Information on the 2012-13 Wolf Hunt Near Yellowstone National Park
How are wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem managed?
Within the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, there are roughly 480 wolves occurring in 75 packs, distributed throughout eastern Idaho, southwestern Montana, northern Wyoming, and Yellowstone. Of those, in 2011 approximately 18 packs spend some or all of their time within Yellowstone National Park. Within the park, no hunting of wolves is allowed. Outside the park, regulated hunting is allowed and managed by the respective states where wolves occur. Because wolves do not recognize political boundaries, and often move between different jurisdictions, the harvest of some wolves that live within the park for most of the year, but at times move outside the park, occurs.
What is happening to wolf numbers in Yellowstone National Park?
How far will wolf numbers in Yellowstone decrease or increase?
Has the harvest of wolves in surrounding states affected the viability of wolves in Yellowstone?
At least three of the wolves from Yellowstone that were harvested in 2012/2013 season were of high social rank (e.g., alpha female or beta male), which could affect reproduction, hunting behavior, and territory defense for the respective packs over the short term. 7 of 10 (70%) packs living primarily in the park had at least one wolf harvested from them. Thus, harvests of wolves in states surrounding Yellowstone have affected the function of packs in the park as do natural forms of mortality. Wolves often quickly fill vacant biological and social niches that are a result of wolf losses from any cause.
What actions have the Park Service taken to reduce the effects of harvest on wolves in Yellowstone?
Prior to the 2012 wolf harvest season, the Park Service met with wildlife staff from both Montana and Wyoming and discussed several reduced harvest strategies in certain hunting districts along the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. One sub-quota was implemented by Montana in one hunting district (unit 316) outside the northern boundary of Yellowstone-that sub-quota has not yet been reached. Wyoming biologists have indicated that the harvest units and quotas near the park boundary were designed to be relatively small, and allow for finer-grained management, to ensure that wolf numbers around the park remain healthy.
State biologists are monitoring the wolf harvest closely and sharing updates with the Park Service regularly. In turn, park biologists are sharing information about the harvest of wolves that lived primarily in Yellowstone with state biologists. The agencies have agreed to meet at the end of the hunting season to discuss the harvest and recommendations for future years. Each agency may receive additional recommendations from other stakeholders.What is the response of Yellowstone National Park to the harvest closure and recent reopening around Gardiner, Montana?
On December 10th 2012, the Montana Wildlife Commission voted to close two other small areas north of Yellowstone around Gardiner, Montana to hunting and trapping for wolves after three collared animals were harvested by hunters in November. Yellowstone National Park acknowledges the importance of regulated hunting as a tool used to manage many wildlife species in surrounding states, but appreciated the careful consideration of Montana's wildlife commissioners in their decision to close portions of the Gardiner hunting district to mitigate undesired harvest of wolves living primarily in Yellowstone. On January 2nd 2013, a Montana judge blocked the state from closing hunting and trapping in these two areas surrounding Gardiner. The judge sided with plaintiffs in a case that argued a lack of public notice on the Commission's vote to close wolf harvest appeared to violate the Montana Constitution and threatened to deprive the public of the legal right to harvest wolves. Hunting and trapping resumed in the Gardiner area on January 3rd. The Park Service and Montana continued to monitor and communicate on wolf harvests until the end of the season February 28th. No additional wolves living primarily in Yellowstone but using the Gardiner area were shot or trapped. Management of wolves outside of Yellowstone is under the jurisdiction of the states.
What are the effects of collared wolves being harvested? Are these collared animals important to the park and surrounding states?
Wolves in Yellowstone have become a great source of enjoyment to millions of people around the world. Many of the radio-collared wolves are well-known because they are individually identifiable and quite visible to wildlife watchers during portions of the year. However, the park's primary objective is to maintain a naturally functioning wolf population by minimizing human intervention within the park. This objective can be achieved with a modest harvest of individual wolves outside the Yellowstone boundary. Wolves in Yellowstone are part of a larger population that includes much of the northern Rockies, which may safeguard the likelihood that there will be wolves in Yellowstone for people to enjoy into the foreseeable future.
Are radio-collared wolves being selected by hunters outside of Yellowstone National Park?
Are wolves living primarily inside Yellowstone more vulnerable to harvest?
What are some of the economic effects of wolf restoration to the local communities?
Why do people hunt wolves?
Did You Know?
Yellowstone contains approximately one-half of the world’s hydrothermal features. There are over 10,000 hydrothermal features, including over 300 geysers, in the park.