Current wolf hunt management by states may well end scientific study of wolf behavior in the wild-Scientists had about 17 years to study wolf behavior in the wild in the Northern Rocky mountains. Hopefully they got most of the data they wanted because the new heavy state wolf hunts coupled with lack of concern about the hunts’ effects on scientific projects, if not outright disdain for them, has pretty much ended the ability to collect more data. This is becomes more evident with the death of so many research wolves in Yellowstone Park and now to the south in Grand Teton National Park too.
It was evident from the start that Grand Teton wolves would be shot in the Wyoming wolf hunt because the Park is relatively small but with long boundaries. While many wolf packs have used it, none have even come close to spending all of their time within its boundaries. In the public testimony over the Wyoming hunt, the obvious danger to Park wolves was repeatedly pointed out by conservationists. It is perhaps a surprise that it took so long to have two research wolves from Grand Park shot in Wyoming first wolf hunt.
It has been revealed that two radio-collared wolves from the Park have been shot and that as many as 13 more killed that probably used the Park because they were uncollared, but killed close to the Park’s boundaries. The Jackson Hole News and Guide has the details of the story. Two Teton collared wolves killed. A rash of killings of wandering park wolves spark calls for hunt buffer zones. By Mike Koshmrl.
As the headline says, there are calls for a buffer zone at Grand Teton as around the Montana portion of Yellowstone Park where a temporary buffer zone has just been erected, mostly after the fact. Wyoming Game and Fish’s Mark Bruscino, their large carnivore supervisor, told the News that buffer zones were not needed or feasible to conserve the NW Wyoming wolf population, and that people should not get psychologically attached to individual animals. The News reporter, however, indicated that “In Grand Teton park, wolves are not as reliably visible or well known individually.” So protecting “famous” wolves is probably not really an issue here.
In the News article neither Bruscino, nor long time former federal wolf manager for Wyoming Mike Jimenez touched on the heavy effects on wolf research.
Marc Cooke of Wolves of the Rockies, however, suggested a solution that is more feasible than a buffer zone around the relatively small national park — small wolf quotas in units close the Park. These would reduce the likelihood that research wolves would be killed.
An argument can be made that a larger wolf population next the Park is a good thing because Wyoming and the federal government feel compelled to hold an “elk reduction hunt” every year inside the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park. This year only about 150 elk were killed in the elk reduction hunt because the warm weather kept the elk up high to the north and east of the Park. A recent story indicated there was concern so few elk were “harvested.” Inasmuch as wolves reduce elk populations, a very controversial hypothesis that is far from proven, wolves near the Park might reduce the overcrowded National Elk Refuge and the state elk winter feedlots up the Gros Ventre River to the east.
It is not clear if there is state support for more wolf research in Idaho, Montana or Wyoming or whether those who decide on details of hunts feel they have all the facts they, scientists, and anyone else needs.
Perhaps studies of wild wolf behavior can still be carried out in Alaska or remote parts of Canada though these wolves are hunted too.