How Many Wolves are in Yellowstone?
About 123 wolves call the Yellowstone area home. View the latest Yellowstone Wolf Project annual report.
Seeing a wolf in Yellowstone National Park is a rare and thrilling experience because a park larger than Rhode Island is home to only about 10 dozen of them.
How many wolves are there? The Yellowstone Wolf Project publishes an annual report about the numbers and health of reintroduced wolves in the park. There were at least 123 wolves in 9 packs, including seven breeding pairs, living primarily in Yellowstone National Park during December 2020. This was the highest population since 2008 and was an increase of 31% over the previous year. Find the latest reports at www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/wolf-reports.htm.
Pack size in 2020 ranged from 2 to 35 and averaged 13 wolves. Fifty-four pups survived to year-end, including 41 in northern Yellowstone and 13 in the interior of the park.
Wolf Territories in Yellowstone
The 9 packs with some or all of their territory within Yellowstone National Park included: 8 Mile, Phamtom Lake, Carnelian Creek, Junction Butte, Cougar Creek, Wapiti Lake, Mollie’s, Bechler and Heart Lake.
Yellowstone Wolf Populations from 1995 – 2020
Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995 with 14 animals that were captured in Canada. In 2003, the wolf population peaked with and estimated 174 animals. Although the 123 wolf tally from 2020 is lower, the wolf population has made a slight increase in the last three years.
Wolf Kills in 2020
Staff detected 162 kills probably made by wolves during 2020, including 98 elk, 28 bison, 4 mule deer, 1 white-tailed deer, 3 deer of unknown species, 3 coyotes, 3 moose, 3 wolves, 1 golden eagle, 1 grouse, 2 pronghorn, and 15 unidentified animals.
Wolf Deaths in 2020
Six radio-collared wolves died in 2020 including two were killed by other wolves.
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.