for every confirmed wolf kill.  But wolves kill such a small percentage of livestock,  yet all we hear about is wolf predation, when it’s weather, calving and disease that are responsible for over 90% of cattle losses. As for predators, coyotes kill 20 times more cattle then wolves and DOMESTIC DOGS kill FIVE TIMES  more cattle then wolves.  But of course those numbers fall on deaf ears because when it comes to the wolf, facts don’t seem to matter.

The killing of Yellowstone’s Cottonwood alpha’s, at the beginning of Montana’s hunt, was the result of poor planning, IMO.  How can you not know hunters were going to line up at the park boundaries, waiting for Yellowstone’s wolves to cross over, which they routinely do, since they can’t read signs.  Because of that, Yellowstone lost collared wolves,  that were part of ongoing research, especially the Cottonwood alpha female, wolf 527F.

yellowstones 527

(Wolf 527F while tranquilized, before her death)


“Wolf 527 and her daughter, 716, originated from two of the best-known packs in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, the scene of numerous documentaries. For years, the movements of the Lamar packs have been monitored by biologists equipped with radio tracking devices and powerful spotting telescopes.

“They sold this wolf hunt in Montana and Idaho as controlling the predation on cattle and what-not. Well, these wolves aren’t touching cattle. They’re feeding on elk. They’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” said Tom Murphy, a wildlife photographer who has been documenting the Yellowstone wolves.

“This is the home ground of all of them, the nursery, the definition of what a healthy ecosystem looks like,” he said. “And it drives me crazy that (hunters are) standing on the boundary of the park … and killing the ones with radio collars, that people watch every day.”

The demise of 716, often known as Dark Female, was reported Sept. 29 in a blog posting…….. Five days later, she followed up with another item, this time about 527.”

“The loss of 527F leaves a hole in research that had been under way at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere, said Daniel MacNulty, a U of M research associate.

“The gold standard in studies of animals in the wild is being able to repeatedly measure the same individual over time,” MacNulty said.
Knock out one or more of those individuals from a study, and years of work documenting behavior from reproduction to hunting success also is lost..
The re-introduction of wolves in Yellowstone in 1995 provided an unprecedented opportunity for such studies. Relatively large numbers of wolves could live there through natural life spans that weren’t disrupted by hunting and other outside pressures.”
Cutting edge wolf research is at odds with the approach  of  “managing” wolves by  hunting them.
“Members of the commission and state wildlife managers have acknowledged a mistake in the decision to open early season hunting next to Yellowstone,”…….
The Yellowstone wolf project, partially funded by a $480,000, five-year National Science Foundation grant, isn’t the only study adversely affected by the hunting, Science says. The slaughter of the Yellowstone wolves also is a blow to a host of studies into elk management, ecology and other subjects.
Big bad wolves? Not the old ones
A study MacNulty and his colleagues at the U of M have just completed is an example of the kind of research Science says could be jeopardized. The research team is from the College of Biological Sciences’ Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the university. MacNulty also is connected with Michigan Technological University in Houghton where scientists study wolves on Isle Royale National Park.
 “It is well known that wolves prey on elk. This is one of the first field studies to gauge whether age of the wolves makes any difference. The researchers spent more than 13 years following 527F and dozens of other radio-collared wolves, observing their hunts from airplanes and taking various measures of their physical abilities.
Their findings in a nutshell: Wild wolves — like great human sprinters, NBA stars and competitive swimmers — need to score while they are young, because they peak early.
“By age one, they are quite effective hunters,” MacNulty said. “Wolves don’t live very long so there is a lot of pressure from an evolutionary standpoint to quickly develop an ability to hunt in order to feed themselves and their offspring.”
Unlike mountain lions — with their short snouts, powerful muscles and retractable claws — wolves need speed to bring down their prey.
“They lack physical characteristics to kill prey swiftly, so they rely on athletic ability and endurance, which diminishes with age,” MacNulty said. “They’re like 100-meter sprinters. They need to be in top condition to perform.”
Although most wolves in Yellowstone live for about six years, their killing ability peaks when they are two to three years old, the U of M team found. After that, they rely on younger wolves to share their kills.
In other words, the higher the proportion of wolves older than three, the lower the rate at which they kill elk.

So why were these wolves killed?  Supposedly the hunts are all about teaching the big, bad wolves a lesson about preying on cattle but what was 527F doing?  She was standing a mile outside the park boundaries in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Facing her killer, I’m sure she had no idea she was about to be shot to death.  She had survived so much in her seven years. She was a “good” wolf, who was very reclusive, hard to find.  She was minding her own business. Yet she’s dead along with her mate and daughter, wolf 716, essentially decimating the Cottonwood Pack.  For what?  So someone could get a cheap thrill killing a wolf?  Or we could read more stories about guys chasing wolves on ATV’s and blowing them away with Remington 300 rifles?

