Yellowstone wolves are far more popular now than in 2005 when “wolf watching” generated an estimated $35.5 million of spending by tourists from outside the region. This means serious cash for local shops, restaurants, hotels, tour companies and other businesses.
Given that they feed a booming tourist industry, one might guess that park wolves live the life of Riley free from human hostility. But that isn’t the case.
Trophy hunters and trappers routinely take wolves that unwittingly cross the park boundary. Word has it they’re sometimes lured out of the park by electronic calling and gut piles. And poaching is a problem, evident by the recent loss of the famed white alpha female of the Canyon pack.
It’s not good for Montana, economically or image wise, to be killing wolves that lay the proverbial golden eggs. This is a mighty foolish way to treat wolves that are valued by so many people, and often featured in books, videos, articles, art and the social media. For many visitors seeing or hearing park wolves is an experience never to be forgotten.
While some have asked the Montana wildlife commission and state political leaders to end wolf hunting near the park, these advocates are only a tiny fraction of those who benefit from wolves. Let’s convince people who profit most from park wolves to become their staunchest defenders. Money talks and will ultimately prevail over old-school thinking about how wolves should be managed near Yellowstone National Park.