Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) officials say there was no wrongdoing in the harvesting of a Yellowstone wolf that has gained national attention.
FWP confirmed a Montana hunter legally harvested wolf 926F of the Lamar Canyon pack on November 24th in wolf management unit 316 near Cooke City.
“We have seen no indication that it was not a legal harvest,” said FWP Spokesperson Greg Lemon. “And since it happened, it has received a lot of attention from folks around the country.”
The harvest of the animal has reignited the debate between wolf advocates and critics about a having a “buffer zone” for wolves between the Yellowstone National Park and Montana hunting areas.
However, due to Montana law, it would take an act from the state Legislature to create such a zone.
The 2013 Legislature passed HB-73 preventing the FWP Commission from prohibiting the hunting or trapping of wolves “in an area immediately adjacent to a national park.”
The commission can limit the number of wolves harvested in those areas by creating a harvest quota, however.
In both wolf management unit 316 and 313, which border Yellowstone National Park, there is currently a wolf harvest quota of two per year. The only other wolf management unit to have a harvest quota is unit 110, which is near Glacier National Park.
Lemon also wants to remind the public that animals don’t follow artificial borders. When any animal enters Montana, be it a wolf, elk, bear or other species, it falls into the Montana conservation and management strategy.
“We manage healthy wildlife populations including wolves and we also provide amazing opportunities for people to get out and enjoy Montana and enjoy the wild country we have here,” said Lemon. “Whether that’s hunting and fishing or if it’s wildlife watching and viewing.”
According to Yellowstone National Park’s website, there were at least 108 wolves in 11 packs in the park.
In Montana, FWP estimates that there are at least 550 wolves throughout the state.
-John Riley reporting for MTN News