A recent spate of wolf killings just outside of Yellowstone National Park has altered fundamental aspects of the canines’ behavior, and threatened the foundations of one of the most storied wildlife research efforts in American history, according to park scientists.

Twice in recent months Yellowstone National Park senior wildlife biologist Doug Smith and his team of researchers have observed highly unusual mating behavior. 

Many more wolves have been getting frisky than expected. Ordinarily in Yellowstone, only each pack’s dominant alpha male and female get the opportunity to mate. The custom is reflected in 27 years of hard data: 85% of the time, park packs produce single litters.

But this year — in the wake of at least 25 wolves being shot or trapped just beyond the park’s boundaries — Yellowstone Wolf Project personnel observed three or four females in two different Northern Range packs “tied” and breeding, Smith said. “Usually the most dominant wolf prevents other wolves from breeding,” he said. “You lose that [dominant] wolf and it opens up opportunities for other wolves.”  

It appears, in other words, that with their pack hierarchies disrupted by the record-setting killings, some wolves have abandoned their selective mating customs.

“We have multiple females pregnant in at least two packs — Junction and Wapiti — that could be due to the mortality that we’ve experienced,” Smith said. “It’s broken apart the social structure, it’s messed with the hierarchy, and it’s actually produced more pups. Now this is a hypothesis, but this is what I would call an artificial stimulation of wolf reproductive capacity. By going in and killing them, you stimulate reproduction.”  

Yellowstone’s Northern Range is widely regarded as the best place on the planet to watch wild wolves. For researchers it holds a unique appeal: In the Lower 48, Yellowstone is the easiest place to observe wolves in their natural state.

Lamar Valley, pictured here full of bison in June 2018, is regarded as the one of the best places on the planet to watch wild wolves because of its open sightlines, road accessibility and abundance of prey and predators. (Jacob W. Frank/National Park Service)

Since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced 31 wolves to the park in 1995 and ’96, the intensive research effort has been predicated on understanding wolf ecology in the absence of human persecution. Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres have proven a grand arena for this research. Outside of Yellowstone about 80% of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wolf deaths can be attributed to people, Smith said, but just 2% to 3% of wolves within the park’s boundaries succumb to humankind.  

“Human-caused mortality is the story of wolves across North America,” Smith said. “One place that was not the case was Yellowstone, and we’re not anymore.” 

Smith estimates it will take three to five years for Yellowstone’s wolf population to revert to a more natural condition following the 2021-22 state managed hunt — provided Montana changes the rules that allow wolf hunters to aggressively pursue the naive, human-conditioned canines without limit just outside the protected park. 

All but one of Yellowstone’s nine packs lost wolves to hunters and trappers, he said. 

The Junction Butte Pack — Yellowstone’s most visible wolf pack thanks to a den site near the road — was hit the hardest. Eight wolves from the once 35-animal-strong mega pack were shot or trapped over the boundary. 

The Phantom Lake Pack, typically positioned between Junction Butte’s territory and the northern park boundary, used to keep the Junction Butte wolves from straying out of Yellowstone. But after six of its wolves were killed by boundary hunters, the remaining Phantom Lake wolves dispersed. 

“They’re gone,” Smith said. 

Other packs lost particularly influential wolves. An “unmistakable” half gray, half black 8-year-old alpha female from the 8 Mile Pack, for example, was caught in a trapper’s set outside the park boundary, Smith said. 

“After she was dead,” he said, “the rest of the pack went places that they haven’t been in 10 years.” 

Doug Smith, Yellowstone’s senior wildlife biologist, skis through the Lamar Valley in December of 2019. The veteran biologist says that Yellowstone’s wolf population has historically offered a rare glimpse into wolves that aren’t persecuted by humans, an opportunity that has been compromised by heavy hunting. (Jacob W. Frank/National Park Service)

The new realities have created new learning opportunities for researchers, but Smith, for one, isn’t happy about it. 

“The question now is …  let’s see what happens,” Smith said. “But we really don’t want that, because it is not aligned with the National Park Service mission. The National Park Service mission is to protect natural processes.”

Shifting policies, ethics

Montana’s elimination of a stringent one-wolf hunting limit for two park-adjacent zones paved the way for the increased killings. 

