Wolves in Yellowstone National Park


In a historically noteworthy and controversial move, Canadian gray wolves (Canis lupus) were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 after a park absence of more than sixty years. Great care was taken to keep the wolves in established packs so as to ensure longevity of the new park species.

After temporarily being radio-collared and kept in securely guarded pens that limited human contact, the wolves were released into the wilds of Yellowstone to fend for themselves. Armed with extraordinary predatory skills and a social bond tying wolf packs together, the wolves adjusted to their new surroundings remarkably well. As the only Yellowstone species to live in families, the wolves survive in packs that include an alpha male, alpha female, their offspring, and a few subordinate wolves. Each wolf is crucial in maintaining the pack’s survival. The wolves work together to hunt down elk, deer, and antelope, using unique facial expressions, urination scent-marking, and body language to indicate their feelings to one another. The distinctive wolf howl is used to draw pack members back together again as well as warn off lurking wolves from different packs.

Reproducing much quicker than scientists predicted, Yellowstone’s wolves made a quick recovery. Approximately 100 wolves now populate the park, and the states neighboring Yellowstone’s boundaries are in the process of developing wolf management plans to ensure the interests of the wolf as well as the ranchers and animals they threaten. Park visitors may occasionally glimpse wolves in the Lamar Valley, although most tend to avoid human contact. Since the wolves’ 1996 reintroduction, more than 20,000 sightings have been reported. 

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