Archive for October, 2009

I Don’t Come to Your Job and Kill Your Research Subjects

A hunter has had a sporting good time in killing the alpha female of Yellowstone National Park’s famed Cottonwood pack during Montana’s recent legalized wolf hunt. Known to researchers as wolf 527F, the radio-collared female had been studied for 5 of her 7 years on this Earth. According to Douglas Smith, leader of the Yellowstone wolf project that has been studying the animals since their 1995 reintroduction to the park, the death of 527F has caused irrevocable damage to the study. Edward Bangs of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counters that claim, however. He was quoted in Science magazine (subscription required) as saying, “It doesn’t make any difference to wolf conservation or wolf research, although it will cost Doug [Smith] more money to collar another wolf.” As if Smith’s main concern is the $1,500 it will cost him to collar a new wolf, not the loss of a wolf whose life, genealogy, and behavior had been chronicled for half a decade. At the time of her death, 527F was raising her third litter, the fate of which is unknown. Five other members of her pack were also shot to death by hunters. Because the study was intended to study wolves that lived and died under natural conditions, Smith says the data on 527F and her pack is now worthless. The project is also adding a new category to its database–that of harvested wolf.