The area is accessible and roaded, and a small group of wolf hunters took advantage of the abruptly more liberal bag limit. 

“There were scores of people watching the park line with spotting scopes every day,” Smith said.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commissioner Pat Byorth, whose district includes the northern boundary of Yellowstone, recalled that some of the bills in the Montana Legislature liberalizing wolf hunting and trapping advanced despite heavy opposition. 

“That was a little bit sketchy,” said Byorth, a Bozeman resident whose day job is with Trout Unlimited. 

Ultimately, he said, the Legislature passed, and Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed measures directing the state wildlife agency to reduce wolf populations. The new policy included the use of methods not normally considered fair chase hunting, like spotlighting and hunting from aircraft. In the aftermath, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission reworked its wolf-take quota system throughout the state. Byorth “advocated strongly” to retain the two one-wolf-capped buffer zones along the border of Yellowstone, but the majority of his counterparts on the commission disagreed. The commission instead eliminated the buffer zones and folded the once protected turf into the remainder of Region 3, where the limit was 82 wolves. By the time the season closed, hunters and trappers had killed 85 wolves in the area — three above the limit

Wolf hunters in the Gardiner and Jardine areas just north of the park capitalized on the change.

“There’s a group of dedicated wolf hunters down there, and they were very effective,” Byorth said. “They killed, I think, 19 wolves that were identified as members of Yellowstone packs.” 

Hunters in Wyoming and Idaho killed six more known Yellowstone wolves. 

The Yellowstone wolves on the Northern Range, accustomed to throngs of humans with pricey optics, lacked a recognition that humans posed a lethal threat, and they proved relatively easy targets.  

“If you’re a wolf watcher in the park, you know they tolerate you at 100 to 200 yards,” Smith said. “That’s a perfect rifle shot.” 

The naivety of the Yellowstone wolves was evident in how they were killed. Trapping is by far the most effective means of harvesting a wolf, but 23 of the 25 Yellowstone animals killed over the last year were taken by gunfire, Smith said. 

“If you’re a wolf watcher in the park, you know they tolerate you at 100 to 200 yards. That’s a perfect rifle shot.”

Yellowstone National Park Senior Biologist Doug Smith

The 19 wolves killed right outside the northern boundary constituted a disproportionate percentage of those harvested in Montana’s Region 3 and the state as a whole. Park wolves amounted to 22% of those killed in the zone, which encompasses over 18,000 square miles and covers over 12% of Montana. 

“There were 273 wolves killed in Montana this hunting season,” Smith said. “Nineteen” — equal to 7% — “were Yellowstone wolves, yet less than 1% of the Montana population of wolves shares a border with Yellowstone.” 

Specimen Creek Outfitters hunting guide Ralph Johnson had a front-row seat to the monthslong targeting of park wolves that moseyed across the boundary. 

There was a group of about 20 Gardiner and Livingston men who patrolled the boundary area on a routine basis, he said. They used electronic calls and stayed in close touch with each other about wolves’ whereabouts via cell phones.

The Jardine, Montana resident disapproved: “It’s not hunting,” Johnson said. “It’s just killing is what it is, with those guys.” 

A defense 

Other members of Southwest Montana’s hunting community contacted by WyoFile pushed back on the allegation that the boundary hunters’ methods ran counter to fair-chase ethics. 

Bill Hoppe has a Jardine ranch and pursued park wolves last winter, he said, though he never managed to kill one himself. He argued that the Yellowstone wolves were fast learners, quickly adjusting to the pressure. 

“My grandson hunted for days and days and days, and he never got one,” Hoppe said. “Those animals are smart, smart, smart.” 

Hoppe doesn’t think it’s fair that wolves are regarded differently than other park wildlife pursued by hunters across the boundary. 

“The Indians, they shoot the elk and the buffalo and they’re still shooting them and it’s almost the end of April,” he said. “If they want to talk about ethics, there’s something [critics] ought to get on and talk about.” 

Four Native American groups — the ​Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, Nez Perce Tribe and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes — have treaty rights to hunt in the region, and are not bound to state hunting seasons. 

