By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park staff killed a wolf Saturday after the animal approached park visitors and employees on multiple occasions, apparently in search of human food.
A park ranger shot the 110-pound male wolf from Mollie’s Park near the Mary Bay area. The wolf was estimated to be 2-4 years old.
“Since July … we’ve been documenting seven different cases where this wolf has approached to … within a few feet of staff and visitors,” park spokesman Dan Hottle said.
The wolf, easily recognizable because of black, horizontal “racing stripes” in its fur, circled people in an apparent effort to see if they had any food in their hands or in their backpacks. Most of the encounters took place in the Fishing Bridge area, park officials said.
The wolf also lunged at people “not really unlike a large dog that’s jumping in to get food that you might have hiding on you,” Hottle said. “We’re not clear if it was lunging in to bite or just to get closer.”
Park staff tried to haze the wolf with noise, clear paint balls and bear pepper spray, but the wolf continued its attempts to get food.
“It obviously had been conditioned to food,” Hottle said. “It wouldn’t leave people alone. It was going to go down the wrong path.”
He continued: “Nobody has been injured. We didn’t want it to get to the point where it did become aggressive.”
It is generally not possible to relocate animals that become conditioned to human food because they usually return to the locations where they were captured, park officials say.
Feeding wildlife — especially bears and wolves — human food is usually a death sentence, officials say.
Feeding animals in the park or getting within 100 yards of bears or wolves, or within 25 yards of other animals, is a violation of park regulations and could result in a fine.
In the park, food should be stored in hard-sided vehicles or metal food-storage boxes located at campgrounds throughout Yellowstone.