Yellowstone Hayden Valley Pack Member
Even though research points to leaving wolves alone to live out their lives,  letting nature balance itself, it seems the people running this “dog and pony show” are going in the opposite direction.
“Most managers who want to boost numbers of elk and deer think all you need to do is kill wolves,” ecologist Christopher Wilmers of the University of California, Santa Cruz told ScienceNOW. “But this study shows you’re probably increasing your problem, since you’ll end up with younger wolves that kill more prey.”

That’s because when a pack vanishes or is weakened and loses its territory, he says, younger wolves often move in.

“You’re better off leaving the wolves alone,” Wilmers said.


Contrary to all the good science, which concludes  indiscriminate  killing of wolves, with no regard to age or status in the pack, is a mistake, we are still marching forward with these misguided hunts.

The question has to be asked, what are the hunts really all about?

Wolves are not the problem, people are the problem. It’s the human self righteous attitude, that we alone are soverign over this earth, that we have the right to destroy anything that gets in our way.  That is the problem.

The intolerance and arrogance are astounding.  I’m sorry if I’m not interested in mathematical models concerning killing wolves. Is anyone in “wolf management” thinking about pack structure, the loss of alpha’s, the loss of pups or the killing off of older wolves?  Where is this dialog among people coordinating the hunts?  All I hear from the “managers’  is numbers, numbers, numbers. They pronounce  it won’t make any difference, that the NUMBERS are insignificant.  I”m wondering insignificant to who?  Certainly not to me and other wolf supporters.  We view these hunts with heavy hearts.

“Biologically, [the loss] has no impact, since wolf packs turn over all the time,” Edward Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Helena told Science. “It doesn’t make any difference to wolf conservation or wolf research.”

It all seems to be taken so lightly, what’s a few hundred wolves, give or take a few? It’s as if wolves have no social structure or life at all.  That if you kill one wolf another will automatically take it’s place,  Ignoring the intricate bonds that hold wolf packs together. Ignoring Yellowstone wolves had a 27% decline  in 2008.  Ignoring the fact the Druid Peak pack lost all their eight pups. Ignoring the fact  the Druids and other Yellowstone packs are plagued with mange. Yes, individual wolves matter!  Wolves are not indestructable.  They’re not as adaptable, as say coyotes.

I hope the NRDC and Defenders of Wildlife make a big impression with their wolf ads in Times Square and the New York Times, to let people back in Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Virginia, South Carolina and the rest of America know they’re out here in the West killing wolves AGAIN. in the name of ranching and hunting interests.   Maybe then other voices will be heard, ones that don’t have a vested interest in dead wolves. That think having wild wolves inhabiting their Western home range is something to cheer about.  People that see the wolf as an Icon of the West representing  freedoms we’re quickly losing, not a pest to be eradicated.  Then,  just possibly, the guns will be silenced!!


Ageing wolves ‘lose their bite’

Categories posted in: Montana wolf hunts, wolf wars, Glacier National Park, Yellowstone wolves

Tags: wolf poaching, Montana wolf hunt, wolves in the crossfire,  Yellowstone wolves

Key Alpha Wolves Killed In Montana

I discussed this issue in earlier posts concerning the deaths of Yellowstone’s famous Cottonwood  Alpha female, wolf 527 , her mate the Alpha  male and her daughter, who were killed early in Montana’s hunts outside Yellowstone.  The loss of alpha’s is always a negative for the pack but these particular wolves were part of ongoing research. 


Bad News on the Wolf Front – Key Alpha Wolves Killed in Montana

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California  10.27.09

Photo via Todd Ryburn

Three alpha wolves vital to a study tracking their pack’s patterns were killed earlier this month by hunters in Montana. The study effectively ended, but the controversy around the wolf hunts, which were allowed to start again this year, is sparked up.

Yale 360 reports, “Among those killed was an alpha female, known as wolf 527, who was born into Yellowstone’s Druid Peak pack, featured in a PBS documentary entitled “In the Valley of the Wolves.” Before she, her mate — the pack’s alpha male — and her daughter were shot this month, wolf 527 was wearing a radio collar that enabled researchers to track and study her and her pack.”