The prospect that Yellowstone’s remaining wolves have gained a newfound wariness is not welcomed by all. Gardiner naturalist and biologist Nathan Varley, who runs the Yellowstone Wolf Tracker guiding service, said skittish wolves are his biggest concern and a worst-case scenario for his business. 

“Wolves that survive hunting events, they quickly learn that there’s survival value in avoiding humans,” Varley said. “And we’ve relied extensively on wolves that do not have that inclination.” 

Wildlife watchers with high-dollar spotting scopes and cameras line up on a hill overlooking Lamar Valley in May 2018. “We literally have hundreds of thousands of people a year coming here to see wolves,” Yellowstone Senior Biologist Doug Smith said. “And wolves generate $30 million to $60 million in economic activity for the region.” (Diane Renkin/National Park Service)

Nearly twice as many Yellowstone wolves were killed during the 2021-22 hunting and trapping seasons than in any other year since reintroduction, but humans culling park packs is not without precedent. In 2012 sportsmen legally killed 11 wolves that spent the majority of the year in Yellowstone then left the park. One of those wolves was the Lamar Canyon pack’s world-famous alpha female, wolf 832F, also known by her birth year, 06. The loss of the Lamar Canyon’s leader “totally disrupted the pack,” retired Yellowstone Wolf Project staffer Rick McIntyre recalled. 

“The consequences to the pack were very significant,” McIntyre said. “The founding alpha male had no unrelated females in the pack after the death of 06, meaning that all the remaining females were his daughters. So that caused him to leave the family and disperse.” 

There were major implications for wolf watchers. In his Park Service days, McIntyre meticulously maintained data on wolf sightings. At the time the Lamar Canyon Pack was the main pack in the Lamar Valley. Wolf sightings the following year in that wolf-watching mecca declined by 57%, according to McIntyre’s records. 

It’s tough to say if the same dynamics are in store for 2022. The current pack that dominates Lamar Valley, the Junction Butte Pack, was very large going into the hunting season and is one of the packs with multiple pregnant females. Those conditions should allow the pack to “better absorb” the loss of eight hunter-harvested wolves, McIntyre said.

“It does look like they’re going to be denning at Slough Creek again, so that’s good,” he said. 

Not just any wolves

For the first time this year, Yellowstone’s soon-to-be-released annual wolf report will present both year-end and post-hunt population data. There were 131 Yellowstone wolves going into the hunting season, Smith said, and it’s likely that the count will hold steady or even increase. 

Eight of Yellowstone National Park’s nine wolf packs lost members from state-managed hunting seasons outside of the park’s boundaries during the 2021-22 hunting season. The Phantom Lake Pack, which straddled the park’s northern boundary, fell apart after six of its members were killed. (Yellowstone National Park)

“Everybody is just going to look at last year’s count and this year’s count, and go what’s the big deal?” Smith said. “Well the big deal is this is no longer a natural population. It’s a human-exploited population and our job [in the National Park Service] is to have a natural population.” 

Scientists have learned legions about how protected wolf populations function differently from hunted ones since the Yellowstone Wolf Project kicked off 27 years ago. 

“It was once thought that wolf packs and other social animals, they’re a patriarchy — a male-led system,” Smith said. “We have learned that when you don’t have human-caused mortality, it’s lineages of females.” 

In other words, daughters and granddaughters are the glue that holds together wolf packs through generations. 

“When wolves are being shot up and dying all the time,” Smith said, “you don’t get that stable lineage.” 

By having access to protected wolves, Smith said, the Yellowstone Wolf Project has also uncovered new insight on wolf dispersals. “Because you have this matriarchy and females tend to stay and carry on the lineage, males tend to leave to avoid inbreeding,” he said. “They start new packs or join other packs where they’ve lost a breeder.” 

Biologists also have a better understanding of natural pack sizes because of the Yellowstone Wolf Project. Packs are larger when they are protected, they now know. Historically, Yellowstone packs average 10 wolves, Smith said. In contrast, in areas where Wyoming hunted wolves during 2020, the average pack size was just five animals, according to the state’s latest monitoring report

Protected packs also persist for longer than hunted packs, another insight Yellowstone wolf researchers have gleaned. “We have packs that stay on the landscape for 10, 15 years,” Smith said. “We’ve got one — the Mollie’s Pack — that’s been there since 1995. You don’t get that when you’re hunting wolves.” 

