The rules about hunting around Yellowstone, are like elsewhere quite absurd. When the animals roam across an arbitrary line, they can be shot. One side is fully protected land, the other side open season.
Now it is encouraging that the wolf hunt has ended early. The commission vote (passed unanimously) made a rule that hunting and trapping would end when 82 animals had been killed (76 had died at the time).
23 wolves from park packs have been killed this year – more than in any season since wolves were reintroduced 25 years ago.
These wolves only spend around 5% of their time outside the park (they are well studied) and there has only been one attack on livestock -the reason most livestock cite for needing the population reduced.
One of the parks packs – the Phantom Lake Pack, is now considered eliminated as every member was killed in the space of 2 months.
Importantly, this is greatly damaging the ability to make money from the wolves. Along the edge of the park is the place where wildlife guides take people to see the wolves alive. Importantly, they are worth many times more alive than dead. Indeed, it is thought that this is one of the easiest places in the world to view wild wolves.
It seems that local state politicians are increasingly aggressive towards the wolves, and there is considerable risk that the hunting will block attempts to re-establish them in the west.
The US fish and wildlife service is examining whether federal endangered species protection should return – to protect the remaining 2000 wolves in the Rockies. This protections were lifted 1 decade ago, on the understanding that states would retain a viable wolf population. Many of these states have demonstrated an inability to live up to these agreements and so should loose the right to choose hunting quotas. It always baffles me, when areas behave as though the only balance is between the hunters and livestock owners. The quota for hunting should always be well under replacement levels – populations should be given the space to grow over time.