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Death of Yellowstone's 'rock star' wolf draws scrutiny of trapping in Montana

| Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, 9:18 p.m.

BILLINGS, Mont. — The shooting of collared gray wolves from Yellowstone National Park is prompting Montana wildlife commissioners to consider new restrictions against killing the predators in areas near the park.

Wolf trapping in Montana kicks off on Saturday. It's the state's first such trapping season since the animals lost their federal protections last year after almost four decades on the endangered species list.

Hunting is under way for the predators in Montana and neighboring Idaho and Wyoming, and at least seven of Yellowstone's roughly 88 wolves have been shot in recent weeks while travelling outside the park.

That includes five wolves fitted with tracking collars for scientific research, said Dan Stahler, a biologist with the park's wolf program. The most recent to be shot, the collared alpha female from the well-known Lamar Canyon pack, was killed in Wyoming.

The alpha female, known as 832F and described by wildlife enthusiasts as a “rock star” because of her popularity, was found dead on Thursday outside the park's boundary in Wyoming, The New York Times reported on Sunday.

Montana wildlife Commissioner Shane Colton said closing some areas to trapping or setting strict quotas will be on the table during a Monday commission meeting.

“We don't want to close any area off if we don't have to. But if we keep losing collared wolves ... management becomes difficult,” Colton said.

Wildlife advocacy groups are pressing state officials to impose a protective buffer zone around the park to protect a species that serves as a major draw for Yellowstone's 3 million visitors annually.

Marc Cooke with the group Wolves of the Rockies alleged hunters were targeting collared animals.

“The proportion of collared wolves is too high to believe this is not being done deliberately,” Cooke said. “It's wrong, and the world needs to know this.”

Radio collars on wolves are used to track the animals' movement, often for research. They also are used outside the park to track down and kill the predators after livestock attacks.

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