A trophy hunter legally shot a beloved member of the most famous wolf pack, Lamar Canyon Wolf Pack, at Yellowstone National Park recently. Member 926F, also known as Spitfire, was shot a few miles away from the entrance to the Montana park.


“We are heartbroken to share the news that the wolf killed outside the park was 926F of the Lamar Canyon Pack,” wolf advocacy organization Wolves of the Rockies wrote on Wednesday. The organization confirmed the news with the park.

Reportedly, a hunter also killed Spitfire’s mother, member 06F, in 2012. According to Wolves of the Rockies, Spitfire had been keeping the pack together after his mother’s death.

“Once wolves step outside park boundaries they have zero protection,” Brooks Fahy, executive director of Predator Defense — an organization that seeks to protect native predators from a multitude of threats, including those from trophy hunters as well as state wildlife agencies seeking to control wolf populations — said. “This tragedy should be one more wake-up call.”

Because wolves are considered a crucial part in the ecosystem, the decimation of their packs may lead to significant harms on other species as well. “The importance of a keystone predator such as the wolf to a balanced and resilient ecosystem is undeniable,” the Wolf Conservation Center (WCC) explained.

Of course, human beings are not spared by the impacts of this as well. The Lamar Canyon Pack helps preserve one of the country’s most unique natural treasures by attracting numbers of visitors to Yellowstone every year.

“Studies also show that since their return over 20 years ago, wolves have delivered an economic boost to Yellowstone’s surrounding communities,” WCC wrote. “University of Montana researchers found that wolves bring an estimated $35M in annual tourist revenue to the region.”

Spencer Wilhelm/WCC

The executive director of WCC, Maggie Howell, said that giving wider protections to wolves around other parks can greatly help the entire ecosystem. For example, the wolves have been protected for more than a century in Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada, however, hunting activities outside and around the park was leading to deaths of more than half of the wolves living inside it.

“[Wolves were killed] primarily in winter when their main prey, white-tailed deer, roamed outside the park in search of forage,” Howell said. “But in 2001, when hunting on the outskirts of the park was banned, an amazing transition began to unfold. Protected from hunting, not only did the Algonquin wolf population hold steady, but there was also a rapid transition to more stable, family-based packs … With added protections, eastern wolves reclaimed their place as a keystone species within the ecosystem.”

Clearly, Yellowstone National Park should take some lessons from Algonquin Provincial Park to avoid deaths like that of Spitfire in the future.

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