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A gray wolf in Lamar Valley Gray wolf populations have rebounded since the wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, but some scientists believe the species still needs protection. (Ocean / Corbis)

A Famous Wolf’s Last Howl

Yellowstone’s best known wolf dies after straying outside the park

By Sean Price | December 19 , 2012
<p> PHOTO: Scientists tracked 832F with an electronic collar and studied her movements extensively. (Doug McLaughlin) </p><p> MAP: 832F’s wolf pack lived primarily in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. (Jim McMahon)</p>

PHOTO: Scientists tracked 832F with an electronic collar and studied her movements extensively. (Doug McLaughlin)

MAP: 832F’s wolf pack lived primarily in the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone. (Jim McMahon)

Scientists knew her as 832F. But to the wolves she ran with, she was the alpha dog—the pack leader. Her pack roams the wilds of Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. 832F’s movements were well-known to the wildlife researchers who tracked her with an electronic collar.

“She is the most famous wolf in the world,” said Jimmy Jones, a wildlife photographer.

But earlier this month, a hunter shot and killed 832F when she wandered just 15 miles outside Yellowstone’s boundary. Her death has since spurred controversy and outrage.

RISE OF THE WOLF

In the early 1900s, hunters wiped out gray wolves in Yellowstone. Then in the mid-1990s, conservationists, or people who work to protect threatened species, reintroduced the wolves to Yellowstone.

Since then, gray wolf populations in the area have rebounded. 832F’s pack was evidence of the program’s success.

But farmers and ranchers near the park now say that shooting wolves is necessary to keep predator populations down. They want to protect their livestock as well as other big game animals, like elk and bison. So this past fall, Wyoming permitted the first wolf hunts in decades.

Scientists, however, say that wolf populations are still too fragile to allow shooting. So far this year, eight animals collared by scientists have been shot. All of them were killed after they strayed a short distance outside Yellowstone’s boundary. Wildlife advocates, or supporters, say that this pace of killings will hurt the rebounding wolf populations.

It could also hurt wildlife tourism in the area. Wolves have been a big attraction at Yellowstone. And the park’s Lamar Valley—832F’s home—has been a reliable place for visitors to see them.

HELPING THE HUNTED

Montana, which had also permitted wolf hunting, quickly banned it near Yellowstone after 832F’s death. Many wildlife advocates praised the move.

But Tim Stevens of the National Parks Conservation Association says he would like to see a permanent buffer zone around the park. Such a zone would “protect park wolves that occasionally leave the park’s boundaries,” he says, “boundaries for which it is impossible for wildlife to understand the safety risks associated with it.”

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