Had intensive boundary hunting occurred throughout Yellowstone wolves’ modern-day tenure, this scientific discovery would have been stymied.

“We would know none of that,” Smith said. 

Getting back to the natural condition, “that’s our job,” Smith said.

Yellowstone National Park Senior Wildlife Biologist Doug Smith fits a radio collar on a wolf from the Sawtooth Pack in February 1997. “I’ve been here since the beginning — I was part of the reintroduction effort — and this was the worst year” for Yellowstone wolves, Smith said. (Jim Peaco/National Park Service)

Pressure is mounting to let Yellowstone go back to its business-as-usual wolf research. Teton Village resident Rob Wallace, a former Trump administration cabinet-level official who oversaw the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for the Department of the Interior, called for a return to wolf management that respects the federal agency’s research. 

“My worry is that this image of Montana, gleefully blasting wolves on the boundary of Yellowstone, poses a serious risk of undermining 27 years of interagency cooperation,” Wallace said. “You’re just stepping into uncharted territory. There’s a large negative reaction from people who care about wildlife resources in Yellowstone, you’ve got the unknown with the courts, and you’ve got a [presidential] administration that’s probably more sympathetic to wolves in Yellowstone than wolves being shot in Montana.” 

“I don’t know where this goes,” he said, “but the fact that Montana is approaching this in a way that seems provocative is a risky strategy.” 

Byorth, the Montana wildlife commissioner, said he will try again to convince his counterparts to work collaboratively with Yellowstone on wolf management. After the state board’s June 23 meeting, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will issue its wolf hunting proposal for the 2022-23 season. That proposal is subject to public comment. 

“The best thing the commission can do is to quiet down some of the fervor surrounding wolf hunting in Montana by reestablishing quotas at some level down at the park,” Byorth said. “It’s rational and allows us to manage wolf populations better across the landscape.”

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify lawmaker opposition to Montana legislation liberalizing wolf hunting and trapping, wolf reductions mandated by Montana legislation and opposition to wolf-quota adjustments by members of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission. — Ed.

Mike Koshmrl reports on Wyoming's wildlife and natural resources. Prior to joining WyoFile, he spent nearly a decade covering the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s wild places and creatures for the Jackson...

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  1. If Wyofile is truly unbiased, then Cat Urbigkit”s article on these wolves should be included.

  2. Yellowstone is no natural ecosystem. Read “Playing god in Yellowstone”. So called “scientists” and “biologist” have been using Yellowstone as their personal Petri dish for decades.

  3. Too bad so sad. Citizens of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho don’t want wolves running around with no restrictions. It’s legal to shoot them so we do. And a bunch of Park Circus “biologists” whining about it really is kinda pathetic. “They’re killing our wolves, boohoo”.

  4. the way humans are with animals is so heart breaking humans are so mean, evil abusive etc.. and all the animal wants is to love his owner. We are for sure cruel and evil even heartless i love all animals and i just wish i could save them all

  5. Wolves restored Yellowstone!! A video made of it. Doi is Disrespectful. Extinctions her agenda! Tfgs Agenda. Hiring trumpercattlewoman was a HUGE MISTAKE.

  6. The positive impact on the Yellowstone ecosystem from the reintroduction of wolves is profound and beyond anything even the experts expected. The neighboring livestock losses have been also relatively modest and less than most expected. Yet we live in a world now where nearly anyone can make a 200 yard shot from a rested rifle with a good scope. There really isn’t anything difficult or sporting about that. Moreover killing the biggest and healthiest of all hunted species is having a growing negative impact. Man is acting in direct opposition to natural selection. Probably to the delight of those who disdain science in decision-making. We should preserve and cherish the natural environment. Sadly too many humans are working to destroy it instead.

  7. Let us not forget: one of the radio tracked wolves was trapped and killed by Montana governor Gianforte. So proud is he.