The Los Angeles Times has an excellent article that gives a short tribute to 527 along with outlining the controversy behind the wolf hunts. According to the LA Times, “‘Whether the pack exists anymore or not, to us the pack is gone,” said Doug Smith, the biologist in charge of the Yellowstone reintroduction program that helped bring wolves back from the brink of extinction in the Northern Rockies. Cottonwood “was a key pack on the northern range,” he said, giving researchers a window into the existence of animals that had little or no interaction with humans.”

State wildlife officials were surprised at how easily the wolves were being killed, and so called off the special back-country hunt along a section of Yellowstone’s northern boundary for the rest of the year, even though the hunting of wolves is still going on elsewhere in Montana and Idaho.

Montana’s wolf program coordinator, Carolyn Sime points out that should the wolf hunt end and the wolves be put back on the endangered species list, that pressing people’s willingness to live with the animals would be futile and locals would take matters into their own hands. Others say that big game hunters do appreciate the wolves’ presence in the ecosystem, it just takes understanding that their population is fragile to help find balance.

Either way, the wolves are again in danger of being hunted right back on to the endangered species list, and possibly to extinction. And having key alpha wolves cut from the gene pool – let alone a scientific study – is a terrible tragedy.

Categories posted in: Montana wolf hunt, Yellowstone wolves, wolf wars

Tag: Montana wolf hunt, Yellowstone wolves, wolf intolerance


large wolf pack

As we sit sadly by, wolves are being killed in Montana and Idaho. But on this day I want to remember their home coming to Yellowstone, fourteen years ago.

Watch the reintroduction, as National Geographic and Doug Smith, tell the story of Yellowstone’s Wolves and the formation of the Druid Peak Pack.



Videos: Courtesy to National Geographic
Bringing Wolves Home: Ed Bangs
Wolf Recovery Coordinator
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
 yellowstone wolf runnintg
“Wolves are a top-line predator. They have a major influence…”
Categories posted in: Yellowstone wolves, biodiversity, wolf recovery
 Tags: wolf recovery, Yellowstone wolves, Druid Peak Pack


 photo: Wikimedia Commons
Published in: on October 27, 2009 at 4:53 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , ,

Yellowstone’s Cottonwood Alpha Female, 527, Falls To Hunter’s Bullet

yellowstones 527

Photo: Wolf 527, killed on Buffalo Plateau on Oct. 3. Credit: Dan Stahler / National Parks Service

October 25, 2009
Yellowstone’s famous Cottonwood pack Alpha female, 527, fell to  a hunter’s bullet outside the park at the beginning of Montana’s wolf hunt, which re-opens today.

Montana wolf hunt is stalked by controversy

The demise of a much-studied pack raises questions about lifting the hunting ban in areas bordering Yellowstone park.

October 25, 2009|Kim Murphy

GARDINER, MONT. — Wolf 527 was a survivor. She lived through a rival pack’s crippling 12-day siege of her den. When another pair of wolves laid down stakes in her territory, she killed the mother and picked off the pups while the invader’s mate howled nearby in frustration and fury.

She was not a charmer. But successful wolves are not known for their geniality. She was large and black and wary — and cruel when she needed to be. As the alpha female of the Cottonwood Creek pack, she also was equipped with a radio collar so wildlife biologists could track her movements, making her one of Yellowstone National Park’s best-known wolves.

 Then she ventured outside the park boundaries.

Wolf 527 was killed Oct. 3 by a hunter on Buffalo Plateau north of Yellowstone, less than three weeks into Montana’s backcountry elk season. Wolves often stalk elk outside the park and are attracted by entrails the hunters leave behind. But this year, the elk season coincided with the opening of the state’s first wolf hunt in modern times.

“She was a genius wolf in her tactics,” said Laurie Lyman, a former San Diego County teacher who has spent the last five years tracking the recovery of the endangered gray wolves that were reintroduced into Yellowstone in 1995. “Her strategies were just unbelievable. She knew how to survive anything, but she didn’t know how to survive a man with a gun.”

Park officials believe four of the Cottonwood pack’s 10 wolves — including 527′s mate, the alpha male, and her daughter — died during those first weeks, in effect ending research into one of the park’s most important study groups.

“Whether the pack exists anymore or not, to us the pack is gone,” said Doug Smith, the biologist in charge of the Yellowstone reintroduction program that helped bring wolves back from the brink of extinction in the Northern Rockies. Cottonwood “was a key pack on the northern range,” he said, giving researchers a window into the existence of animals that had little or no interaction with humans.

State wildlife officials, caught off guard by the ease with which the wolves were cut down, called off the backcountry hunt along a section of Yellowstone’s northern boundary for the rest of the year.

But the general wolf hunting season opens today throughout much of the rest of Montana, including other areas bordering the 3,468-square-mile park. Wildlife advocates have sought, so far unsuccessfully, a buffer zone to protect Yellowstone’s storied wolf packs.

