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

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I am appalled by the wolf hunt, frankly, but understand that hunters FUND most of the conservation work that occurs in the US and Canada. It’s a tough balance to maintain between Preservation and Conservation. I also know what it’s like as a biologist when your study animals are hunted…i felt like my time and research were meaningless and a waste of my time. I felt betrayed by my fellow humans.

    In this case, I must insist that Yellowstone wolves MUST be protected by a buffer zone. And any other national park where wolves reside… let them call these Parks home, and refuge from bullets. We need to draw that line… I will be contacting my representatives…I hope everyone else does the same!


    • Hi Eric,
      I too am appalled by the wolf hunts but I don’t think hunters have the right to kill wolves because they contribute to Conservation. Environmentalists contribute to Preservation and Conservation as well but they’re motives are quite different. The truth is both hunters and conservationists tream up to save critical habitat.

      I agree on buffer zones around the parks. Glacier had three wolves poached in the North Fork and two taken legally. I haven’t read any info on what packs these wolves belonged to but there are two packs that den in Glacier…The Dutch Pack of twenty wolves and the Kintla Pack of nine wolves. They have roamed this area, up until these hunts started fairly unmolested. The same with Yellowstone’s wolves. We lost the Cottonwood Alpha’s and their daughter. How heartbreaking. It begs the question who do these wolves actually belong to, the states or the American people?

      I really hope Judge Molloy rules on this case soon, because it’s turning into a circus.

      Thanks for stopping by, come back anytime.

      For the wild ones,


    • dansk, tak. ulvepakker skulle jo beskytte ulven, men jeg forstår aldrig, aldrig en jæger, hvordan de kan skyde et dyr, når det ikke er sygt, og skyde det, når den løber afsted, og intet ved om at 2 sekunder er den bare skudt og død. !!!!!! —smilene jæger med et dødt dyr, skulle ikke have gevær, det er mord.


  2. […] Yellowstone wolves, already isolated, suffered a 27% decline by the end of 2008, their numbers dropping from 171 to 124 wolves, with high pup mortality.  For the first time since their reintroduction, their numbers did not rebound the following year.  It didn’t help that Montana opened their misguided wolf hunt right outside of Yellowstone, decimating the famous and studied Cottonwood Pack. […]


  3. It’s so sad the red necks sit and wait wolves just outside the national parks and maybe bait them with let them hear baby wolfs crying and be distracted to be shot. They have no moral and ethics for to let it be. But they are so much cowards that they dare not to show their face and say: I was that hero who shot 06 or 527 or somebody else. They dare not say it. Really cowards.


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