Famous she-wolf shot outside Yellowstone National Park

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A wild she-wolf known as ‘Spitfire’ — or to conservationists and wolf watches, as 926F — has been shot and killed just outside the protected precinct of Yellowstone National Park in Montana.

Yellowstone’s beloved Spitfire, considered a queen of wolves, and a member of the Lamar Canyon pack in the national park’s northeast region, was killed by a trophy hunter after wandering outside the national park last weekend.

The seven-year-old wild wolf was legally killed, according to the New York Times.

“The shooting occurred near cabins and was within hunting laws; Montana has permitted hunting of wolves since 2011, and a few hundred are killed each year,” reported the Times.

“A game warden checked with the hunter and everything about this harvest was legal,” Abby Nelson, a wolf management specialist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, told the paper.

However, the shooting has sparked outrage among animals lovers and conservationists, many calling for local hunting laws to be examined.

Officials said Spitfire was legally killed about 8km outside of Yellowstone’s invisible boundary, inspiring calls for a hunting-free buffer zone to be established around the park.

Wild wolves like to roam, and Spitfire died the same way as her famous mother, the alpha female 832F, did in 2012.

Spitfire, dubbed the Queen of the Lamar Valley by wolf enthusiasts, was the daughter of the alpha female wolf and leader of the Lamar Canyon pack (better known as 06) who inspired the book American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West.

A Facebook page for wolf lovers named for the celebrity wolf, The 06 Legacy, paid tribute to Spitfire.

Karol Miller, who founded the group, wrote: “It’s so difficult to write this. We are passing along the devastating news that our beloved 926F of the Lamar Canyon Pack was killed in the Montana trophy hunt.”

“And now it took just one bullet and 926F is gone. Just like her mother 06 and her uncle 754M before her. With current wolf management practices, the tragedy just doesn’t end.”

Miller’s post added: “The 06 Legacy is committed to protecting wolves and we are going to fight even harder for 06, 926F, 754M and all the other wolves whose lives are taken for granted and are killed for nothing more than sport.

“We leave you tonight with hearts full of sadness. Rest In Peace our beautiful Queen.”

Conservation groups, animal lovers and photographers are in mourning over the death of Spitfire.

But the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks confirmed to the Times that Spitfire’s killing was legal in the state, which has permitted the hunting of wolves since 2011.

Montana legislators have passed laws forbidding the creation of a buffer zone. However, there is a hunting limit of two wolves in each of the two districts near Yellowstone’s northern boundary.

But with wolf hunting licenses costing a paltry $US19 ($A26) for residents and $US50 ($A68) for nonresidents in Montana, it’s little wonder that the number of wild wolves is declining.

In 2015 the number of wild wolves estimated to be living in Yellowstone was around 528. Just one year later park officials said the number had dropped to around 108.



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