On April 11, 2017, hikers in Yellowstone National Park came across an injured wolf near Gardiner, Montana. The beautiful white animal was a 12-year-old wolf, and the alpha female of the Canyon Pack for the past nine years. Twice the average age of a wolf in the park, ‘White Lady’ was a mother to 14 with the same alpha male. Her legacy as alpha female and her stunning white coat made her one of the most sought after photography subjects for visitors to Yellowstone.
But her injuries were substantial and the hikers alerted park staff. Her wounds were so severe, she was euthanized shortly after discovery. The necropsy, performed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, confirmed that she suffered from a gunshot wound and that this was ultimately the cause of her death. The incident likely occurred between April 10th at 1:00am and April 11th at 2:00pm.
National Park Service law enforcement believes she was shot in the north side of the park near Gardiner, close to the Old Yellowstone Trail. In order to find information on the shooter, the park has decided to offer a $5,000 reward. “Due to the serious nature of this incident, a reward of up to $5,000 is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for this criminal act,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk.
According to the Associated Press, the non-profit educational group Wolves of the Rockies matched Yellowstone’s reward with their own $5,000 for anyone willing to offer up vital information. Marc Cook, the group’s president, told the Associated Press that they believe the shooter is someone likely upset about the reintroduction of grey wolves into Yellowstone National Park about 20 years ago.
The Victor office of the Center for Biological Diversity sent their own release willing to match yet another $5,000. Andrea Santarsiere, a senior attorney at the center, is determined to find the shooter. “We sure hope they catch the despicable killer of this wolf,” she said. “Shooting this wolf in Yellowstone National Park, an area that should be a safe haven for wildlife, is not only illegal but repulsive.”
She’s correct. While hunting wolves is legal in much of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, it is prohibited to kill wolves in Yellowstone, Grand Teton or other national parks. “Sadly, this poaching incident reflects what a growing body of research is making more and more clear — allowing extensive hunting of wolves has not increased social tolerance for them, as states have predicted,” said Santarsiere. “Instead we’re seeing evidence that state-supported hunts of big carnivores actually devalue them among a certain segment of the population, and in fact likely trigger an increase in illegal killings.”
Heart of the Wild Yellowstone, and education and advocacy group, launched a GoFundMe campaign that has reached over $6,000 so far. This brings the total reward collection to over $24,000. If no one is brought to justice at the end of the investigation (or in 3 years, the campaign states), the money will be donated to protect the wolves of Yellowstone National Park.
Regardless of whether or not the reintroduction of wolves is something you support, it cannot be argued that shooting a wolf in Yellowstone National Park is illegal and is an act punishable by law. We certainly hope that this reward money brings out real facts and suspects and that the world recognizes how vulnerable these beautiful animals are.