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Wolf Hunting Near Yellowstone Spark Distress for Wildlife-Related Businesses

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022   

The hunting of gray wolves from Yellowstone National Park has set off alarm bells for wildlife-related businesses in the region.

Thirty businesses have sent a letter urging Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to return endangered-species protections to gray wolves.

Cara McGary, owner and lead guide of In Our Nature Guiding Services in Gardiner, said some wolves recently killed were from a pack she has been watching on her wildlife tours.

"They kind of went on a wander, and two of those puppies were killed just over the boundary of the park," McGary explained. "So it's frustrating from a business perspective as well as from kind of a personal perspective."

New laws in Montana and Idaho allow for the killing of 85% and 90%, respectively, of the states' wolf populations. Twenty wolves from Yellowstone have been killed in recent months, the most since the species was reintroduced 25 years ago, according to park officials. In September, federal officials said they would review whether protections should be restored for gray wolves.

Nathan Varley, a wildlife biologist and co-owner of the Gardiner-based Yellowstone Wolf Tracker, said he and other businesses have tried to convince Montana officials to reinstate hunting quotas near the park, which were limited because wolves are important for the tourism industry.

"This past year they just lifted those quotas," Varley pointed out. "That's allowed for this very high -- actually historic -- number of wolves being taken from what we consider to be park packs, the ones that we rely on."

Varley added he signed the letter to Haaland because of Montana's unresponsiveness to businesses' concerns.

McGary is a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee. She emphasized it is not her preference to have to go to the federal government to ask for endangered-species protections for gray wolves, noting it could erode the relationships built in the region.

"I'm disappointed that the state of Montana has made decisions that's put us in this place," McGary stated. "But we need intervention, so that's why I signed on personally."

Businesses near Yellowstone have organized the Wild Livelihoods Business Coalition to promote management practices allowing for coexistence with wildlife.


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