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Yellowstone Park Research Wolves Killed by Hunters

An estimated 10 wolves from Yellowstone National Park have been killed by hunters this month, adversely affecting the park’s wolf research program, one of the longest studies of its kind.

“Losing the wolves has been a big hit to us scientifically,” says wildlife biologist Douglas Smith, leader of Yellowstone’s wolf project, which has tracked the wolves since their reintroduction in 1995. The killings came just as researchers, who are partly funded by a 5-year U.S. National Science Foundation grant, were set to begin the wolf project’s annual winter survey of the canids’ predatory habits.

The wolves were shot by licensed hunters outside the national park during the legal wolf hunting season that opened this fall in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Seven of the wolves were wearing radio-collars that help scientists track the wolves. Two “were the only collared members of their packs,” Smith says. “So, now we can’t track those packs.”

In addition, two of the wolves had specialized GPS collars that collect data every 30 minutes, which has helped researchers better understand wolves’ movements and predatory behaviors. Only one wolf in the study program is now left with such a collar…

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