Late November, a wild wolf known as 926F or Spitfire, was shot and killed by a hunter outside of Yellowstone National Park. Wolf watchers who visit the park are mourning the member of the Lamar Canyon pack, as well as calling for buffer around the park to protect wolves who wander past the invisible boundary.

Spitfire was the daughter of infamous alpha female 832F, who was also known as “06” for the year she was born. As The New York Times reports, the wolf became a celebrity for her hunting prowess and her common appearances along the road traveled by visitors in the park’s Lamar Valley. The wolf was also the subject of the book, “American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West.” Both female wolves were killed by hunters.

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Last week, Spitfire wandered outside the park in Montana near the northeast entrance to the park. As she neared a cluster of cabins, she was shot. The kill was within hunting law, as Montana permits the killing of several hundred wolves each year. “A game warden checked with the hunter and everything about this harvest was legal,” said Abby Nelson, a wolf management specialist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

To protect wolves who may wander past the park’s invisible line, environmental activists are now calling for a buffer around the park. In Montana, legislation has been passed forbidding the creation of a buffer zone. However, as The New York Times reports, “there is a hunting limit of two wolves in each of two districts adjacent to the northern boundary of the park.”

Credit: Deby Dixon

Spitfire leaves behind a daughter that has been named ‘Little T’ by wolf watchers in the park. Now that the matriarch is gone, the pack could be in trouble, said Doug Smith, the park’s wolf biologist. Supposedly, its numbers may not be as resilient as bigger groups. “Its survival is an open question,” he admitted.

There are presently about 100 wolves belonging to 10 packs in Yellowstone National Park. In the Northern Rocky Mountain states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, there are approximately 1,700 wolves. The predator animals are vital to the ecosystem, though they can pose a threat to modern agricultural efforts.

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Source: The New York Times