  8. Fair chase fair chase fair chase is all I have 2 say. Hunters are no longer hunters, weak out of shape individuals. How can you call it hunting using game cameras, hunting from helicopters, using spot lights etc. People get arrested for using these lame man techniques for hunting. 🤔 I think its called poaching!!!..
    Have some pride in your hunt!!!
    As for the rancher tear running down there cheek. Wipe away your tears and get to work protecting your investment. Hire some cowboys to protect the herd. Isn’t that the way it was done back in the day. Maybe there’s no real men left to do the job!

  9. The hunting of the wolves whether by Caucasians or native Americans is reprehensible and it should be stopped ASAP. People have been destroying wildlife instead of taking care of this planet and the beings living here. Remember this, the other animals were here first, we came later.

  10. I’ve lived in NWT Canada experienced the spirit animal first hand..
    The problem is not the wolf, the problem is the killers .. I suggest a human season for the wolf..
    That wouldn’t work because the spirit animal is above these killers..
    Canada gave these beautiful creatures to Yellow Stone and it’s bin a successful attempt. However , attempts can fail with ignorance in the rednecks. My suggestion is to bring the wolf to the schools.. children rule.

  11. These animals like all other animals that come out of the YNP protection become fair game. Some people talk about the money they bring into the area. Well what about the money they take away by killing cattle and sheep of ranchers? I understand the emotional aspect of this; however,I understand the need to keep things in check. Look what happens to the Bison that come out of the park. Unfortunately man has changed the landscape of our country. It’s not like when YNP was established or another part of our country was. Think about how the grizzly bears have been acting over the last few years…..more and more human attacks. Who’s fault is that and they are not hunted. We all need to find a middle ground with all this stuff.

  12. kill the Wolves and you kill your own soul Also the prey they hunt will over populate and breed diseases which will spread to domestic herds

  13. This story hurts my heart. I think it’s not only unfair to the wolves but it’s sheer cowardice of man. Humans are hunting and killing everything that’s keeping them from a complete takeover of land and sea. We want to stop every species from procreating except ourselves. It’s horrible and I think in the end we will pay the ultimate price. And we will deserve every bit of it.

  14. This article does not tell the whole story. First, Yellowstone is not a natural predator setting per se. You have elk, bison, bighorn sheep, Mt Lions, among others, that are not hunted by man within the park. This means herds that have lost their survival instincts and makes them very vulnerable. This gives the wolf killing machine many times the food, and with the abundance of easy food, proliferation excels.
    The wolf introductory groups have been totally negligent from the beginning on managing the wolf population an continually move the ‘goal posts’. They are not a trust worthy group. They sway their stats to fit their agenda.
    The original document states there are only 30 breeding pairs to be delisted from the Endangered Species Act. They also stated there would be only around 78 wolves in Yellowstone. (Now approx 150) The group also stated that a sustainable elk population would need approx 30 calves per 100 cows. The document indicated the elk would be monitored so it didn’t drop below this. Then later the introductory group stated they had 46 breeding pairs, but would not delist. Then they changed what constituted a ‘breeding pair’ and at one point had a pack that had 47 wolves and said it was only one breeding pair.
    Thus the wolf population skyrocketed and the elk population fell from 24,000 to under 5,000. Game and fish did a survey and found there were 13 calves per 100 cows, far from the 30 calves per 100 cows in the agreement. The wolf population is now around 2000 in MT, WY, and ID.
    Not only elk populations have been devastated, bighorn sheep and moose have all but made extinct from these ‘precious’ killers. Also, a recent study showed Mt. Lions are being devastated, not as food but as a competitor. They have found where wolves have killed kittens by tearing them apart and scattering body parts around in a show of dominance. They also have pushed elk into more open areas away from trees making it very difficult for a lion to hunt effectively.
    The hunters are the only ones trying to manage the numbers so all benefit. But unless they get help by much larger quotes or groups that truly care for the well being of all nature, it becomes very difficult.
    I don’t like hearing of mature bull elk being ripped apart, eaten alive by a pack of wolves or a fawn deer or calf elk being pulled out of its mother at birth by these ruthless killers.
    Its a fact, these aren’t cute harmless puppies, they are vicious killers looking only to eat and breed, not pose for some city sightseers.

