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Yellowstone wolves harvested outside park, wildlife advocates vie for more protection

Published On: Nov 16 2012 07:38:14 PM MST   Updated On: Nov 16 2012 09:24:00 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Seven wolves legally harvested outside of Yellowstone National Park.  Nevertheless, wildlife advocates say it struck a nerve.

"The idea that Yellowstone might somehow be a sanctuary for, at least, some wolf packs has probably been shattered by this," says Greater Yellowstone Coalition Communications Director Jeff Welsch.  

Welsch says at least three of the wolves were part of some of the most viewed, most photographed packs in Yellowstone National Park- the Mollies, the Lamar Canyon and the Blacktail.

"It's never really occurred to a lot of us that these wolves that we're so accustomed to seeing in the park sometimes would wander out and it would make them so vulnerable," says Welsch.

He says it raises the question of how folks around the country and even the world will react, those who spend a lot of money to come to Yellowstone expecting to see wolves.

"We want to avoid the possibility that Montana and Wyoming get a black eye nationally and internationally for their management," says Welsch.

That's why Welsch hopes the state will consider a buffer zone around the park where hunting is not allowed and think twice about a trapping season in the units around Yellowstone.

But management officials say they've heard this argument before.

Folks with Fish, Wildlife and Parks say once an animal leaves the park, if it's a huntable species, it's fair game, whether it's an elk, a deer or a wolf.

"They are wild when they're in Yellowstone and they're wild while they're in Montana.  If they were fenced into Yellowstone, they would not be wild animals," says Fish Wildlife and Parks Region Three Education Manager Andrea Jones.

Jones says it's also legal for hunters to call wolves, like bugling for elk.  If they cross park boundaries, a hunter can shoot them, collared or not.

"We do not consider them by names or by numbers...As a hunter you might prefer not to take a collared wolf because you know that it's part of that research but, at the same time, a wolf can have fur around its neck and if it's sitting down or if it's in a certain way, you might not be able to see it.  It's much like, you might choose not to shoot a doe that has a calf, if you can help it," says Jones.

So far, hunters have harvested 61 wolves in Montana, including two in District 316, the one outside of Yellowstone.  It has a quota of three wolves.

Wildlife management officials tell us, if wildlife advocates want to make suggestions on hunting around the park, they'll have to bring a proposal to the FWP commission, which will have to be reviewed at the next meeting December 20th.