I was saddened to hear a month ago that the alpha female of the Canyon Pack had died. She was a very popular wolf and one of only a few with white coats. In the photo above, she was only three years old. The little bit of dark fur you see in this photo was replaced by white fur as she matured.
It was reported that she had lived twelve years. That’s a long life for a wolf. The average life span for a wolf in the park is six years. I assumed then that she had died of old age/natural causes.
I first got to know her in October of 2008. She and her three pack mates had killed a bull elk at the north end of North Twin Lake the day before I happened on the scene. When I arrived there was a large male grizzly protecting the carcass from the wolves. I was told he took the carcass from them shortly after they had killed it. That is very common. Some grizzlies in Yellowstone have learned to follow wolf packs for days until the wolves make a kill and then they take over.
I learned yesterday that she had not died of natural causes. She had been shot and was found by some hikers. She was alive, but in bad shape. The hikers contacted the National Park Service which examined her and determined that she could not be saved. She was euthanized. I went from being sad to being angry.
NPS has posted a reward for $5,000 leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible. That amount was matched by a conservation organization, Wolves of the Rockies. I was told by a friend that the reward has since climbed to $20,000. You can read more about the story here.
In spite of many suits by conservation organizations to keep wolves protected under the Endangered Species Act, I believe they are no longer under its protection. However, the wolf was found inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park. NPS has regulations against discharging firearms and killing wildlife in the national parks. Hopefully, the culprit will be found and successfully prosecuted.