Yellowstone’s Cottonwood pack is gone

Wolf 716 during a check-up in Yellowstone

The last time I wrote about the gray wolves, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had upheld the Bush decree removing them from the endangered species list. He spared only those in Wyoming, the ones in Yellowstone. After May 4, 2009, the wolves in Idaho and Montana would once again be legal prey for hunters. I was deeply disappointed, despite thinking the Yellowstone packs were safe and knowing that legal challenges to the hunts were being pursued.

Somehow the bureaucrats thought state lines and park boundaries would protect the wolves. Hunters and ranchers knew better, and all over Idaho and Montana, they began preparing for the fall hunts.

A few days ago, on October 27, the LA Times reported that the southern Montana wolf hunt had been stopped just one day after it started because the quota had already been exceeded. Two days earlier, they reported that despite the protection extended to the Yellowstone wolves, four of the famous Cottonwood pack’s ten wolves, all the breeding adults, were dead. They had strayed into Montana, into a wilderness area bordering the park on the north. The alpha female, known as Wolf 527, and her daughter, Wolf 716, were shot despite the fact they were near the park and wearing radio collars. They were, after all, in Montana. Shooting them there was perfectly legal. Even if it meant the destruction of the pack and an abrupt end to years of ongoing research, study, and data gathering.

Reporter Kim Murphy’s story is long, detailed — and heartbreaking if you care about the wolves. To her credit, she balances her story with comments from hunters and ranchers. How you interpret them is, of course, up to you.

And in closing: Wolf 716 is being mounted for display in the hunting lodge of the “sportsman” who (with his wife’s help) shot her, a man who happens to be a Montana hunting guide. Great publicity, that. I wonder how he’ll spin the story. Will he tell visitors the big black wolf he bagged was one of Yellowstone’s famous Cottonwood pack? Will he tell them she was so used to the presence of humans, she showed no fear and openly approached him? Will he, for the sake of accuracy and realism, leave her radio collar in place?


Please join the Defenders of Wildlife and thousands of others in asking Washington to reconsider their misguided policies and put the wolves back on the endangered species list. You can sign the petition here.

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5 thoughts on “Yellowstone’s Cottonwood pack is gone

  1. Disgusting. Absolutely, positively disgusting. I say we shoot the hunter and mount him on the wall.
    Yep, right next to Ken Salazar.

  2. I feel equally sick about this. Ban hunting of wolves and let’s start a season for hunters and poachers – year round!
    Great idea! Endangered wolves are relatively scarce, but all those hunters and poachers should be easy to find.

  3. Leave it to the hunters to destroy any beautiful animal they can or the cattlemen, its all about the cows and money who cares about any thing else. Do they have any sense or compassion, probably not, except for their own wants and needs.
    What sickens me is how eager they are to go out and slaughter animals they can’t eat, animals whose protected status is still being fought for in court. But they wouldn’t want to miss a chance to shoot a wolf, would they?

  4. I live in Montana and reading that 527 and 716 were collared wolves that were killed just makes my blood blow. I pray the Cottonwood pack will recover after the loss of their alpha pair and their daughter.

    There is more about the story about Wolf 716, the hunter and his wife said she was looking at them and wouldn’t leave after they tried to shoo her off, but you’re talking about a Yellowstone wolf. She’s been darted, handled, and released. She thinks it’s going to be the same thing, a simple repeat of what has happened to her in the past. No one has figured out that Yellowstone wolves are doomed, because of the handling they’ve been though and don’t see guns as a true threat to them until it’s too late.

    I created myself a white wolf fursuit in my personal fight against wolf hunting and hope that another repeat will follow this fall.

    1. Yes, repeated handling of wild wolves will make them less wary of humans and put them in more danger than their cousins who’ve never been trapped, collared, etc. It’s sad that research has this dangerous (to the wolves) side effect. I’m sure the hunters would insist that a collared wolf will kill their elk just as dead as an uncollared one. I’ve no sympathy for hunters and outfitters who won’t honor the fact that a collared wolf is part of a research program and should be left alone. These “sportsmen” will kill any wolf in their sights, be it collared or uncollared, in season or not, with a hunting permit or without.

      I’ve not heard the latest reports about legal action in Montana and Idaho, but I desperately hope the law comes down on the side of the wolves.

... and that's my two cents