Yellowstone Wolves

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Characteristics of the Grey Wolves

Yellowstone is home to the grey (or gray) wolf, a large dog-sized canine with a large head, long legs, and, in the winter, bushy gray fur (although the color can vary from white to brown). They have been compared to a German Shepherd in size and appearance.

The gray wolf is a pack animal that lives with a close-knit crew of 4-7 wolves. In Yellowstone there are several well-known packs including the Lamar Canyon Pack and the Druid Peak Pack named after the portion of the park they inhabit. All together there are approximately 75 different packs in the greater Yellowstone region.

Wolves are scavengers and primarily feast on ungulates, large-hoofed mammals, such as deer and elk in the park.

Yellowstone Wolf Reintroduction and Management

The wolves of Yellowstone have an interesting history. By the end of the 1920s almost all of the United States’ wolves were killed off, predominantly by ranchers protecting their livestock. With the population decimated, Yellowstone National Park began a reintroduction of the grey wolf in 1995. It is one of the few protected havens for wolves in the U.S.

As of December 2014, the park’s wolf population was at 104 wolves in 11 packs. While wolves are protected within the park’s boundaries, outside the park different states have varying laws regarding wolf management. The availability of food within the park also leads to fluctuation in the wolves’ population. Wild wolves have a lifespan of 7-8 years.


Read More About Wolves in Yellowstone in the Articles Below

Doug Smith carrying a wolf in the Rose Creek Pen, February 1997. Photo NPS Jim Peaco

20 Years of Wolves Back in Yellowstone

The history of wolves in Yellowstone – what has happened to the environment when they were eradicated and when they were brought back Jan 12, 1995. Read More...

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2013 Yellowstone Wolf Report Download

Sept 22, 2014: How many wolves were in Yellowstone in 2013, what were their wolf pack territories, and what were their kills. Read More...

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Gray wolves create balance between predator and prey in Yellowstone National Park

Contrary to what some wolf opponents claim, ecology expert says gray wolves in Yellowstone National Park and surrounding regions will not wipe out prey, such as elk and deer Read More...

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Gray Wolves Impact Elk inside Yellowstone

How wolves in Yellowstone have impacted their environment is an evolving story. What’s happened regarding ungulate populations, hunter harvest, domestic livestock, and land use. Read More...

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Gray Wolves Increase Tourism in Yellowstone National Park

Jim Halfpenny reports that ecotourism in Yellowstone National Park has increased since gray wolves were reintroduced to the ecosystem, boosting local economies by an estimated $5 million per year. Read More...

West Yellowstone Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Photo by John Williams.

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

Complete your vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks by visiting the not-for-profit Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. Observe live bears and wolves in naturalistic habitats. Read More...

Bison herd with two calves. Photo by Jerry Gates

How close can I get to wild animals in Yellowstone?

Stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from other large mammals like bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes. Read More...

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How Many Wolves are in Yellowstone?

There are roughly 104 wolves grouped into 11 different packs inside Yellowstone, but the number has constantly fluctuated in recent times. Read More...

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How Much Does a Wolf Cost?

Wolves mean fewer elk and fewer elk hunters. That costs local businesses money. But wolves also bring in the lookers who want to learn about these predators and that brings money in. Are wolves an asset or a liability? This article looks at the economics of wolves. Read More...

Grey Wolf in Yellowstone in Spring

Killing Wolves Backfires

A recent study out of the scientific journal reports that killing a wolf that preys on sheep or cattle is not be the best strategy to protect the livestock. Read More...

Wolf hunting patterns. Photo courtesy Public Library of Science

New Research on How Wolves Hunt

Yellowstone wolves pick their prey depending on wolf pack size. Small packs attack elk. Larger packs attack bison. Read More...

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Reintroduction of Wolves in Yellowstone vs. Midwest

It is as predictable as sunrise in the morning. Almost every time federal wolf recovery coordinator Ed Bangs goes to a meeting about wolves in the Northern Rockies… Read More...

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Wolf Pup Development

Birth: Born approximately one pound, blind, deaf, darkly furred, small ears, rounded heads, and little if any sense of smell. Read More...

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Wolf Reintroduction Changes Ecosystem

Yellowstone wolves are causing an avalanche of ecological change, including helping increase beaver populations and help bring back aspen, and vegetation. Read More...

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Wolves Bring Aspen Back

Loss of Aspens in Yellowstone National Park traced to Elk grazing before wolf reintroduction. Now wolves help control Elk population. Read More...

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Wolves Give Coyotes a Run for Their Money

The Yellowstone wolf is considered a keystone species affecting both plant and animal life. Wolves change the ecosystem for the better. Read More...

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Yellowstone Animals, Plants Adapt to the Presence of Wolves

A flood of science is emerging from research focused on the impact that wolves have on a host of other species. Read More...

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Yellowstone Elk Decline in 2004, But are Wolves to Blame?

Yellowstone elk populations have dramatically risen and fallen in recent decades, but researchers are arguing over the relative impact of wolf predation on elk populations. Read More...

Wolf Pup and Mother at Den Site

Yellowstone Gray Wolves Reproduce and Relocate

Yellowstone wolves have had no problems hooking up with mates, forming packs and having pups. The original 65 wolves that were introduced to Yellowstone and Central Idaho have grown to 835 wolves. Read More...

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Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Enjoying Food Killed by Wolves

With the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, the park’s bear population has gained an unexpected ally in the hunt for food. Read More...

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Yellowstone Grizzly Bears vs. Wolves

For decades, the sole rulers of Yellowstone were grizzly bears. They are now re-learning how to cope with the rise of an equal competitor – the reintroduced gray wolf. Read More...

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Yellowstone is Wolf Country Once Again

Since Yellowstone’s 1995 wolf reintroduction program, 306 wolves inhabit the ecosystem, creating a good balance between predators and prey. Read More...

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Yellowstone Wolf Novel, “Ordinary Wolves”

A phenomenal first novel by Seth Kantner. Since reading the book, I’ve seriously pondered selling our home, cars and camper to head for the hills and live off the land, even if it means eating an occasional porcupine, and not seeing people for months at a time. Read More...

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Yellowstone Wolves in Books

A selection of books on Wolves in Yellowstone Read More...