YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Yellowstone National Park wolf biologists said on Monday that the park’s Junction Butte Pack lost three wolves to hunters during the first week of Montana’s wolf hunting season.
Park officials said in a news release that recent overflights confirmed the pack size has been reduced from 27 to 24 animals, losing two female pups and one female yearling.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks confirmed three wolves were killed outside of Yellowstone in the general vicinity of where the Junction Butte Pack was traveling in mid-September.
Yellowstone wolves in the northern range spend an estimated 5% of the time outside the park, usually in late fall. For more than a decade, the state of Montana limited the number of wolves taken from Montana wolf management units 313 (Gardiner) and 316 (Cooke City), which are immediately adjacent to the park’s northern boundary.
The news release states that 98% of wolves in Montana are outside units 313 and 316. Recent state changes to hunting and trapping have lifted restrictions within these units, leaving Yellowstone’s wolf population in the northern range vulnerable.
Montana has also authorized baiting from private property. More than 33% of the boundary Yellowstone shares with Montana is within one mile of private property where baiting is now permissible.
The Junction Butte Pack formed in 2012 in the northern section of the park. It is the most observed pack in Yellowstone because they den within view of the Northeast Entrance Road and the road to Slough Creek Campground, providing thousands of visitor’s daily views. The pack had eight pups in 2021.
“Yellowstone plays a vital role in Montana’s wildlife conservation efforts and its economy. These wolves are part of our balanced ecosystem here and represent one of the special parts of the park that draw visitors from around the globe,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We will continue to work with the state of Montana to make the case for reinstating quotas that would protect the core wolf population in Yellowstone as well as Montana’s direct economic interests derived from the hundreds of millions spent by park visitors each year.”