MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. — Three wolves from Yellowstone National Park’s Junction Butte Pack were killed during the first week of Montana’s wolf hunting season, park officials announced today.

The deaths were confirmed by Yellowstone wolf biologists who documented the pack size has been reduced from 27 to 24 animals. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks confirmed three wolves were killed outside of Yellowstone near where the Junction Butte pack was traveling in mid-September.

Two female pups and one female yearling were killed.

The Junction Butte Pack is the most viewed wolf pack in the world.

Yellowstone wolves in the northern range spend an estimated 5% of the time outside the park, usually in late fall. For over a decade, the state of Montana limited the number of wolves taken from Montana wolf management units 313 (Gardiner) and 316 (Cooke City), which are immediately adjacent to the park’s northern boundary. Ninety-eight percent of wolves in Montana are outside units 313 and 316. Recent state changes to hunting and trapping have lifted restrictions within these units making Yellowstone’s wolf population in the northern range extremely vulnerable. Montana has also authorized baiting from private property. Over 33% of the boundary Yellowstone shares with Montana is within one mile of private property where baiting is now permissible.

“Yellowstone plays a vital role in Montana’s wildlife conservation efforts and its economy. These wolves are part of our balanced ecosystem here and represent one of the special parts of the park that draw visitors from around the globe,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Cam Sholly. “We will continue to work with the state of Montana to make the case for reinstating quotas that would protect the core wolf population in Yellowstone as well as Montana’s direct economic interests derived from the hundreds of millions spent by park visitors each year.”

Visitor spending within communities that are 50 miles from Yellowstone exceeds $500 million per year, tens of millions of which is spent by visitors coming to watch wolves and supporting Montana businesses in gateway communities.

The Junction Butte Pack formed in 2012 in the northern section of the park. They are the most observed pack in Yellowstone because they den within view of the Northeast Entrance Road and the road to Slough Creek Campground, providing thousands of visitor’s daily views. The pack had eight pups in 2021.

Buckrail @ Shannon

Shannon is a Wyoming-raised writer and reporter. She just completed a master's in journalism from Boston University. Jackson shaped her into an outdoorswoman, but a love for language and the human condition compels her to write. She believes there's no story too small to tell nor adventure too small to take.