A gray wolf hunting season has been temporarily shut down in some areas north of Yellowstone National Park as of Monday, December 10 because a number of collared wolves have been killed.
Montana’s wildlife commissioners voted 4 to 1 to approve the closures, just days before the start of the trapping season, which is scheduled to begin Saturday, December 15. The ruling by the commission shuts down both hunting and trapping in areas east and west of Gardiner, near Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone officials said at least five Yellowstone wolves that wore tracking collars for scientific research were harvested by hunters in recent weeks in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Commissioner Dan Vermillion was the only one who voted against closing the areas because he said there is no evidence that the take of these specific wolves is damaging long-term species viability.
Four other Yellowstone collared wolves originally from the park, but now living outside of it, were harvested as well.
One of the collared wolves shot was one of Yellowstone’s most popular wolves for wildlife watchers. The six-year-old alpha female wolf, known as 832F, of the Lamar Canyon pack, was shot on Thursday.
Commissioner Shane Colton was one of the commissioners to vote for the closure. He believes that using collars is a way not only to study the animals, but to manage their numbers as well.
“That is an area where we feel we are at significant risk of losing more collared wolves,” Colton told the Associated Press, referring to the areas which are now closed to wolf hunting.
Colton mentioned that officials will discuss the creation of a buffer zone around the park during a commission meeting on Monday. Some have been calling for a permanent and extensive buffer zone around the park.
Although Yellowstone scientists say the species’ population is not in immediate danger, Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission chairman Bob Ream said they are halting the hunt because of the collared wolf situation.
“It seems to be kind of a compromise,” Ream told the AP.