Yellowstone Gray Wolves Reproduce and Relocate - My Yellowstone Park

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.
Author:
Updated:
Original:
Wolf Pup and Mother at Den Site

After food and water, the highest biological imperative is to reproduce.

Birds do it, bees do it, and yes, people and gray wolves do it.

It is that biological imperative that has driven 66 wolves imported from Canada a decade ago, to grow to 835 individuals and 110 packs in the Northern Rocky Mountains today.

"Get a date or die trying," said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition to the three-state region surrounding Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming, Idaho and Montana), lone wolves have been spotted in Oregon, Washington, Utah and Colorado, Bangs said, though no breeding pairs or packs have moved into adjoining states. Midwestern wolves, from the Great Lakes area, have even been spotted in Kansas and Missouri.

Last June, a young female wolf was struck and killed by an unknown vehicle on Interstate 70, west of Idaho Springs, Colo. The two-year-old female wolf was last seen in January 2004 in Yellowstone. She had traveled 520 miles as the crow flies.

"It is not unusual for a lone wolf to travel 200 miles, but this female has the record," Bangs said.

He emphasized that the presence of a single lone wolf does not mean that there will automatically be more wolves-a breeding pair or a pack-any time soon.

Although there have been exceptions, by and large, young wolves must leave their home pack if they want to breed. It is risky to try to move into the territory of a strange pack, because quite often, packs kill alien wolves. As a result, new packs are most often created when a lone male and a lone female, from different packs, meet up in an area where there aren't other packs. If they like each other, they can become a breeding pair, set up housekeeping, raise their own pups and create a new pack.

Particularly for lone wolves who travel hundreds of miles, Bangs explained that there is so much open territory that the odds of a lone female and a lone male hooking up at the same time and the same place is a very rare event.

"The farther away they travel, the bigger the odds against them," Bangs said.

One reason is that lone wolves don't last very long out on their own-not compared to the greater security of a pack.

"Lone wolves have a high mortality rate," Bangs said. Of the three lone wolves spotted in Oregon, one was shipped back to the northern Rockies, one was shot and the third was run over, he said.

"New packs are set up by teenagers looking for an empty area that has a good food supply," Bangs said. Several times, a lone wolf will move into and start marking a new territory, then wait for months for true love to show up. When true love doesn't show up, the lone wolf will move on to try, try again.

Most times, new packs are formed just beyond existing pack territories, Bangs said, which means that packs spread incrementally over short distances, rather than dramatically over great distances.

Related

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.

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 Wolf Howling

How Many Wolves are in Yellowstone?

There are roughly 60 wolves grouped into 8 different packs inside Yellowstone, but the number has constantly fluctuated in recent times.

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.

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.

yellowstone-grizzly-bear-attack-010589097

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.

Wolf-Aspen_680x392

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 Wolf Howling in Winter

Gray Wolves Increase Tourism in Yellowstone National Park

Ecotourism in Yellowstone has increased since gray wolves were reintroduced to the ecosystem, boosting local economies by an estimated $5 million per year.

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 $$. But wolves also bring in the lookers who want to learn about these predators and that brings $$.