Debate arises whether Montana wolf hunt wiped out Park's Cottonwood Pack

Four pack members were killed. Which pack or packs did the other 5 wolves come from?

Defenders of Wildlife is disputing with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It does appear that at least some pups from the Cottonwood Pack are left. Maybe some adults survive too.

Strictly speaking the Cottonwood Pack has pretty much always been a Park transboundary Pack, a backcountry pack to be sure, but it is often north of the Park. However, I do think Park wolves, like Park bears, have learned to move north during the the elk hunt to clean up the remains of the hunt. This makes them vulnerable to being killed in the Montana wolf hunt.

There has been a lot of misinformed talk about a hunt on Park wolves, but, of course, there is no legal hunting of anything inside Yellowstone Park.  However, could what are normally Park wolves be effectively hunted the rest of the wolf season or in the future if Park wolves, being smart like bears, move north when the elk hunt begins.

Story. Wolf pack adults killed by hunters, group says. Billings Gazette. By Brett French.




  1. JW Avatar

    Ralph, I wonder if a territorial pack living outside of the park will effectively keep out non-park wolf packs like the Cottonwoods in the future. That could be the case if wolves aren’t (or are lightly) killed outside the park in future hunts and resident packs prevent an influx of other wolves during the human elk/deer hunts.

  2. Kathie Lynch Avatar
    Kathie Lynch

    As far as I know, alpha female 527F, 716F and two other Cottonwood pack wolves were legally shot in the Montana wolf hunt. Depending on which two other Cottonwood pack wolves were shot, that would have still left several male adults and several pups, so the pack was not immediately completely wiped out. However, from my observations, when the leaders are lost, a pack often fragments. Individuals may disperse and pups may not survive.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar



    We don’t know the pack structure north of the Park although over the years a number of packs have drifted north into the backcountry of the Absaroka portion of the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness which shares a straight line boundary with the Park.

    What I’m saying is that for purposes of planning a wolf hunt, maybe these packs should be investigated a lot more in the future.

  4. Bob Ream Avatar

    Four adults and 2 pups remain in the Cottonwood Pack. The pack and pups will survive, despite the false rumors Defenders have spread in their fundraising feast. This is the first controlled hunt ever in the lower 48 states, and nobody expected 9 to be taken in this area. I’m sure there will be further discussion about whether or not to even open an early season hunt in the future.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Note to folks.

    Bob Ream (see his comment above) is a commissioner of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. From what I’ve heard and my political views, he is likely one of the good guys, and this sounds like good news to me.

  6. Robin Anthony Avatar
    Robin Anthony

    If hunters are stupid enough to wipe out a famous pack whose range encompasses a famous national park then they deserve not only media and environmental scrutiny but also deserve to be despised nationwide for their barbaric practices.

    Predator species such as wolves make for stronger prey herds, culling the old, weak and sick members from the elk and bighorn sheep herds.

    Wolves are vital to a healthy ecosystem. If the hunters had not destroyed the breeding members of the pack, the ecologically destructive practices employed by misguided politicians in Montana and Idaho would not have been brought into the national spotlight.

    Wolves keep prey animals from overpopulating. If there are higher densities of wolves in this area, it is solely because the levels of prey animals support them. Otherwise they would starve.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan