Wolf hunts in Wyoming have been sanctioned this last autumn for the first time in decades. After facing near extinction, wolves were reintroduced into the North America’s Rockies in the mid 1990’s.
Since then, the population has been resilient, but fluctuations remain. There has already been a 60 percent population loss since 2007. This is illustrated throughout Yellowstone where the wolf population was reduced from 171 in December 2007 to just 80 in December 2012.
This is in part due to human-induced mortality both within and outside of the park. Things seemed stable from 2009 to 2011, however, 2012 has brought another loss of 20 percent and many are wondering if sanctioned harvesting will simply undermine the progress that has been made.
Of course, man does not act alone and other threats to the wolf population include wolf on wolf attacks, which are often due to the current lack of elk in and around Yellowstone on whom they prey.
In addition to food stress, wolves face malnutrition, and disease. All of this along with various forms of human interactions and intervention, such as vehicle accidents and “depopulating”.
While hunting is prohibited within Yellowstone, wolves that stray beyond the parks border are not protected by law. Even if they were to only cross by a few feet. Unfortunately, despite hunting bans within the park, it appears human predators still occupy nearby land, ready to shoot on sight those who make brief excursions outside Yellowstone’s boundaries. Within the past year alone, 8 wolves have been killed just outside of Yellowstone’s boundaries. All had been radio collared by researchers who had for years been studying their habits, diets, habitats, and potential threats to them.
Yellowstone and its surrounding landscape is a vast wilderness with no fences or red lines declaring the park’s perimeters, in this seamless environment wolves have no sense of boundaries and will continue to stray outside the park so long as they are able to. It may not be enough to ban hunting within park, but to continue to ban hunting for a set distance beyond park boundaries as well.
This nearly did happen. After a vote from its Wildlife Commission, Montana briefly closed off two small sections north of Yellowstone near the town of Gardiner, which acts as a gateway to the park, after three collared animals had been killed. However, as of January 3, 2013 the ban on hunting and trapping in these areas has been lifted.
Protection is still needed if we wish to keep the wolf population from dwindling once again, while enforcement may be needed to prohibit needless killings of the wolves that stray from Yellowstone’s borders.
Currently, wildlife advocates of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho say wolf populations are not enough to withstand these sanctioned killings.
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