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Collared wolves from Yellowstone among those shot

Nov 18, 2012 - The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Seven gray wolves originally from Yellowstone National Park and wearing collars for research purposes have been shot by hunters in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming in recent weeks, a park scientist said Thursday.

Two of the animals were from packs that no longer spend most of their time in the park, but the remainder lived and denned primarily in Yellowstone, said Dave Hallac, chief of Yellowstone's Center for Resources.

Four of the seven were shot in Montana, two in Wyoming and one in Idaho.

Wildlife advocates said Thursday the killings underscore the need for a buffer zone around Yellowstone, with strict limits on wolf hunting and trapping. They warned the number of dead park wolves could quickly climb once Montana's trapping season begins next month.

Gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list last year by Congress under pressure from hunting and livestock groups.

Hallac said the number of park wolves killed so far does not threaten Yellowstone's population of 85-100 wolves.

A more immediate worry, he said, is retrieving the research collars used to track the animals' movements. Several of the hunters who shot collared wolves already have offered to return the devices, Hallac said.

"Which is great for us because we have a lot of data on those collars," he said. "We've been able to get some of the collars back and we hope to get all the collars back."

Four collared wolves were killed during prior hunts: two in 2009, when the animals were off the endangered list only temporarily, and two last year, Hallac said.

Montana this year joined Idaho in lifting its quotas on wolves across most of the state, meaning there is no longer any limit on how many can be harvested except in certain areas.

One of those areas abuts the park's northern boundary; the other is around Glacier National Park. Only three wolves can be killed annually in the special management zone outside Yellowstone.

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