Death of Yellowstone’s Most Famous Wolf Is a Troubling Sign of Things to Come

From Huffington Post:


The alpha female of Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon pack may have been the most famous wolf in the world. Endlessly photographed and admired by thousands of visitors to the national park, this matriarch of Yellowstone — often known by her number, 832F — made the cover of American Scientist and was discussed at length in the pages of the New York Times.

With a gorgeous gray coat and fearless spirit, she was a true rock star from the wolf world. Sadly, a year ago this Friday, 832F crossed the invisible boundary of the national park, entering Wyoming, and was gunned down by a hunter.

Wolf hunting is legal now in Wyoming and several other states because politicians in Congress — not the scientists in charge of wolf recovery — stripped away Endangered Species Act protections in five states in 2011. Now the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to take away protections for nearly all wolves across the rest of the lower 48.

If this plan goes through, scores of wolves around the country will suffer the same tragic fate as Yellowstone’s most famous wolf.

The result, after 40 years of working to return wolves to the American landscape, will be that these beautiful animals are left to eke out a living on just a few slivers of land — and never far from guns that kill and antiquated attitudes that see wolves as vermin to be exterminated.

The deaths of wolves like 832F are also a loss to science. She was one of a few that wore a $4,000 radio collar outfitted to track her movements by satellite — and one of a growing number of collar-wearers to have been shot after wandering outside of Yellowstone. Doug Smith, the park’s well-respected wolf biologist, bemoaned the death of such wolves earlier this year, stating the “loss of collared wolves is where the rubber meets the road — it hurts us the most.”

Yellowstone’s wolves — reintroduced in the mid-1990s — have been tracked for years and are among the world’s most studied canines. Because of them we know much more about how these intelligent animals form familial bonds, much like ourselves, and play an outsized role in shaping ecosystems.

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