    1. I don’t dislike wolves but it’s sad to see our game numbers plummet between the bears and wolves they don’t have a chance

    2. You contradict yourself. First you say that herds have lost their survival instincts because of the absence of hunters and then you complain that the wolves hunt the herds. After 25 years, don’t you think that the survival instincts have developed back? Elk populations have not been devastated in Yellowstone – on the contrary, you will not find stronger and healthier elks anywhere else! True that the herds are smaller now, but quantity is rarely better than quality.
      What nonsense that a mature bull elk should be ripped apart and eaten alive by wolves. Wolves rarely attack bull elks because it is too risky. Wolves are not stupid – they go for the weakest individual because the chance of success is much higher than by attacking a big and strong elk and taking the risk of being killed or injured (unlike human hunters, who go for the biggest and most precious animal – to humans the risk is extremely small, all they have to do is move a finger to kill even the largest animal. The animals do not stand a chance – their defence does not work against two-legged hunters; it is no use to be big and strong or to confront the heavily armed killer. Hunters never try to manage for beneficial reasons. I have yet to meet a hunter who doesn’t primarily hunt for the “joy” and “excitement” of killing. It’s pathetic.
      And if you don’t think that nature can get along without human killers… I wonder how nature managed for the past millions of years. Truth is that humans are by far the most vicious and dangerous species in the world – and that hunting is one of the main reasons why so many species have become extinct.

    3. There’s very little science in this screed. The northern Yellowstone elk herd population census was up in 2021 compared to 2019. And the 2019 count was higher than the 10-year average at that time; the current estimate is well above 5,000 (and probably above 6,000). Elk elsewhere in parts of the three GYA states are booming (exceeding population targets) and they are becoming nuisances causing problems on roads, to habitats/range conditions (that other wildlife require), and to farmers/ranchers – why? Because there are few natural predators and private refuges for elk to run to allowing them to escape hunters. Elk and bison did not “lose their survival instincts”, there is zero evidence for this. They evolved with wolves, they contended with other natural predators during the absence of wolves, and they’ve now learned to deal with wolves again – their “survival instincts” are tested often, as is how the natural world is supposed to work. Wolves are not a significant predator of bighorn sheep. Any entry-level naturalist would know this, but someone with intellectual curiosity would dig through the scientific literature to find that in YNP bighorn sheep make up < 0.5% of wolf winter kills and in the summer the number of kills essentially is zero. Mountain lions in the GYA are not being "devastated" by wolves. Mountain lions and wolves are competitors for similar resources and interspecific conflict occurs at times (FYI – they both are quite capable of and do occasionally kill each other). Mountain lions and wolves coexisted in YNP (and across western North America) for millennia and continue to coexist today. Biologists in YNP believe that the mountain lion population in the park is increasing at present. Higher wolf density does not push elk to open areas. The best studies show the opposite – they push elk to conifer forests. "I don’t like hearing of mature bull elk being ripped apart, eaten alive by a pack of wolves or a fawn deer or calf elk being pulled out of its mother at birth by these ruthless killers." I don't even know what to do with this anthropomorphized nonsense. Ruthless killers? They kill to eat. They eat to survive. It's how the natural world works. You do understand that, right? They, unlike humans, don't kill as a hobby, as a sport, to collect antlers or horns, or for vengeance or vindictiveness. They risk their health (and sometimes their lives) to kill to feed themselves, their pack, and their offspring. Nobody in the scientific or agency world considers them "cute puppies". They are native, natural, important predators that help complete a functioning ecosystem. Oh, also sentient, intelligent, social life forms that want to live and have every right to live. Happy to provide citations for all of my comments above.

  15. Hello I’m against hunting wolves I feel that they have a right to be here in their native habitat 27 years ago we spent millions of dollars to reintroduce wolves into Yellowstone was this to slaughter them because for sure this was no hunt it was a Slaughter of wolves and not a hunt wolves to reduce the Wolves that’s ridiculous because wolves reduce themselves when the pack gets too large from the study of biologist we learn a lot about wolves in the Wild and how they conduct their family Behavior and the hierarchy and I thank those biologist for their hard dedicated for the hard work they do and bringing that information to our schools and to teach our young children but I opposed the hunting of wolves and I hope something to be done about it to stop this Slaughter of wolves.

