Scientists Mourn Popular Wolf Shot By A Hunter | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Scientists Mourn Popular Wolf Shot By A Hunter

Play associated audio

The most popular wolf in Yellowstone National Park was shot by a hunter last week, a big blow to scientists and many wildlife enthusiasts who loved following her story.

"She was very recognizable, and she was unique and everybody knew her," says biologist Douglas Smith.

The animal known as 832F had a beautiful gray coat and was the alpha female of the Lamar Canyon pack. Smith has followed this wolf for years but only got to put a tracking collar on her in February.

"I tried to catch her for several years prior to doing it and she was so smart we couldn't. We do it with a helicopter, we'd dart them, we'd fly in on them. And she'd use the landscape to her advantage," Smith says. "I watched her. And every other wolf is running, she watching, figuring out the next move to get away from us."

Smith says that's an extraordinary wolf.

"People in this world today crave something real, and our society is lacking that and they could come to Yellowstone and see real nature unfolding in front of their eyes with this very unique personality of a wolf and they loved her. They thought it was great," says Smith.

Gray wolves were hunted and trapped to the point that there weren't any in the western U.S. by the 1930s. Smith helped to bring wolves back to the park in the mid-1990s and has studied them ever since. Smith says that closely watching wolves like 832 has taught biologists that they were wrong about the basic way wolf packs function.

Alpha females like 832 lead the packs — not the alpha males as biologists long thought.

"She was clearly in charge, and actually, typically males are better hunters than females. That was not true in this case. She was a great hunter, in fact brought down elk by herself single-handedly," says Smith.

'A Level of Tolerance'

Wolves were only taken off the endangered species list in Wyoming a few months ago, and this is the first season its been legal to hunt wolves in all three states bordering Yellowstone.

Wolf 832, who was taking a rare jaunt outside park boundaries when she was shot, is one of at least 7 wolves from Yellowstone who have been killed in legal hunts this year. Hundreds more out of the about 1,800 in the northern Rockies have also been killed.

Suzanne Stone, a wolf expert from the environmental group Defenders of Wildlife, says the hunting is too aggressive.

"This is not a legacy that anyone would want to have. This was one of the most successful wildlife reintroduction programs anywhere in the world. And it's being put in jeopardy now," says Stone.

Randy Newberg hunts wolves and makes hunting television programs. He says tourists love wolves, but many people who live around them don't like them and hate that the federal government forced wolves on them. He thinks wolf hunts are easing the animosity many local people feel towards the predator.

"Having these hunting seasons has provided a level of tolerance again," Newberg says.

Smith says as much as he hates to lose a wolf as valuable as 832, he agrees.

"So to get support for wolves, you can't have people angry about them all the time, and so hunting is going to be part of the future of wolves in the West. We've got to have it if we're going to have wolves," says Smith.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

It May Be 'Perfectly Normal,' But It's Also Frequently Banned

It's Perfectly Normal, a 20-year-old illustrated sex-ed book for kids, is meant to teach children about sexual health, puberty and relationships. It's one of the most banned books in America.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Man Caught At White House Is An Army Veteran

Omar J. Gonzales, the 42-year-old man who the Secret Service says ran onto the White House grounds and entered a door Friday night, is an Army veteran who served in Iraq.
NPR

Drivers, Passengers Say Uber App Doesn't Always Yield Best Routes

People love Uber, but they often complain the Uber app's built-in navigation doesn't give its drivers the best directions. The company says the app helps drivers and passengers travel efficiently.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.