Montana weighs rules to protect the predators near Yellowstone.
By Matthew Brown
The Associate Press
The shooting of collared gray wolves from Yellowstone National
Park is prompting Montana wildlife commissioners to consider new
restrictions against killing the predators in areas near the park.
trapping in Montana kicks off Saturday. It's the state's first such
trapping season since the animals lost their federal protections last
year after almost four decades on the endangered-species list.
hunting already is underway for the predators in Montana and
neighboring Idaho and Wyoming, and at least seven of Yellowstone's
roughly 88 wolves have been shot in recent weeks while traveling outside
That includes five wolves fitted with tracking collars
for scientific research, said Dan Stahler, a biologist with the park's
wolf program. The most recent to be shot, the collared alpha female from
the well-known Lamar Canyon pack, was killed last week in Wyoming.
shot in recent weeks were four collared wolves originally from the park
but later living outside it. Three more shot in the vicinity of the
park had unknown origins, park officials said.
Commissioner Shane Colton said closing some areas to trapping or setting
strict quotas will be on the table during a Monday commission meeting.
don't want to close any area off if we don't have to. But if we keep
losing collared wolves ... management becomes difficult," Colton said.
Wildlife-advocacy groups are pressing state officials to impose a
protective buffer zone around the park to protect a species that serves
as a major draw for Yellowstone's 3 million visitors annually.
Hunting and trapping are prohibited inside park boundaries, but wolves
range freely across that line.
Marc Cooke with the group Wolves of
the Rockies alleged hunters were targeting collared animals, either for
bragging rights or out of spite for wolf restoration in the northern
Rockies. Shooting a collared wolf is not illegal if it's done within
"The proportion of collared wolves is too high
to believe this is not being done deliberately," Cooke said. "It's
wrong, and the world needs to know this."
Radio collars on wolves
are used to track the animals' movement, often for research. They also
are used outside the park to track down and kill the predators after
Monday's meeting in Montana was set up months
ago to give commissioners a chance to review the wolf harvest to date
heading into a trapping season scheduled to run through Feb. 28. The
intent was to see whether too many were being killed or whether the
killing was overly concentrated in a particular area, said Fish,
Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim.
He said agency officials
would make no recommendation on quotas or closures. Montana has low
harvest limits for wolves in some areas near Yellowstone and Glacier
national parks. Those don't include all the areas where collared wolves
have been shot.
Hunters have shot at least 87 wolves across Montana this fall. At
least 120 have been killed by hunters and trappers in Idaho, and 58
have been shot in Wyoming.