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HOME > Issues > Wildlife
Wolves: Season Setting Underway

Latest News: Montana is proposing a Wolf Conservation Stamp that will allow wolf advocates to fund proactive non-lethal tools for livestock producers, wolf monitoring, education, habitat protection, and additional enforcement by game wardens in wolf habitat. Most hunters and conservationists support the proposal. In fact, GYC and nearly 3,000 of our members and supporters commented in support of this proposed action. It was recently reported that wolf numbers remain stable, while livestock conflicts are down and elk populations are thriving.

Meanwhile, Montana passed its hunting regulations for 2014 that will begin in mid-September. The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commission reduced the hunting/trapping quota in an area north of Yellowstone National Park by one wolf. The state also modified its proposal to allow landowners to kill wolves if they are perceived as a threat to people, pets, livestock or property to 25 wolves with further review by the commission before increasing the quota. We sent comments to the State of Montana expressing our concerns over a law that's unnecessary and overly aggressive. Read our comments here.

Meanwhile, Wyoming is proposing to nearly double its wolf hunting quota in 2014, though the limit of 46 is still less than two years ago when it was 52. These wolves could be taken in the so-called "Trophy Game Zone", where approximately 180 of the animals roam. Wolves in Yellowstone National Park are off-limits and those that are in the "Predator Zone" outside the "Trophy Game Zone" can be killed at any time. Read our comments here

All that said, wolf populations in Greater Yellowstone are stable and wolves produced pups throughout the GYE in 2014. Numbers increased slightly in Wyoming, held steady in Montana and decreased in Idaho, where the state is aggressively trying to reduce the population. About 1,700 wolves still roam the Northern Rockies, including 440 in Greater Yellowstone.

The over-arching message: Wolves are resilient and they are here to stay. 

Overview: Wolves are critical to the overall ecological health of Greater Yellowstone; indeed, without them it is not an intact ecosystem. The wolf-tourism trade also provide an important economic boost to gateway communities.

Nearly 1,700 wolves roam the Northern Rockies, in 250 packs with more than 110 breeding pairs. Nearly 450 call Greater Yellowstone home and more than 80 wolves live within Yellowstone National Park.

GYC continues to monitor wolf numbers in Greater Yellowstone. Meanwhile, Yellowstone wolves are still playing their ecological role.

A report from Oregon State University plant researchers William J. Ripple and Bob Beschta reinforces the belief that the wolf has been the primary factor in the improved health of aspen, willow, and cottonwood trees in Yellowstone National Park's Northern Range. This in turn has benefitted such Yellowstone wildlife as beaver, bison, pronghorn, songbirds, raptors, and trout.

The return of the wolf has changed elk behavior and reduced some herds, but overall numbers remain strong in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. According to Yellowstone biologist Doug Smith, the Yellowstone herds remain healthy despite its smaller size. The number is more in line with historic levels since wolves were reintroduced and grizzly bears and mountain lions returned naturally. Overall elk populations in the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming remain healthy. However, elk populations are now more dynamic with the return of large carnivores and elk distribution has shifted to areas of refugia which make them more difficult to hunt.  Elk populations are affected by many variables including weather, disease, predation, and human mortality.

Project Goals: The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has consistently worked to find the middle ground on wolf management, to move beyond the ongoing conflicts. We will continue to promote science-based management and increased tolerance for this iconic animal in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Photo: Cindy Goeddel Photography.

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OVERVIEW
  • When wolf restoration in the Northern Rockies began in 1995, the hope was for a population of 300; today, there are almost 1,700 in the region.
  • The restoration of the gray wolf to Yellowstone has contributed to the recovery of such flora as aspen, willow, cottonwood and berry bushes in the Lamar Valley, as well as enhancing habitat for beaver, trout, grizzly bears and other wildlife.

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Chris Colligan, Wildlife Program Manager

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