Wolves Under the Gun
It’s been the worst year for wolves in North America in more than half a century. Wolf killing, including by aerial gunning, has continued, as in years past, in Canada and Alaska. But on top of that, there’s been a huge expansion of wolf killing in the lower 48 states. Michigan’s legislature passed a bill yesterday to make the wolf a “game” species and allow the Natural Resources Commission to set a sport hunting season. Five other states have continued or launched hunting and trapping seasons. Earlier in the week, news reports from Wyoming confirmed that hunters had killed 10 wolves that had been collared and studied in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, as the animals have strayed outside the boundaries of the parks. The victims included Yellowstone National Park’s most famous wolf, 832F, the alpha female of the beloved Lamar Canyon pack.
This past summer, Stephanie Boyles Griffin, the senior director of The HSUS’s Wildlife Response, Innovations and Services section, had the privilege of seeing 832F and her pack while visiting the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone:
"At dusk, I approached Rick McIntyre, Yellowstone’s biological technician who hasn’t missed a day of wolf watching in 8 ½ years! That’s what I call dedication! Anyway, I asked him if I could shadow him that evening and he obliged. We were parked along with a large group of fellow wolf-watchers just west of Soda Butte, and at some point, I heard Rick softly say ‘Stephanie.’ I spun around and saw her — 832F and her pack trotting down from the bluffs and across the road into Lamar Valley to hunt for the night. Once the adults disappeared into the sage brush, we all set up our spotting scopes so we could watch the adolescent wolves babysitting and playing with the pups of the year up in the hills above the road. I think we all smiled so long and hard that it made our faces hurt.
"I’ll remember that night for the rest of my life. When I think of the people who travel to Yellowstone from all over the world just to catch a glimpse of a wolf like 832F and her pack, it makes me sick to think that it ended when one single person put her in their crosshairs and pulled the trigger. It’s just wrong. This wolf, arguably the most famous in the world and clearly the most famous in Yellowstone, was worth more — both to her species and to our species — alive than dead. We’re better than this."
Killing 832F was legal under Wyoming’s ruthless “management plan.” In fact, that plan allows wolves across 80 percent of the state to be shot on sight, even though only a few hundred survive in all of Wyoming. Last week, The HSUS and The Fund for Animals filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to restore protections for wolves in Wyoming, in light of the reckless execution of these creatures, and the management plan.
Hunters and trappers have also killed hundreds of wolves in Minnesota and Wisconsin this fall, and we’ve filed notice of intent to sue there, too. Now Michigan is poised to join them in opening trophy hunting of wolves, even though there are fewer than 700 wolves in the state. We’ll have something to say about that in the days ahead.
Wolves are a vital part of healthy, functioning ecosystems in these states, which are native habitats for these animals. People don’t eat wolves and it is already legal, as a selective control strategy, to kill wolves in order to protect livestock and pets. The sport killing and trapping programs aren’t driven by need or management, but by a selfish desire to obtain a trophy pelt or head. It’s a shame and an embarrassment for our nation.