On the December 21 winter solstice —the darkest day of the year—Montana wildlife officials opened additional areas to wolf trapping across the state, including in wilderness areas and public lands bordering Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
This decision is sickening and yet it doesn’t even begin to tell the whole horrific situation that imperiled wolves and grizzly bears have faced all year in Montana. And the stakes are only getting more dangerous as a long, cold winter descends.
This year’s start of the wolf trapping season was delayed in parts of western Montana to give threatened grizzly bears more time to safely reach their dens. Despite this, threatened species like grizzlies were not spared from the brutality of indiscriminate trapping.
Earlier this fall, a family of grizzly bears living near Glacier National Park stumbled upon two traps—baited with a dead fox—that a trapper set to kill coyotes. The traps snapped shut, gripping tightly around the feet of two bears. Wildlife managers were able to dart and release one bear, but it’s believed the other trap may still be on the other grizzly bear’s foot. Trapping is a disgusting practice—using a dead fox to bait a trap just makes it more atrocious.
Grizzly bears and wolves need our help, otherwise more and more will suffer this same fate.
By New Year’s Eve, wolf trapping will be opened state-wide to satisfy the bloodlust of Montana’s Republican governor and state legislators, who are intent on brutally slaughtering up to 450 wolves—40 percent of the wolf population in the state—in just six months. Forty percent!
Thankfully, most grizzly bears should be denned up by then. Grizzly Bear 399—the world’s most famous mama bear, pictured above—recently made it safely into her Greater Yellowstone den with her four cubs. Sadly, the safety of a den is no refuge for some of Yellowstone’s most famous wolves and wolf packs, as 15 Yellowstone wolves have already been slaughtered this year, including seven from the Junction Butte pack, the most watched wolf pack in the park.
Winter is a time for nesting, denning, and reflecting. The winter solstice marks the shortest day of the year, but it also marks a return of the light.
At WildEarth Guardians, we want to end the year focusing on gratitude and all the successes we accomplished together this year for wildlife and wild places. But we also can’t shy away from telling the dark stories that continue happening. We are standing up against these injustices and for the beauty and wildness that still remains.
Above all, nature is cyclical and we know that our fight to protect the natural world will contain both moments of despair and darkness and moments of exhilaration and exuberance. Just as the winter descends, spring will also rise.
In a few months, Grizzly Bear 399 and her four cubs will emerge from their den. Let’s do everything in our power to ensure that the world they walk out into is one that values coexistence and reveres the cycle of life.