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Yellowstone Wolf Kills in MT, WY Pose Economic Risks


Monday, February 7, 2022   

New Montana hunting regulations could have a direct effect on Wyoming businesses relying on visitors to Yellowstone National Park.

At least 21 of the nearly two dozen Yellowstone wolves killed this hunting season happened in Montana, just outside the park.

Brooke Shifrin, wildlife conservation coordinator for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, pointed to the most recent data showing the economic impacts at stake for hotels, restaurants and other businesses in Wyoming's gateway communities.

"Roughly 80 million dollars in economic value comes as a result of wildlife-related tourism," Shifrin reported. "Much of that is driven by the interest in seeing Yellowstone National Park wolves."

Shifrin added wolves calling Yellowstone home have no way of knowing when they've left the protection of the park's boundaries. Three wolves were killed this year in Wyoming, where the state sets limits on kills in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Ranchers have long advocated for relaxing conservation efforts that helped bring the gray wolf back from the brink of extinction, citing loss of livestock.

Shifrin argued it is important to recognize predators present real challenges to people making their living off the land coexisting alongside carnivores, but she said it is not the case in the hunting districts seeing the most killing.

"In these areas immediately adjacent to Yellowstone National Park, livestock depredation is really not an issue," Shifrin contended. "There is very little conflict between wolves and livestock just outside of the park boundary."

Montana wildlife commissioners set hunting limits after public outcry, and have prohibited snaring within lynx-protection zones.

Ben Scrimshaw, associate attorney for the Northern Rockies office of Earthjustice, said what is happening in Montana calls into question whether states can be trusted to manage wildlife for the benefit of all stakeholders.

"Our approach to wolf management has to be guided by science and not politics, and right now, it's being guided by politics," Scrimshaw asserted. "But the science said that wolves are a valuable part of the ecosystem, and we need to honor that."

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