John Motsinger, Communications Specialist
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission announced on Friday that it is unlikely to reinstate wolf hunting and trapping closures near Yellowstone National Park. The Commission was supposed to revisit their December decision during a teleconference on Jan. 29, but said they “have simply run out of time.”
The closures were initially instated following the killing of several wolves that spent much of their time inside the park. Though killed legally by hunters outside the park, at least five of the wolves wore tracking collars that allowed researchers to monitor their behavior and study interactions with prey species. A few of the wolves were among some of the most famous wolves in the world, including the alpha female of the highly visible Lamar Canyon pack.
Yellowstone wolves have proven to be extremely valuable to researchers as well as the local economy. That’s why Montana wildlife officials took action to protect these iconic and important animals. However, the closures were challenged by anti-wolf groups who believe hunters and trappers should be allowed to continue killing wolves just outside of Yellowstone. Based on a legal technicality, wolf opponents were able to convince a Montana judge to halt the closures, keeping the zones open to hunting and trapping until the case could be heard in court.
The Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission was planning to revisit their decision and potentially reinstate the closures this week, but now the state commissioners are also facing intense opposition from the Montana legislature. A bill that’s been recently introduced would prevent the commission from closing any areas next to any national parks to wolf hunting or trapping. Once again, politicians are trying to take control of wildlife management rather than allowing professional biologists to do their job.
Unfortunately, the statewide wolf hunting and trapping season will now simply close on February 28 as originally planned, without any protections in place for wolves near Yellowstone National Park. We are very disappointed, but are encouraged by the fact that the Commission heard from many Montanans that Yellowstone wolves are too important to manage recklessly. With the strong support Defenders members and other Montanans showed for the Commission’s efforts to protect Yellowstone wolves, hopefully they will put wolf hunting and trapping closures in effect again next year – if the Montana legislature and Governor let them.
In the meantime, we continue to fight the poor decisions and irresponsible practices that affect wolves throughout the Northern Rockies, which have faced incredible adversity since they were congressionally delisted in 2011. That decision – motivated more by politics than science – paved the way for aggressive wolf management policies. Any day now, we will pass the sad milestone of 1,000 wolves in the region killed by hunting and trapping since the delisting. This accelerated killing demonstrates how states like Wyoming are managing wolves as vermin to be eliminated, not as wildlife to be managed responsibly.
We are working hard on the ground and in the courts to get wolves the protection they deserve. Your help makes all the difference in the world. Thank you for working with us to speak up for wolves and all wildlife.