The killing of the "most famous wolf in the world" at Yellowstone National Park is coinciding with wildlife officials discussing potential new restrictions for hunting near the park.
A collared female alpha wolf known as 832F to researchers and '06 -- for the year she was born -- to fans, was legally killed Thursday in Wyoming outside the park's protected area. She was part of the renowned Lamar Canyon pack.
"She was without a doubt the most famous wolf in the world, hands down," Kim Bean, vice president of Wolves of the Rockies, told ABCNews.com. "I watched her since her birth, basically. She was an amazing wolf to watch. She was definitely the most researched in the park. ... She's gone."
Wolves, which were listed as endangered species in 1973, were reintroduced into the northern Rocky Mountains in the 1990s, setting off a years-long battle between Wyoming, Idaho and Montana on one side and the federal government and environmental groups on the other about how to manage the population.
As the wolf was removed from the endangered species list in each state, the federal government has turned over control to the local authorities.
In Montana and Idaho, the gray wolf was removed from the federal endangered list in May 2011, and it lost its protected status in Wyoming on Oct. 1.
By the end of 2011, the wolf population in the region had risen to an estimated 1,774, and the states now say they need to trim the packs because of attacks on livestock and the decline in elk populations.
Mike Jimenez, the wolf management and science coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told ABCNews.com that wolf recovery has been "very successful.
"Public hunting is by no means a threat to wolves," he said. "It's not a threat to the population or to successful recovery, but that doesn't by any means diminish the passion and feelings people have about individual wolves."
"Wolves evolve strong, passionate feeling for people and this creates management problems," he said. "The issue is between states and national parks. States are doing a very good job managing wolves. They're caught in a very tough balancing act."
Though wolf trapping season does not kick off in Montana until Dec. 15, hunting season is already open in bordering Wyoming and Idaho.
"[The wolves] don't recognize these arbitrary political boundaries that we humans implement so there are certain packs that mainly stay in the park, while others come out of the park," Bonnie Rice, a senior representative for the Sierra Club's Greater Yellowstone Campaign, told ABCNews.com. "The minute they step over that park boundary, they're fair game."
Of the 88 wolves in the park, eight have been killed in the past few weeks, according to Rice.
She said that the Sierra Club is not anti-hunting, but they are not satisfied with Wyoming's current regulations.
Since gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List and classified as predators in Wyoming, hunters there have been allowed to shoot the animals on sight at any time, for any reason, in about 85 percent of the state.
In parts of the state where hunters do not have the right to kill wolves on sight, wolves are designated "trophy game" and subject to hunting during seasons regulated by the state.
"Our primary goal, and that of the states, is to ensure that gray wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountains remain healthy, giving future generations of Americans the chance to hear its howl echo across the area," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in a prepared statement, at the time of the decision.
Officials are meeting on Montana today to discuss what has happened so far in the season and to assess whether regulation changes are necessary.
"We don't want to close any area off if we don't have to. But if we keep losing collared wolves ... management becomes difficult," Montana wildlife commissioner Shane Colton told The Associated Press. "We want to do this first trapping seaons right."
"We're not looking for a buffer. We're looking for quotas," Bean said. "We want to find balance."
Despite the loss of a beloved alpha wolf, advocates are optimistic about the future of the pack.
"She leave a good line of pups that she taught well," Bean said. "Her legacy will go on. We will have great wolves. We've had great wolves before her and we'll have great wolves that will follow her."
ABC News' Russell Goldman contributed to this report.Also Read