“Twelve-year-old alpha female deserved a wild end to her wild life, but that was not to be…”
Officials at Yellowstone National Park first shared the sad news in mid-April: A well-known white wolf in the park had been found severely injured and was later euthanized. Then on May 11, after a necropsy by the US Fish and Wildlife Service forensics laboratory in Oregon, they shared the real shocking news: This wolf, the alpha female of the Canyon Pack, had “suffered from a gunshot wound.”
Details are still emerging on what happened, when and where; the investigation remains active.
It all began on April 11, when hikers discovered “a severely injured” alpha female wolf, according to a press release from Yellowstone National Park. The white wolf, well-known among wolf enthusiasts and park officials, was seen near Gardiner, Montana, the town at the north entrance to the iconic park.
Staff eventually found the wolf in “shock and dying from the injuries,” and made the difficult decision to euthanize the majestic canine. The necropsy confirmed the animal had suffered from a gunshot wound, and park officials believe the incident took place near Gardiner or the Old Yellowstone Trail, located along the park’s northern boundary. The shooting likely occurred on April 10 or 11.
“Due to the serious nature of this incident, a reward of up to $5,000.00 is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for this criminal act,” Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk said in a press release.
When the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf, which can be gray, black or white in color, was taken off the endangered species list a few years ago, states were given the authority to set up their own wolf management plans. In 2015, Montana saw 210 wolves hunted or trapped. Yellowstone, which is nationally protected, is mostly in Wyoming with slivers of land in Montana and Idaho. Hunting and discharge of firearms are prohibited in the park.
There are approximately 100 wolves in Yellowstone, which is an impressive number given that the canids were once extirpated from the local wilderness. In 1995, wild wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park as part of an extensive recovery program. The population took hold, and now the park features several packs that fluctuate in numbers. The oasis that is Yellowstone is often seen as the best place in the world to view wild wolves.
Of the nearly 100 wolves in the park, only three were known to be white in color. The white wolf who was euthanized in April was 12 years old, twice the average age of a wolf in Yellowstone. She was a leader of the Canyon Pack and could be seen in many areas of the park. “For these reasons, the wolf was one of the most recognizable and sought after by visitors to view and photograph,” the press release states.
I think I saw that alpha female during a wintertime visit in January of this year. Of course, it’s difficult to 100 percent confirm that the sighting was of the Canyon Pack alpha female, but all signs point to this impressive 12-year-old animal being the one…(CONTINUED)