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Natural Resources & Energy

Groups call for emergency relisting as record number of Yellowstone wolves hunted

Wolf howling
Jim Laybourn
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After an Associated Press article reported that hunters have killed 20 Yellowstone National Park wolves that wandered from the park's boundary this season, environmental organizations are calling on the federal government to relist gray wolves in the northern Rockies on an emergency basis.

Wayne Pacelle, the president of Animal Wellness Action, said the 20 wolves were killed in Montana and Idaho where their wolf hunting regulations have been relaxed.

"It's because of year-round hunting, neck snares, use of dogs, no buffer zones around Yellowstone National Park, no buffer zones around Glacier National Park in Montana. This is just too extreme," said Pacelle.

Wolf hunting is not allowed in national parks but animals that leave the park are fair game. Since wolves were taken off Endangered Species Act protections in 2011, wolf hunting was legalized in Montana, but there was a restriction of how many wolves could be killed close to the park. This past year, the Montana legislature passed a series of bills loosening the number of wolves that can be harvested and methods to harvest.

Pacelle said when the U.S. Department of Interior took gray wolves off Endangered Species Act protections in 2011, they said if state wolf management started hurting the animals' population, they would immediately reinstate protection.

According to Yellowstone officials, one wolf pack has been almost completely killed off. Yellowstone National Park's superintendent Cam Sholly wrote a letter to Montana's governor asking him to specifically suspend hunting right next to the park due to the fact that in less than three months at least 12 Yellowstone wolves were killed in Montana just outside the park's border.

Sholly also emphasized the importance of the wolves to Montana's tourism economy in a letter to the state's governor. Montana's governor responded that he has sent the request to the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission.

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