Monday, May 01, 2017

The New Threat to Wolves in and Around Yellowstone

In March, a United States Court of Appeals paved the way for Wyoming to join Idaho and Montana in allowing wolf hunting. Wildlife officials are now planning a hunting season on gray wolves for this fall, based on the court’s ruling that the state’s plan to manage wolves was adequate to ensure that the once-threatened species would not be imperiled again by hunting wolves near the park or those that leave it. Experts say that the gray wolf is no longer in danger of being completely wiped out by hunting. Their extirpation by the 1920s or so was caused by unregulated killing. But expanding the hunt for wolves around the edges of the park poses several issues at Yellowstone Park, where the management protects wildlife so people can watch and study it. “What will hunting wolves nearby do to that?” Dr. Smith asked. A study underway that Yellowstone has joined with Denali and Grand Teton National Parks is examining that very question. A paper published last year by Dr. Smith and others found that sightings of wolves in Denali and Yellowstone “were significantly reduced” by as much as 45 percent from trapping and hunting. If the wolves become less visible, that could diminish the steady flow of tourism dollars, given that wolf watching in Yellowstone alone is estimated to generate $35 million a year for the regional economy. Officials in Montana have already placed a quota on the number of wolves that could be shot by hunters north of the park — four each season — to minimize the impact on wolf watching in the park. Yet another possible effect of expanded hunting would be the disruption of a historic long-term wolf research project...more

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