Yellowstone Wolf Pups Killed in Hit and Run Had Become Too Used to Humans, Experts Warn

A pair of wolf pups at Yellowstone National Park were killed by a vehicle after they became accustomed to humans, an expert at the park believes.

Doug Smith, senior wolf biologist at Yellowstone, told Wyoming News Exchange: "If people are around when they're 2, 3 months old, they develop this lifelong outlook that people just aren't a big deal.

"That's just not good," he said.

A fortnight ago, Yellowstone National Park released a statement detailing the deaths of two wolves on Tuesday, November 19, at around sunset. A "black male and female pups" died after they were hit by a car on between Tower Junction and the Northeast Entrance. Yellowstone law enforcement launched an investigation into the incident.

The animals were part of the Junction Butte Pack, whose territory stretches between Tower Junction and Lamar Valley around 5 miles away in the northeastern section of the park. According to the statement, the 11-adult-strong pack is one of the most often viewed by visitors.

According to Wyoming News Exchange, the pups were 7 months old, likely weighed over 50lbs, and were part of a litter of Canis lupus or gray wolves.

Over the summer, the pack was looking after a den of pups near a popular hiking trail, the statement said. Officials closed the den and its surrounds to the public in order to keep visitors away from the animals.

"When the pups approached the trail and were in proximity to hikers, most people quickly moved away. However, some people violated the required 100-yard distance from wolves and approached the pups when they were on or near the trail to take a photo," according to the statement.

"Other people illegally entered the closed area to get near the wolves. Having grown accustomed to hikers, the pups then came close to visitors along a road."

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A stock image shows a grey wolf, unrelated to the incident, howling at Yellowstone National Park. Getty

Over the past five months, staff tried to haze the pups to make them "more wary of people and roads." But as the pups kept encountering visitors, these attempts were never fully successful.

Doug Smith, senior wolf biologist at Yellowstone, said in a statement at the time: "Having studied these pups since birth, I believe their exposure to, and fearlessness of people and roads could have been a factor in their death.

"Visitors must protect wolves from becoming habituated to people and roads. Stay at least 100 yards from wolves, never enter a closed area, and notify a park ranger of others who are in violation of these rules."

Smith told the Wyoming News Exchange the den was 200 to 300 yards from a trail at Slough Creek, one of the most popular at Yellowstone, and near an inholding. That meant it was not possible to totally shut down the area. This was the first time the pack had created a den in this portion of the park.

Rick McIntyre a resident of Silver Gate Montana and a wolf watcher who used to work on Yellowstone's Wolf Project told Wyoming News Exchange some of the pups didn't seem to understand it was dangerous to linger on the road.

"I would compare it to young kids who don't quite understand the same issue: the danger of being on the road," he said.

Smith said he had his staff will continue trying to haze the animals.

Yellowstone Wolf Pups Killed in Hit and Run Had Become Too Used to Humans, Experts Warn | Tech & Science