A blow to research and tourism – Why all the attention on Yellowstone wolves when hundreds more are being killed across the region? Yellowstone wolves are not only some of the most iconic members of the species, they have also been the lynchpin of important research studies as well as a magnet for wolf tourism. That’s why both Science magazine and the New York Times reported this week on the loss of at least 10 wolves that frequented the park and were killed just beyond its boundaries. Seven of those wolves wore radio- or GPS-tracking collars that helped biologists monitor their activity and study their behavior. Without those collared animals, researchers will have to rethink their studies or scrap them altogether. In addition, several of the hunted wolves were seen regularly by tourists in popular parts of the park and had achieved near-celebrity status. The loss of those individuals could have a negative impact on wolf watching, a thriving industry that brings tens of millions of dollars to local businesses.
While Yellowstone wolves aren’t necessarily more important to the overall health of the population than wolves elsewhere, they have incredible symbolic value in the hearts and minds of those of us involved with wolf conservation. Yellowstone was one of two sites where wolves were first reintroduced in 1995, and those animals have captured our imaginations ever since. Now, the death of their descendants is revealing the hidden costs of aggressive wolf hunting all across the Rockies. Last year, 545 wolves were killed by hunter and trappers in Idaho and Montana. Wyoming joined the fray this year, and more than 250 wolves have been killed so far with several months of hunting and trapping still to go. When will these states say enough is enough?
Advice for dog owners during trapping season – A letter in the Idaho County Free Press from Stacy Van Steenwyk reminds dog owners why they need to be careful now that trapping season is open. Last year, her yellow lab got its leg stuck in a leg-hold trap one foot off the road while she was out for a walk with some friends. They were unable to get the trap and had to rush her dog to the vet to get it removed. Her advice is that other dog owners should be prepared to do the same.
Mixing it up –Last week, Ecotrope reported that Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has evidence that wolves from the Imnaha and Wenaha packs are interbreeding. Wolves often disperse from their packs in search of mates and end up with new packs, but this is the first time the behavior has been confirmed in the state’s budding wolf population. Cool!
Federal scientists may also be ready to declare a new species of wolf, according to a story in USA Today. A survey of recent genetic evidence suggests that “Eastern wolves,” found today only in Canada, may be a distinct species rather than a subspecies of gray wolf. What’s the difference? Eastern wolves mate with both gray wolves and coyotes, whereas gray wolves often kill coyotes.