In recent weeks, wolves moving in and out of Yellowstone National Park have been seen frequently in and around the communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is monitoring the situation.
Two weeks ago, wolves killed a domestic dog at night outside of a home in Cooke City. Wolves have also been seen repeatedly on streets in Cooke City, including Main Street, side streets, and the Bannock Trail. All sightings in town that FWP is aware of have been at night.
At this point, FWP has no reports of wolves in the area approaching humans.
However, the wolves’ behavior is concerning. Their traveling in and among buildings in Cooke City increases their likelihood of injuring or killing another pet, and exposure to human development and surroundings leave them vulnerable to escalating habituation, such as getting fed or a food reward.
Feeding wildlife is illegal, and in the case of predators, it can be dangerous. To date, FWP has no evidence of feeding or baiting wolves in the area. All pet food should be kept indoors.
“As with mountain lions and bears, when we see wild animals approaching people, there is concern for human safety. We don’t like to have to kill wildlife, but sometimes we don’t have any other choice,” said Mark Deleray, FWP regional supervisor in Bozeman. “We are not there yet with these wolves – although they have been in and around town. We will continue to assess the situation, do our best to track current wolf behavior, and base our future actions on that assessment.”
Montana law allows citizens to protect themselves, livestock, and dogs from wolves. If a wolf is on private property and is posing a potential threat to human safety, livestock, or dogs, a landowner may kill a wolf without a license. On public or private land, a person may kill a wolf that is in the act of attacking, killing, or threatening a person or livestock, or attacking or killing a domestic dog. The landowner must report these incidents to FWP.
Pet owners in Cooke City and Silver Gate should avoid allowing their dogs to run freely, especially at night. When walking them, pet owners should keep dogs on a leash and in lighted areas.
For more information, contact the FWP office in Bozeman at 994-4042.