Wolves are becoming ‘too comfortable around people’, researchers say after two puppies were killed by car
Wolves can become “too comfortable around people” and not afraid of roads, researchers say after two puppies have been killed by a car in Yellowstone National Park
- Two wolf pups were hit by a car and killed in Yellowstone National park
- They came from a pack that roams a part of the park with a large human presence
- Park workers and local researchers are concerned that wolves are not sufficiently scared of people and will not recognize situations in which they face increased danger
Researchers in Yellowstone National Park are concerned that local wolf populations have become too comfortable with people, exposing them to new and unnecessary risk.
Those concerns came to an end last month when two seven-month-old wolf boys were hit and killed by a car near the Junction Butte region.
The puppies came from the well-known Junction Butte package, which park officials describe as “one of the most observed packages in the park.”
Some researchers are concerned that wolves in Yellowstone National Park feel too comfortable around people, putting them at increased risk of accidents or hunting for death
The accident is still being investigated, but some have suggested that the puppies were not sufficiently conditioned to fear humans and human infrastructure, making them vulnerable.
“When people are around when [wolf pups are] 2, 3 months old, they are developing this lifelong vision that people are just not a problem, “said Doug Smith, a senior wolf biologist in Yellowstone, to the Casper Star Tribune.
“That’s just not right.”
The accident comes at a time when wolf populations in the park have reached a low of 20 years.
There were only 80 wolves in 2018, compared to a peak of more than 170 in 2003.
The Junction Butte package is one of the largest in the park and consists of 11 adults and 13 puppies.
The Junction Butte Wolf Package in Yellowstone National Park (pictured above) is one of the largest and most observed in the park
The platoon roamed near one of the park’s most visited trailheads in Slough Creek, as well as the entrance to Silver Tip Ranch, a private company that takes park guests on guided hunting or fishing trips.
“Some of them didn’t seem to understand that it can be dangerous to get stuck on the road,” said Rick McIntyre, formerly of the Yellowstone Wolf Project.
“I would compare it to young children who don’t quite understand the same thing: the danger of being on the road.”
The wolf populations in Yellowstone National Park reached a low of 20 years in 2018
The Junction Butte Wolf Package roams in one of the regions in Yellowstone National Park that sees more than normal human traffic thanks to a popular nearby trailhead and private farm that provides guided tours
WHAT IS WOLF DANGEROUS?
Wolfshazing is a practice where people attack wolves with non-lethal weapons to train them to be more afraid of people.
The most common non-lethal weapons used for hazing are rifles with bean bags, rubber bullets or crackers.
Hazing is not exclusive to wolves and has been used in various other animals that researchers are concerned about, being comfortable with people, including coyotes.
Hunters have previously used the relative comfort of wolves around humans.
In 2018, a hunter killed a well-known wolf from the Lamar Canyon Wolf Pack, called Spitfire, which some attributed to the lack of fear of seeing a human.
Employees with the Yellowstone Wolf Project have tried to “hare” the wolves in the park to trust them less by sneaking up on them with non-lethal weapons such as beanbag guns, but those efforts have had little effect so far.
Wolves are not the only animals in the park who have shown a dangerous level of familiarity with human visitors.
Park bears are often curiously filmed in park visitors’ cars and the park’s bison population has often accused people who