Yellowstone wolves are not only legendary because of their spine-tingling howl, which they use to communicate, but also because of the continued controversy over their management and care.
- After much debate, 14 wolves were introduced into Yellowstone National Park from Canada in 1995.
- Wolf packs stick together for life and typically have one dominant male.
- While difficult to spot, the Yellowstone wolves are fascinating to observe in the wild.
Wolves are the largest members of the dog family. Adaptable gray wolves are by far the most common and were once found all over the Northern Hemisphere. In the lower 48 states, gray wolves were hunted to near extinction, though some populations survived and others have since been reintroduced.
- Wolves live and hunt in packs of around six to ten animals.
- Gray wolves rely on their stamina rather than speed for hunting. They are capable of covering several miles trotting at about 6 miles per hour, and have been known to reach speeds approaching 40 miles per hour during a chase.
- Gray wolf paws are able to tread easily on a wide variety of terrains, especially snow.
- Fur coloration in gray wolves varies greatly, running from gray to gray-brown, all the way through the canine spectrum of white, red, brown, and black.
- Hearing is the next strongest sense, after the sense of smell, for the wolf.
Best Places to View Wolves
Wolf sightings are relatively uncommon in the park. However, the best place to see them in the Park is in the Lamar Valley between Mammoth and Cooke City.
Stop by the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone for a guaranteed sighting of this amazing creature.
Reintroduction of Wolves into Yellowstone
Prior to the early 1900’s, wolves roamed most of North America. However, due to human fear of wolves, whether actually warranted or not, they were hunted nearly to extinction by the mid 1900’s.
As a result, gray wolves in the lower 48 states were placed on the endangered species list in 1973. At that same time, efforts began to try to increase the number of gray wolves living in the wild.
- 1995 – With the release of 14 wolves from Hinton, Alberta, Canada, the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park began.
- 1996 – Another 17 wolves were released into Yellowstone from the Ft. St. John area of British Columbia.
- 2003 - Gray wolves throughout the eastern and western United States were down listed from endangered to threatened status. All wildlife is protected while within the boundaries of the Park, but when wolves’ territorial travels take them outside Park boundaries, they can become threatened.
- 2005 – Estimates of wolf populations in the Greater Yellowstone area is 325. Although all wildlife is protected while within the boundaries of the Park, wolves were taken off the Endangered Species list in the surrounding states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
Wolves are unpredictable and dangerous.
- Keep a safe distance from wolves staying at least 25 yards away.
- For your safety and the wolves welfare, avoid a pack of wolves with pups.
- Remember, you are a guest in this environment. This is home to the animals that live here.