Two weeks ago, wolves killed a domestic dog at night outside of a home in Cooke City, outside of Yellowstone National Park, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Wolves have also been seen repeatedly on streets in Cooke City, including Main Street, side streets, and the Bannock Trail.
The sightings in town that the department is aware of have been at night, but at this point, officials have no reports of wolves in the area approaching humans. Fish, Wildlife and Parks is monitoring the situation.
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 the department.
Officials said 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.
“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, Fish, Wildlife and Parks 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.”
The department said the wolves’ behavior is concerning. Their presence among buildings in Cooke City increases their likelihood of injuring or killing another pet, and exposure to human development and surroundings leaves them vulnerable to escalating habituation, such as getting fed or a food reward.
To date, the state agency has no evidence of feeding or baiting wolves in the area. Feeding wildlife is illegal, and in the case of predators, it can be dangerous. All pet food should be kept indoors.