With more than 1,600 wolves now in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, state officials are allowing hunters this year to take up to 75 in Montana and 220 in Idaho. Federal protections remain in Wyoming.

“We’ve got quite a number of other border packs. So people need to decide how hunting’s going to occur on the park boundaries,” Smith said. “Whose wolves are they? Are they national wolves? Montana wolves? And we have to decide what is the value of our research on wolf populations that are not affected by people.”

Read more:


Montana’s wolf hunt re-opens today, with 65 more wolves in danger of losing their lives before the 75 wolf quota is reached. 

Yellowstone’s Cottonwood Pack is all but obliterated. Two members of the famed Phantom Hill pack in Idaho’s Sun Valley have been killed.  All the work, time, effort put in by wolf advocates, biologists and researchers,  is going up in smoke because of the  wrong-headed “management” policies by Montana and Idaho.  SHAME!!!



Categories posted in: Yellowstone wolves, Montana wolf hunt, wolf recovery

Tags: Montana wolf hunt, Yellowstone wolves, wolf myths

Montana Ends Wolf Hunts Outside of Yellowstone (For Now)

It’s about time but not soon enough to save the famous Yellowstone Cottonwood wolf pack, who were recently wiped out by hunter’s bullets. I posted an article yesterday about the uniqueness of Yellowstone’s wolves yet Montana decided to conduct their hunting experiment right at the door of the park. Montana should be ashamed that because of poor planning an entire wolf pack was eliminated, one who has been the focus of research within the park for years. This was a disaster waiting to happen, wolves know no boundaries, so unfortunately for this pack, they stepped outside the park long enough to be shot and killed. They died for nothing.

I had hopes Montana’s FWP would keep the backcountry closed or create a buffer zone for wolves around Yellowstone but apparently they’re planning on re-opening WSU3 on Oct. 25. They issued this statement on their website concerning Unit 3, which also encompasses the area around Yellowstone:

The unit will close to the hunting of wolves one half hour past sunset, October 9, 2009. WMU-3 may reopen to the hunting of wolves on October 25, 2009.

We are the third largest state in the lower forty eight, yet we can’t accommodate and recover 500 wolves?We think by killing 75 of them in a misconceived hunt that will somehow help wolf recovery? The hunts are a blow to wolf recovery but at least Montana has closed off Unit 3 for now. I strongly urge them to keep the area closed for the remainder of the hunt and to close all backcountry or better yet stop the hunts entirely and then we can enjoy the rest of the winter.

Montana Suspends Wolf Hunt Outside Yellowstone National Park

Matt Skoglund
Wildlife Advocate, Livingston, Montana
Blog | AboutPosted October 8, 2009 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

backcountry wolf

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks suspended the backcountry wolf hunt just north of Yellowstone National Park today.

That’s great news. The famous wolves of Yellowstone can let loose a big howl of relief.

I wrote about the ridiculousness of that backcountry hunt yesterday, and the Los Angeles Times wrote a piece about my blog entry today.

The timing of the hunt makes no sense. Nor does the lack of a no-hunt buffer zone outside Yellowstone to protect the Park’s legendary wolves that freely roam in and out of Yellowstone (and can’t read maps).

Montana has temporarily suspended the backcountry hunt until hunting in the front country begins on October 25th. Hopefully Montana will add additional restrictions before October 25th to protect both Yellowstone’s wolves and the wolves that live in backcountry wilderness areas in other parts of the state (as well as the wolves in and around Glacier National Park).

It’s frustrating that these premature wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana are proceeding at all. And it’s incredibly frustrating that several wilderness wolves and multiple Yellowstone wolves have already been killed — and that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) says it didn’t see this coming. But it’s encouraging to see Montana respond by suspending the hunt outside Yellowstone.

Killing wolves in backcountry wilderness areas is bad wildlife management. FWP Commissioner Ron Moody said today that “[w]e don’t want to kill the wilderness wolves.”

If so, Montana should suspend the other backcountry hunts that are still ongoing and make the suspensions permanent.

Or, even better, Montana could scrap this hunt altogether until wolves in the Northern Rockies have fully recovered . . .

Either way, Montana can do a better job managing its state’s wolves, and it appears it knows it.