    1. Wolves kill each other to take over a pack or will split a pack, which moves to new territory thus grows larger. Alaska has studies that show intense hunting pushes wolves to breed more. They have seen 34% increase in populations in some areas. They have to be managed just like all game. Hunters are the greatest conservatives on the landscape. Money that they spend on guns,, ammo, hunting supplies are taxed and that tax through the Pittman-Robertson Act goes directly to G&F departments to keep animals on the landscape. (Millions of dollars every year) Hunters will never hunt their prey to extinction. They always want the animals out on the landscape.

  16. This largely Montana behavior is despicable. “Killing for the sake of killing” is profoundly disturbing. Are the neighbors pet dogs safe from these sameless “hunters”. Perhaps “bloodthirsty” is an appropriate descriptor here.

  17. Creating an environment in which wolves are accustomed to humans is not natural. This is the situation that exists in Yellowstone. For natural processes to exist Yellowstone would have to be closed to visitation.

  18. We’re cancelling our Yellowstone trip now. Would have spent around $2,000 locally. Montana’s loss.

    1. Yellowstone will see record numbers of visitors this summer. The infrastructure is beyond capacity and there should have been a cap on the number of visitors decades ago to protect this wonderful place. Thank you for making the choice to not go this summer just for the sake of the park and it’s wildlfe. The special places mean much more than $

  19. In the 70’s & 80’s the Midwest attempted to decrease the coyote population through the ranch lands and farm lands. They poisoned the coyotes and allowed hunters to hunt them providing a bounty for pairs of ears and selling fur. The outcome was that the coyotes started having larger number of litters. In fact doubling the litters.

  20. Will not be going to Montana to vacation this summer because of their wolf elimination policies.

  21. I always wanted to live in wyoming . Or montana. I love the wild life especially the wolves. I could not live somewhere that they are killing them. Please stop!!

  22. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10


  23. Tell those people whose lives have been disrupted by wolves (ranchers, hunters, guides, etc.) that killing a few wolves is a bad thing. I am so tired of progressive know-it-alls telling the rest of us to feel bad for a dead wolf but ignore dead cows and calves, AND the costs associated with that.

  24. Each wolf represents a investment between 200,000 and million bucks EACH.
    These wolves public property, grown and there only because of that investment. On Public Lands.
    There are fees and royalties here that belong to the Public, not the individuals treasure chest.
    Apply all fees tax surcharges, selling fees, back into the wolf research programs. Federal, not state.

  25. I am a great fan of the wolf. Their pack/family strength is an amazing part of nature. It is sad that so many were lost to hunters. Someday man may finally understand the true nature of the wolf. That’s my prayer anyway. I come from a family that only shoot something if it’s to be eaten. Of course , I had an uncle that as a young person had to eat skunk. He and friends had that rule. One of those friends became a Nobel winner in medicine.
    Thank you for watching our wolves.

  26. My Mother and I were part of the Sawtooth pack project that started in Idaho. As of 1993, over 2 million Wolves we’re hunted and killed. An all out war on Wolves, a bounty on them. Distracting the pack away from the den and crawling in the den placing dynamite in there with the pups in the den. Poisoned, shot, trapped, anyway to kill them. We need to stop playing God and respect nature and protect the ecosystem before it’s too late!

  27. This breaks my heart. We have been to Yellowstone several times to see the wolves. This is absolutely horrible what humans are doing to these beautiful animals.

  28. It’s disgusting that hunting these beautiful animals is allowed. What is wrong with these hunters?

  29. Very detailed & valuable information on the issue. Takeaways: (1) Wolves are worth far more alive for people to watch than dead but (2) Tiny # of slob hunters rule wildlife management in states like Montana–indeed, Montana’s governor is a cowardly slob hunter who first trapped & then killed a wolf. Proof once more that wildlife management can’t be left to these states–tiny minority carries out reckless killing.

