Yellowstone’s most famous grey wolf, beloved by tourists and researchers alike, was shot and killed by a hunter last Thursday just outside of the park’s boundary in Montana.
The murder is considered legal, since it occurred outside Yellowstone National Park.
The female wolf was a popular attraction for many visitors and was heavily studied by researchers who follow the migratory patterns of these animals in the area.
From The New York Times:
The wolf, known as 832F to researchers, was the alpha female of the park’s highly visible Lamar Canyon pack and had become so well known that some wildlife watchers referred to her as a “rock star.” The animal had been a tourist favorite for most of the past six years.
The wolf was fitted with a $4,000 collar with GPS tracking technology, which is being returned, said Daniel Stahler, a project director for Yellowstone’s wolf program. Based on data from the wolf’s collar, researchers knew that her pack rarely ventured outside the park, and then only for brief periods, Dr. Stahler said.
Sadly, I am not surprised. The battle of ranchers and hunters versus environmentalists has been raging for years. Hunters consider hunting, which is perfectly legal in the northern Rockies, a legitimate way to reduce predators to livestock. But anti-hunt campaigners argue that population numbers are not large enough to support the practice and that the animals bring in tourists to the region. Not to mention, the northern Rockies are the natural habitat of these wolves.
The battle kicked into high gear in the mid-1990s, soon after the federal government reintroduced the species to Yellowstone National Park. Ranchers and hunters started complaining that wolves were taking an unacceptable toll on cattle and wildlife
Perhaps as a result, federal officials earlier this year announced plans to eliminate vital protections for wolves in Wyoming, leaving these iconic animals at the mercy of a shoot-on-sight state policy that covers nearly 90 percent of the state. The Endangered Species Act protections for the wolves disappeared on August 31, leading to the possibility of a mass slaughter of these magnificent creatures.
Though not surprised, I am angry, as are many of the researchers at Yellowstone National Park who are furious that over the last few weeks, eight wolves that had been fitted with $4,000 GPS collars have been killed just after leaving the park’s boundary.
From The New York Times:
The deaths have dismayed scientists who track wolves to study their habits, population spread and threats to their survival.
“She is the most famous wolf in the world,” said Jimmy Jones, a wildlife photographer who lives in Los Angeles and whose portrait of 832F appears in the current issue of the magazine American Scientist.
Wolves are special to Yellowstone. I have spent several wonderful vacations in America’s first National Park, but I remember especially one July morning, when I rose at 5 am to hike in the Lamar Valley. Just a few minutes after I started out alone in the mist, I felt some eyes on me and turned to see a grey wolf peering at me from across a meadow. We exchanged glances for a second, and then this shy creature bounded away, but I felt my day had been blessed.
The loss of 832F is a tragedy.
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