Many people have asked us what they can do in the wake of the 926F tragedy. Last week the aging matriarch 926F was legally shot by a hunter in the Cooke City area. For years we have worked with Montana and Wyoming to reduce the wolf hunt (and trapping season) impacts on the Yellowstone wolf packs. Yellowstone National Park is perhaps the best place in the world to see wild wolves. Over 4 million visitors come through the park every year—many are hoping to see a wolf. It’s also created a vibrant ecotourism industry where many livelihoods are supported by watchable wildlife in the area.
Our experience guiding people to observe and learn about wolves in the wild has encouraged many people too support wolves and conservation projects. People look into the eyes of a wolf and become mesmerized by these beautiful creatures, which have a family structure so similar to humans. It’s moving for us to see our guests with tears streaming down their faces because they finally saw a wolf in the wild, something they hoped to see their entire life. It represents a wildness both of spirit and place, one that seems to be more and more scarce in our modern world. We encourage people to come and see how the ancestors of our best friends live in the wild. Tell the world about how it filled your soul with joy, and that we need to protect our wild brethren.
What can we do right now to protect wolves? Effort until now has been successful in reducing the wolf take near the park; however, tragedies like 926F are still allowed to happen because the state will not take steps to fully safeguard these packs of wolves.
Many people like us, are outraged by this tragic event. The first step would be to write to the state of Montana, respectfully, so that your words will be heard, and ask them to close the area around Cooke City to wolf hunting and trapping. Close it immediately, and keep it closed in perpetuity.
This request seems to be reasonable for a number of reasons. First, this is a residential area. It is a place where people live. Many do not want hunting and trapping in their midst, and its effects can pit neighbor against neighbor. The fact that states don’t normally offer hunts in residential areas suggests that this request should be low-hanging fruit for us to pluck.
Secondly, this area is not far from Lamar Valley, a premier wolf and wildlife watching location where we can anticipate animals that are accustomed to being safe around a lot of people watching them become very vulnerable to hunters. This is not a ‘fair chase’ hunt. Animals that support a thriving ecotourism industry should not also be ones that are hunted. This inevitably creates social conflict among stakeholders. There are over 200 wolves ‘harvested’ each year in Montana. Why should 2 of them potentially come from this very unique and sensitive area?
We have some tips for talking to the state. Avoid the use of the term, ‘buffer zone.’ This is a hot button one for them because they consider a buffer an attempt to extend the park boundaries (an age old issue between the state and the feds, due to differing missions). Instead, ask for a “no hunt zone” around Cooke City, for safety, for protection of unique wildlife resources, and for ensuring the prosperity and viability of Montana’s ecotourism industry in this area.
Avoid the phrase “park wolves” when talking about wolves that spend most of their time inside the park but occasionally are outside of the park. If wolves leave the park and enters Montana, the state considers those wolves the state’s wolves. Reassure them that these particular “Montana wolves” are still very valuable to Montana residents, and thousands of visitors, in many unique ways.
The well-viewed and well-loved Lamar Pack has played a role in shaping wolf conservation. This started with the founding pack members, alpha female 832F (AKA the 06 Female) and beta male #754M when they were shot in 2012. The best selling book American Wolf was written about these events. Now, people are outraged again that a very similar event is still sanctioned by a state government. We hope that 926F did not die in vain and that our words and actions will honor her by making a valuable change that will safeguard these wolves in the future.
Your letters matter! While residents carry a lot of weight, visitors are also recognized as important to the future of Montana. We recommend writing letters to the Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks commissioners, Governer Bullock, etc.:
1. Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Commissioners (this body of 5 appointed officials have the ultimate say in hunting and trapping matters in the state): Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit this web page to learn more: http://fwp.mt.gov/doingBusiness/insideFwp/commission/.
2. Montana Governor Steve Bullock: http://governor.mt.gov/Home/Contact.
3. The agency professionals at Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks: Send to email@example.com or go to their web page: http://fwp.mt.gov/doingBusiness/contactUs/.
Linda Thurston & Nathan Varley
And the Yellowstone Wolf Tracker team