  30. What a bunch of cowards that are staking out the Park’s boundaries so that should a wolf dare to take one step outside of an arbitrary boundary it may be killed by someone whose hat size is less than 1 BS

  31. You have ethical hunters….then you have the bubba’s. The bubba’s will eventually “kill” (pun intended) off legal hunting as we know it. Beer swillin’, CB radio talkin’ shoot out of the truck rednecks give the rest of us sportsman a bad name

  32. This article leaves the reader, especially those from outside the area, to believe that Montana and Wyoming are “gleefully” mismanaging and “shooting up” their wolf populations. Yet, these two states, including YNP continue to draw millions, some would argue too many millions of people, every year to view wildlife, including wolves. Further, the article states that all this hunter harvest is causing wolf populations to be too productive causing wolf populations to be too robust. It leads me to believe that the point of the article is that regardless of ever expanding wolf populations, regulated hunting is morally bankrupt and the source of most wildlife problems. One excellent question is this, why didn’t the author interview professional state wildlife biologists from Montana and Wyoming, to understand what their management objectives are for Yellowstone area wolf populations? Since the entire article is about management of Yellowstone area wolf packs, why isn’t that a perspective he wants the readership to hear?

    1. I think there are articles/reports that give you what you desire. This analysis is based on hunters taking “unfair” advantage of habituated wolves. Montana is killing the goose that lays the golden eggs with this approach and that is the point, which I posit you can deduce.

      I have seen this kind of similar hunting practices when hunters set up near fence lines so they can blast ungulates as they hit those areas. Some of those ungulates get a bullet and some get entangled. Real sporting.

      This analysis provides data that Montana/Wyoming and Idaho should consider when setting hunting quotas in certain areas. It is really that simple.

  33. First of all, the entire introduction of wolves was not natural, so natural has never been a part of wolves in Yellowstone. The only mention of wolves in the first published exploration was from the inept Mr. Everts who dropped his glasses, stepped on them, broke them, lost his horse, and never made contact with the exploration again. He was found many days later by another group of hunters & lived to tell the story. He had been unable to find food and was carried out. An old book titled Wonders of Yellowstone, edited by James Richardson, contains Langfords writings of that expedition. It is an easily acquired used book found on Amazon & probably other places, well worth the few dollars copies cost.

    1. Are you seriously suggesting that wolves were not a natural part of the Yellowstone ecosystem before European contact?

      1. Yellowstone wolves were intentionally hunted out in the 30’s. These are Canadian Grey wolves, a larger and more voracious breed. If anyone other than the government had introduced them they would be considered an invasive species.

        1. The Gray Wolf is uniform in size throughout its range, except in Mexico and the desert regions of the Southwest where large prey exists in smaller numbers. In Canada and the Northern Rockies, where large ungulates are prevalent, there is no difference in size between the animals. You are perpetuating a myth, a favorite in bars across the Northern Rockies. Science proves otherwise.

    2. The Gray Wolf inhabited the the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the late Pleistocene to the species extermination by white settlers in the twentieth century. This is attested to by centuries of Native American knowledge, the journals of Lewis & Clark, mountain men such as John Colter, Jim Bridger, and Hugh Glass, etc., as well as the biological, genetics, paleontological, and zoological sciences. The species’ range in the American West was from Canada as far south as Mexico. When Yellowstone National Park was formed, wolves inhabited the land.

      Are you really so daft as to claim that the Gray Wolf is not native to the Yellowstone ecosystem?

      1. The subspecies of wolf transplanted to Yellowstone & Central Idaho was Canis lupus occidentalis from North West Canada, which averages 33% larger than Canis lupus irremotus the speciecies indigenous to the Rocky Mountains of the contiguous United States. At the time of these transplants Canis lupus irremotus was still extant on the continental divide of Beaverhead County MT & Lemhi County Idaho. This was probably a violation of the endangered species act ie since the transplants obviously have affected the gene pool of one of the last remnants of Canis lupus irremotus. The wolves in Southern Alberta and South Eastern British Columbia would have been a more similar genotype and phenotype

        1. Not true. Biologists have stated that among the wolves reintroduced in the 1990s, a few of the largest males were 6%-8% larger than the wolves exterminated from the park, and that this is well within the size variation range for gray wolves across the entire North American continent.