RMEF Opposes Congressman’s Call for Yellowstone Wolf Buffer Zone


In the latest move to curtail wolf hunting across the country, Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio–one of the most vocal, influential, and persistent critics of Western wolf management–called for federal intervention to protect gray wolves that range beyond Yellowstone National Park.

DeFazio claims hunters who harvest wolves outside park boundaries are directly responsible for the recent decline in Yellowstone’s wolf population. To help solve this “problem,” he penned a letter to the Department of the Interior requesting the agency coordinate among states to establish a “wolf safety zone” around Yellowstone National Park. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation responded to DeFazio with a letter of their own.


RMEF described the request for a no-hunting buffer zone “unfounded by any science,” noting that it also “contradicts what the entire wolf reintroduction and ESA listing represent.” The organization goes on to point out scientific studies that account for the decline in wolf numbers in Yellowstone Park.

First, the availability of elk–the primary prey of northern range wolves–has declined significantly. Yellowstone’s northern elk herd has fallen from 17,000 animals in 1995 to roughly 4,000 in 2013. Second, a recent study demonstrated wolves will kill one another when an area’s population becomes too large for the available prey and habitat.

DeFazio has overlooked such evidence, and instead finds fault in state management of wolf numbers.

“…Gray wolves do not respect invisible park boundaries and once the wolves cross out of the park and onto bordering lands,” DeFazio wrote. “…There are myriad inconsistent state regulations that allow hunters to kill wolves on sight; in some instances without limit.”

Both Wyoming and Montana maintain strict management quotas that apply to wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. In 2013 Montana limited its combined hunting/trapping sub-quota (unit 316) to four just four wolves near Gardiner. Wyoming biologists indicate its harvest quotas near the park are deliberately small to provide proper management. Additionally, Yellowstone officials support RMEF’s position that hunting wolves outside the park does not contribute to the park’s overall downward trend in wolf numbers.

Finally, RMEF notes gray wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rocky Mountains met minimum recovery goals nearly 15 years ago, and has since exceeded the mutually-agreed upon population by 500 percent. M. David Allen, RMEF president and CEO, concludes his letter: “The continuing drumbeat of individuals and organizations to halt any form of state based management of wolves shows a total disregard for the state based management system, the originally agreed upon [wolf] recovery goals and the 10th Amendment which delegates such matters to the states.”

DeFazio is the ranking Democrat on the House National Resources Committee and has previously opposed the USFWS proposal to lift ESA protections for gray wolves in the lower 48.

8 thoughts on “RMEF Opposes Congressman’s Call for Yellowstone Wolf Buffer Zone

  1. It just speaks poorly of a person who would not respect Yellowstone’s wolves or visitors by trying to kill them off, like a vendetta – that makes the ‘perceived threat’ that they want to wipe out wolves entirely. There are conflicting reports of whether or not hunting affects the numbers of wolves in the Park – numbers may or may not be ‘stable’, but it does break up packs. But the fact remains that the Park wolves should be left alone. They are usually collared for study purposes anyway, and the ongoing studies should be respected.

    The wolves in the Park are none of RMEF’s business, and whether or not ‘objectives’ for wolf recovery have been met are outside Park borders – these people have all kinds of opportunities to kill wolves in every way imaginable, and for once, the wildlife watchers , the so-called ‘non-consumptive’ users, should be thrown a bone? It’s been all hunters/ranchers squeaky wheels getting the grease since the delisting, and the park visitors ought to be shown some consideration.

  2. At least three of the wolves from Yellowstone that were harvested in 2012/2013 season were of high social rank (e.g., alpha female or beta male), which could affect reproduction, hunting behavior, and territory defense for the respective packs over the short term. 7 of 10 (70%) packs living primarily in the park had at least one wolf harvested from them. Thus, harvests of wolves in states surrounding Yellowstone have affected the function of packs in the park as do natural forms of mortality. Wolves often quickly fill vacant biological and social niches that are a result of wolf losses from any cause.

    This is what “Yellowstone” officials had to say. It looks like there’s still a lot of ‘unknowns’, ‘oftens’, and ‘coulds’, etc. “Science”, least of all your ordinary hunter, doesn’t know how killing wolves in the Park would affect the health of the packs.

    I’m glad Senator DeFazio outranks Jewell.

    • Oops, make that Rep. DeFazio. He has asked the Interior Dept. to create a task force to devise protections for wolves around other parks. To me, it is extremely unsportsman-like and devious to prey on wolves that in all likelihood have become habituated to humans in the Parks, whether it is ‘legal’ to do so or not. The Democrats for the most part really stink when it comes to the environment and wildlife. Even George Bush was better than the Obama administration.

      Don’t be timid people and think this is the best we can do, because the alternative might be worse. Throw the bums out.

      • “To me, it is extremely unsportsman-like and devious to prey on wolves that in all likelihood have become habituated to humans in the Parks, whether it is ‘legal’ to do so or not.”
        This is also true of elk, deer, bighorn sheep, bison, etc., who are used to being around humans in the park. It’s a lethal betrayal of trust.

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