Death of Alpha Wolf Sparks Renewed Concern over Hunting near Yellowstone

The alpha female wolf known as 832F in Yellowstone National Park.

The alpha female wolf known as 832F in Yellowstone National Park. Photo © Richard Seeley/iStockphoto.

She was graceful and photogenic. She was a good mother. She was widely admired for her strength and beauty. But earlier this month, a hunter killed one of Yellowstone’s most famous canines just 15 miles outside the park boundary in Wyoming—the gray wolf that led the Lamar Canyon Pack in the northeast region of the park.

Researchers dubbed the alpha female 832F, though her admirers commonly refer to her as “06” for the year she was born. And she had many admirers—from wildlife photographers to weekend tourists to the researchers who tracked her movements with a sophisticated $4,000 collar.

Gray wolves have had a complicated history in Yellowstone. People eradicated them from the area in the 1920s and they were gone from the landscape for decades until the Park Service successfully reintroduced them in 1995. In the 17 years since, research in Yellowstone has shown the positive impact that wolves have had on the park’s plants and wildlife. But with the success of the wolf reintroduction, these iconic creatures have just recently been removed from the endangered species list and hunting has ensued in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Although hunters cannot shoot the animals within Yellowstone’s boundaries, the wolves themselves do not recognize lines on a map and frequently roam outside the park.

It has been just two years since state officials removed gray wolves from the endangered list in Montana, and only two and a half months since the animals were delisted in Wyoming, but already this year’s hunting season has taken a significant toll on the wolf populations in national parks. To date, hunters have killed five wolves in Yellowstone that were wearing expensive scientific research collars to help researchers study their behavior. Hunters killed at least two other collared wolves at Grand Teton as well.

The loss of these “research wolves” takes a significant toll on ongoing Park Service efforts to monitor and study the wolf population in both Montana and Wyoming. In response, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission voted 4-1 to put certain areas around Yellowstone off-limits to wolf hunts in an effort to protect park wolves. While this is a temporary measure, we believe that the state commission should set in place a permanent area adjacent to Yellowstone and Grand Teton that will protect park wolves that occasionally leave the park’s boundaries.

We applaud the commissioners for this action. Wolves are a well-established part of the economic engine of Yellowstone, a place that draws millions of visitors each year who spend money in our towns and want to see a wide variety of wildlife, including the gray wolf. We also urge Wyoming, which opened up hunting to gray wolves just this past October, to exercise caution in hunting these animals.

Wyoming officials should use Montana’s situation as a lesson and create appropriate space around the park that is off-limits to hunting. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has the ability and duty to establish protected regions around parks in Wyoming and greatly limit the toll on wolves to ensure that both Grand Teton and Yellowstone wolf packs are better protected.

As for the rest of the Lamar Canyon Pack, their future is uncertain. The pack may end up splitting into smaller packs or breaking up altogether—though the animals’ behavior is difficult to predict. What’s certain is that NPCA and other wildlife enthusiasts and park lovers around the country will be watching and advocating for the safety of these iconic creatures.

About the Author

Senior Program Manager, Grand Teton Field Office

  • http://AnnDamiana@yahoo.com AnnMarie Evetts

    There is NO reason to hunt a wolf, unless it is attacking a human due to illness. You can’t eat it! And they have a place in the food web that man cannot fill. Sometimes, I am disgusted by the race I am a part of.

    • Bhenry

      I agree with you. Wolves are a national treasure and there must be new ways to find some common gound. Those hunting wolves are simply for the sport – wow how much of a man you are to shoot something. hunting is one thing – but this is killing for killing sake. I’m sure the residents and ranchers in those states have a completely different feeling, but they are our wolves too. I believe hunters who kill the collared wolves should be fined heavily and maybe if they tranquilize them instead and pass them to a game warden, they get a reward. It’s painful to read this, but th emore who do and the more who pay attention, the faster we can stop this rediculous killing.

  • R BERry

    I am struck with the lack of reports about over 1700 wolves reported in the Park Service Report for 2011(http://www.nps.gov/yell/naturescience/wolves.htm) in and around the Yellowstone ‘recovery’ area that relay the deaths of many beloved house pets, calves, lambs, the stressed cattle that are losing valuable weight costing the ranchers tens of thousands dollars each season. The lack of reporting on the theft of Parks and Wildlife money which was “taken” illegally to reintroduce the Canadian (not the North American wolf) wolf into the Yellowstone ecosystem and never repaid. The extreme cost of ‘monotoring’ a canine preditor which we already know quite a bit about when this country is perched on bankruptcy. I love my dogs, I respect the wolf, but a balance report of what is ‘really’ going on is missing and I find it irresponsible for the NEWS outlets and self claimed science reports which are so obviously slanted and omitting the full information. The devastation being committed by the Canadian wolf in the Yellowstone is on a path of destroying the elk population, the deer, the moose and by their destruction quite possible harm the bear population and others. Bison have begun herding up in an effort to try and protect the new born calves and cows, you do not see as many loners as before. Hopefully this introduction of a foreign animal in our National Park will not be the downfall of the other animals that reside there.