(Wolf photo by SigmaEye on Flickr)

Categories posted in: Montana wolf hunt, Yellowstone wolves

Tags: Yellowstone wolves, gray wolf

Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 10:57 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: ,

Yellowstone Wolves Unique


Yellowstone’s wolves are unique because they’re protected within the park’s vast boundaries. If Yellowstone’s wolves stay in the park, they can live most of their lives unmolested by people, which has allowed researchers to study them in as close to a natural environment as possible. What they found is Yellowstone’s wolf packs have increased numbers of older, more experienced male wolves, who help take down elk and even larger prey like moose and bison. They state that packs with at least one large male are overall healthier and more successful. In the rest of the Northern Rockies, wolves suffer high mortality rates because of human related conflicts.

Yellowstone’s packs are what healthy wolf packs should look like. They are the model of good wolf management in contrast to the wolf management going on in the rest of the Northern Rockies, which is driven by intolerance.

The anti-wolf crowd finally got their chance to hunt wolves and because of that wolf packs will lose many of their adults, pushing the age of pack members downward, resulting in younger wolves with less hunting experience, increasing livestock conflicts and more wolf deaths. Yellowstone’s lessons are falling on deaf ears.

The park’s researchers have noted declining wolf numbers in the northern areas of Yellowstone, due to several factors but the researchers believe this decline may be permanent or wolves in this area could take over a decade to recover.

Yellowstone, for all it’s vastness, is still only an island. If wolves leave the park, they do so at great peril to their lives. Recently, Yellowstone wolves who had wandered into the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, which is part of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem but outside park boundaries, were shot and killed







Packs with older, more experienced hunters rare among North American wolves

Yellowstone wolf packs differ from others

RUFFIN PREVOST – The Billings Gazette | Posted: Tuesday, October 6, 2009 12:00 am | 1 Comment

CODY — Ongoing research on wolves in Yellowstone National Park continues to yield new information about how the animals hunt, and how their pack dynamics differ from those of packs in the rest of North America.

“How wolves function in this tri-state area is very different from how they function in the far north of Canada,” said Doug Smith, the biologist in charge of the Yellowstone Wolf Project.

Smith spoke late last week to a capacity crowd at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, presenting highlights of findings included in the project’s 2008 annual report.

Northern Canada has about 55,000 wolves and Alaska has about 10,000, so regional populations there are easily replenished by dispersing packs from elsewhere, despite heavy hunting in particular areas, he said.

“In the north, you have an ocean of wolves. The whole area is one big wolf population” surrounded by isolated pockets of people, Smith said.

“What we have here is an ocean of humanity with a couple of small areas of wolf survival, so it’s a reverse dynamic,” he said, adding that it is important to understand the difference. Scientists have largely modeled projections about Yellowstone wolf populations on lessons learned from wolves in the north.

But Yellowstone is special because wolves inside the park are virtually free of mortality from human causes, while 80 percent of wolves across the rest of North America are killed through hunting or by other human measures.

Consequently, there tend to be greater numbers of older wolves in Yellowstone packs, making for more experienced hunters than in nearby packs outside the park, he said.

“Yearlings have the highest rates of participation but the lowest success” in hunts, he said.

Biologists are learning more about the roles in hunting of different wolves within a pack’s social structure.

“Females, with their sleek, slim, fast body types, are typically out front, picking out which elk to attack, along with the younger males,” he said.

“The female will grab the elk, and at the end of the hunt, the big male catches up. These big males are important in the takedown. They are the best killers in the pack. But they’re not at the forefront of the hunt,” Smith said.

Researchers have found that packs with at least one large male tend to do much better in hunting elk than packs with none. Multiple large males are important for packs hunting bison or moose.

Wolves also tend to fare better in hunting elk during severe winters and in deeper snow, when their prey is weaker and has greater difficulty escaping, he said.

Smith said that fall “is the hardest time of the year to be a wolf,” because elk are well-fed and in good shape, making them harder to catch.

Last year was a tough year for Yellowstone’s wolves for a number of reasons, including disease, with distemper believed to have taken a heavy toll on pups.

Every one of the 25 new pups in the Leopold pack died, and the pack’s alpha male was killed by a wolf in a neighboring pack. The result was the end of the pack.

“The Leopold pack completely crumbled after 12 years,” he said.

A 40 percent drop last year in wolves in the northern part of the park was due to a number of reasons, including disease, inter-pack killings, some food shortages and a high density of wolves and other carnivores there, Smith said.

“We have probably hit a high point for wolves in that northern range already. I think, long term, we have begun to decline,” he said, adding that it may take a decade or longer for wolf and elk numbers in the area to stabilize.

“In the long term, I would expect half as many wolves on the northern range as we have now,” Smith said.

Categories posted in: Yellowstone wolves, biodiversity

Tags: Yellowstone Wolves

Published in: on October 9, 2009 at 2:01 am  Comments Off  

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