How Many Wolves are in Yellowstone?

There are roughly 94 wolves grouped into 8 different packs inside Yellowstone, but the number has constantly fluctuated in recent times.
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Yellowstone Wolf Howling

Seeing a wolf in Yellowstone National Park is a rare and thrilling experience.

2020: 94 wolves running in 8 packs (January 2020 data)

2019: 61 wolves running in 8 packs (Biological count April 1, 2019)

2018: 80 wolves running in 9 packs

2015: 99 wolves running in 10 packs 

2014: 104 wolves running in 11 packs 

2013: 95 wolves in 10 packs 

Wolf Population Chart for Yellowstone National Park

Wolf Population Fluctuation

The wolf population in the Yellowstone region has constantly fluctuated in recent times largely due to food scarcity (especially fewer elk, their primary source of food), wolves killing other wolves, and human-related mortality both within the park and outside of it. As of December 2012, the population was down to 34 wolves, a significant decrease from December 2007 when the NPS recorded a total of 94 wolves living in the park. In  2020, that number was still relevant. There were 94 wolves and 8 packs, according to January 2020 statistics.

Many factors make predicting the Yellowstone wolf population difficult. Environmental conditions like severe winters, as well as human interactions like vehicle strikes and harvest outside the park, and pack immigration and emigration around park boundaries all significantly affect the final totals.

Wolf Harvesting

Each state where the wolves reside has its own management system for how and when wolves can be killed, although wolf harvesting is illegal within Yellowstone Park boundaries. Of course wolves don’t recognize park or state lines and often wander across them. This means a wolf that usually lives in Yellowstone, but crosses over into state land, can be harvested when it’s outside of the park.

In March 2013 the National Park Service recorded that 12 wolves had been legally killed outside Yellowstone’s boundaries. It’s estimated that the Yellowstone population could withstand even higher losses and still sustain itself.

Seven of the 10 wolf packs in the park lost at least one member during the 2012-13 hunting season. At least three were of high social status, either an alpha female or beta male, a fact potentially detrimental to reproduction, hunting behavior and territory defense in the short term, say National Park Service biologists. However, those biologists note that vacant spots in the wolves’ social hierarchy are quickly filled.



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.

Releasing a Sawtooth wolf pup into the Nez Perce acclimation pen, February 1997.

1995 Reintroduction of Wolves in Yellowstone

The history of wolves in Yellowstone - what has happened to the environment when they were eradicated and when they were returned Jan 12, 1995.

Yellowstone Wolf

Gray wolves create balance between predator and prey in Yellowstone

Contrary to what some wolf opponents claim, ecology expert says gray wolves in Yellowstone will not wipe out prey, such as elk and deer

Yellowstone elk.

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.


Wolves Bring Aspen Back

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


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.

Yellowstone grey wolf in the snow

More $$$ to Economy: Yellowstone Wolf Watching or Elk Hunting?

Wolves mean fewer elk and fewer elk hunters. That costs $$. But wolves also bring in the lookers who want to learn about these predators and that brings $$.

Wolf hunting patterns. Photo courtesy Public Library of Science

How Yellowstone Wolves Hunt Revealed in Research Report

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

Gray Wolf Howling

4 Yellowstone Wolf Experts Share Observations on Adaptation

A flood of science is emerging from research focused on the impact that wolves have on a host of other species, especially elk and coyotes.