    • Nym

      Just curious why you don’t site the source of your claims rather only a report that you claim is “obviously slanted and omitting the full information.” Not surprising that you provide nothing to back up your opinion.

    • Sharon

      Wolves are natural predators to deer, elk and other woodland creatures. If humans would quit killing every moving mammal that wolves prey on in the wilderness then they wouldn’t have to hunt “outside the box” of nature.

      • Renee Tharp

        I agree completely!! It really is tragic for all of nature! Man is really stupid when it comes to realizing that all animals (of whatever type) have an important place to fill in the hierarchy of nature, and when you kill off a major species, you throw the whole system out of whack!!

    • Bhenry

      OK, I do agree that a full report would be ehlpful. There are never comprehensive reports on anything from a government. I, too, love my dogs, but it’s difficult to see any animal targeted and blamed for every ecosystem or wildlife change. That’s what those systems do – they shift and change. Just because it was a success story doesn’t mean we need to chop it off and start over. What are some ways to meet in the middle? How can the wolves be monitored and how can we prevent the collared wolves from being killed? Can the ranchers and residents be warned of a wolf presence in an area before something occurs? Can the wolves be tranquilized instead of killed and transported to a reserve? What about “wolf birth control”? Are there any ranchers and residents who are pro-wolf who use different solutions? Let’s get some new ideas out there and create solutions instead of angst, death, extinction-woes, anger, and greif in the face of a wildlife treasure. (next we’ll discuss lions, rhinos, elephants, whales and dolphins – they need help too).

    • Janice

      Wolves are a keystone species and part of the ecosystem. This is a real heritage. The ranchers are reimbursed for all documented wolf kills. Yes there are stresses on the cattle and their movement does result in less weight gain. the facts, however,are that coyotes cause more predation since they have less fear of humans. Coyotes are down an average of 50% in the reintroduction areas. Certain managers as the Northern Arapaho of the Wind River Rez manage their large ranch and do NOT have kills by placing the more vulnerable livestock closer to the populated areas. These original ranchers are teachers. After the reintroduction they welcomed the wolves back and managed their ranch. The tourist industry results in an average of 3M due to reintroduction.

  • Donna

    I oppose the “just because we can” killing of wolves. The collared wolves are used for research and should be “off limits” to those who kill just because they want to.

  • http://areyouaware.net sac875

    I agree very much with AnnMarie, just because we can doesn’t mean we should and am many times ashamed to be part of the human race — but there are also times I am proud when I see people helping to make a difference but this is an issue that needs more universal compassion.

  • dean lehman

    you r the reason I’m vegan 4 critically endangered red wolves have been shot recently during night hunting
    some day I hope hunters and ranchers will be extinct

  • BJS

    It’s terrible thing when wolves are killed just because! Is the man that killed the Alpha Female going to be fined & made to pay back the cost $4,000 collar? Why was she killed, for no good reason so this man could have bragging rights! Her mate had also been killed this year & her pups were left alone to survive on their own. If the wolves are killing livestock the ranchers are responsible to protect the livestock, put up fences. The owners of dogs should also be careful to take care of their pets. The wolves don’t know any better it they are hungry they will eat what they can. Maybe they should be put back on the endangered list to protect them from man!

    ALPHA

  • http://cashme327@comcast.net Marian Hennings

    We should definitely relist the wolf nationwide in order to stop this senseless massacre of wolves that is now taking place.

  • Mary-Eileen Venturella

    Isn’t there a program (Federal?) that replaces any livestock lost due to wolf predation? Where, then, is the justification for all the wolf killings? So far, all I’ve seen i s overgrown little man-children shooting wolves just for fun—some are laughing, in fact—to feel better abiout themselves for having tiny penises. Wow, wiping out an endangered species that has every right to be there: NOW you’re a man. As for the loss of pets… how many are those? ANd why aren’t your pets kept inside your home? Why are they allowed to roam leashless and unsupervised outside their home; particularly in areas where predators such as wolves are known to frequent? And, shouldn’t your livestock be confined to your own land, fenced in, not on public land?