The wolf hunt in Montana hasn’t gone as planned, with wolves in the state’s wilderness area along the northern border of Yellowstone National Park taking the brunt of the hunt.
Nine wolves have been killed there, in a small area of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Four of those wolves were from the park’s Cottonwood Pack, including the pack’s breeding female. Hunting was suspended last week after state wildlife commissioners became concerned about the heavy killing in the area, Associated Press reporter Matthew Brown reports.
Wildlife advocate and blogger Matt Scoglund says the wolf hunt was wrongly designed from the start. If the state didn’t want to kill wilderness wolves, it shouldn’t have opened up the backcountry to hunting more than a month before the other areas of the state, he writes. The result has been the deaths of some of the state’s celebrity wolves, including some radio-collared wolves that were part of Yellowstone’s important wolf studies, and some that have been featured on PBS and Discovery Channel programs.
Yes, I’m talking about the Yellowstone wolves that bring people from all over the world to Yellowstone, where wolf-watching tourists annually spend about $35 million in the region. Some of those wolves are being harvested by firearms just outside the northern border of the Park in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness. Without a no-hunting buffer zone around Yellowstone to protect the Park’s famous packs, this was inevitable. It will be interesting to see what effect the poorly planned hunt has on Yellowstone’s wolf-watching tourists, not to mention the wolves themselves.
In addition, critics point out there is no livestock in the wilderness area, meaning the killing of wolves there gives little help to ranchers suffering sheep or cattle losses from predator wolves.
“We’ve missed the mark a little this first year,” said Carolyn Sime, lead wolf biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Shooting a wolf, particularly in the sparsely vegetated Absaroka-Beartooth area, was proving easier than expected, she told the AP.
Wildlife commissioners now will consider how to handle the public relations debacle. They could change the state’s seasonal quota of 75 wolves, or close the hunting season for good in some areas.