Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

The Wolves of Yellowstone

Following an absence of more than 70 years, wolves once again run beneath the ample skies of Yellowstone National Park. 

Northern Rocky Mountain wolves, a subspecies of the gray wolf (Canis lupus), were native to Yellowstone when the park was established in 1872. Predator control was practiced in the park in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Between 1914 and 1926, at least 136 wolves were killed in the park, and by the 1940s, wolf packs were rarely reported. By the 1970s, scientists found no evidence of a wolf population in Yellowstone.

In the mid-1990s, a total of 31 gray wolves were released in Yellowstone National Park as part of the wolf restoration plan. Today, a little less than 100 wolves live within the confines of the park.

Some experts credit the wolves with helping to restore natural balance in the park. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, wolves play an important role as predators in the ecosystems they inhabit. They feed primarily on large mammals, such as deer and elk, removing sick and injured animals from the populations. Wolves are highly social, living in packs and hunting and raising young cooperatively.

Studies at Yellowstone National Park indicate that wolves support a wide variety of other animals. Ravens, foxes, wolverines, coyotes, bald eagles, and even bears feed on the carcasses of animals killed by wolves. Antelope are swift, elk are alert, and mountain goats are adept at climbing steep cliffs, in part because of the long-term effects of wolf predation. Wolves also help maintain the balance between these hoofed animals and their food supply, making room for plant-eaters such as beavers and small rodents. 

One of the best places in the park to view the wolves of Yellowstone is the Lamar Valley, especially at dusk and dawn. Please always remember to keep a safe distance from wolves and all other animals in the park.

The Yellowstone National Park Foundation, a non-profit park partner, has been instrumental in monitoring and staffing the wolf reintroduction project. Each year they raise hundreds of thousands of dollars through the Yellowstone Wolf Project.

During the summer, rangers lead walks and talks about wolves. Ask at visitor centers for locations and times.

In the winter, the park lodging concessioner, Xanterra, offers wolf tours and packages. For more information, call (307) 344-5566 or visit yellowstonenationalparklodges.com.

Image source: nps.gov.

Comments

We will be in the park June 19- June 24 and would really like to see some wolves. When and where should we go to have the best opportunity to see wolves? Thanks!!

I appreciate the answers on how to see wolves.  But, those given are only marginally successful.   All the tours take off too late.   And, the tours I've seen spend minimal time watching the wolves.  You can sign up for  one of the Yellowstone Association weekends and get a good introduction.  The winter weekends are really nice.

First, get ready and on the road before daylight.  Wolf activity drops off dramatically after about 7:30AM.  If you see wolves mid day, it is very unusual, or they are a long way off.  We are usually out with the spotting scope by 5:00AM....that's when we have best success.  (virtually 100% in the past year.)

The most frequent recent sightings are in Lamar, though there is a pack that is hanging out in the black tail plateau area which have been very visible at times.   You will  want to concentrate in the area between wrecker pull out and soda butte.  The Druid pack den is in the Soda Butte area.  Slough creek area is also generally a place to look for wolves though the Slough creek pack broke up a year ago.  There is a single black and some others that frequent the area.

Look for people with spotting scopes lined up along the road or up on a hill with spotting scopes all pointed in the same direction.  If people are looking all directions, there's probably not much going on.

Find Rick McIntyre.  He drives a Yellow Xterra and is a 365 day a year wolfer.  If he is there, you will see wolves....nearly guaranteed.

www.yellowstone.net has good resources and trip information in the forums. 

Here's a link with photos of a wolf kill we watched a couple weeks ago.  http://brianbastinelliphotography.blogspot.com/

Enjoy.

 

Hi jsparks,

Your best opportunity to see wolves in the summer will be in the northern parts of the park, especially the Lamar Valley.

We recommend ranger-led interpretive walks that explain the wolf reintroduction program and may facilitate sightings. Check at visitor centers for locations and times.

You can also sign up for the Lamar Valley Wildlife Excursion, operated by Xanterra Parks and Resorts or participate in a field seminar led by the knowledgeable folks at the Yellowstone Association.

Before your trip, download the wolf fact sheet and the wildlife-watching guide and map from the National Park Service to help guide your exploration.

We hope you get a glimpse of these beautiful creatures. But remember to stay safe and be aware of how your actions can affect the animals. Always stay at least 100 yards away from wolves and other large mammals, and remember never to feed them!

Good luck! Please stop back and let us know about your trip.