How to find Wolves in Yellowstone

Yellowstone wolf running in snow in Crystal Creek pen; January 1996; Accession No. 15606 Courtesy US National Park Service
Yellowstone wolf running in snow in Crystal Creek pen; January 1996; Accession No. 15606
Courtesy US National Park Service
Outlying wolves of the Northern Rocky Mountain population occasionally wander into Utah, but seeing one is rare. If you want to increase your chances of viewing one of these majestic beasts, the best place to go is the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park.How to find Wolves in Yellowstone

Wolf standing in water, in Grand Teton National Park, close to Yellowstone. Courtesy US National Park Service.
Wolf standing in water,
in Grand Teton National Park,
close to Yellowstone.
Courtesy US National Park Service.

For over six decades, wolves were missing from Yellowstone’s ecosystem. But on a cold January day in 1995, eight gray wolves from Canada were released in the park in an effort to restore the predator to this native habitat.

Before their release, wolves were the only indigenous mammal missing from the Park. The last pack of wolves were killed in the 1920s.

The Park is now one of the few ecosystems in the temperate world to have the same mammals wandering around, as it had hundreds of years ago.

A mother wolf nursing her pups outside their den. 7-16-2010 Courtesy US National Park Service
A mother wolf nursing her pups outside their den. 7-16-2010
Courtesy US National Park Service

Today, approximately 88 wolves live in Yellowstone.

Finding one of these gray wolves is challenging, but if a person knows where to look, with the right equipment, the chances increase considerably.

Nathan Varley, a naturalist guide with Yellowstone Wolf Tracker says, “Wolves are usually spotted from long distances, using high quality optics. Recently, I guided a group that had their first wolf sighting over two miles away. We patiently watched the pack of 11 wolves move until they were less than a mile away.”

Leopold wolf following grizzly bear Courtesy US National Park Service, Doug Smith Photographer, April 2005
Leopold wolf following grizzly bear
Courtesy US National Park Service,
Doug Smith Photographer, April 2005

“The pack encountered a bison herd and attempted to single out a calf. The herd rallied, surrounding the calf so the wolves couldn’t get to it. Snow began to fall so we lost sight of the hunt, but learned later the pack was unsuccessful. We found them the next day, many miles away.”

Before arriving in Yellowstone, visitors may want to learn how to distinguish coyotes from wolves.

Two wolf pups gnaw on bison bones Courtesy US National Park Service
Two wolf pups gnaw on bison bones
Courtesy US National Park Service

Rick McIntire, who researched Yellowstone wolves with the U.S. Park Service since 1995, explains, “In a given wolf pack territory which may be 300 square miles, there could be 10 coyote packs. So the chances of visitors seeing coyotes before wolves is high.

McIntire gives the following tips for identifying coyotes and wolves:

“It may be hard to tell smaller wolves from bigger coyotes. One thing to look for is coyotes have big ears and narrow jawlines like a fox, whereas wolves have ears that are proportional to the size of their heads, and strong stout jaws.

Their vocalizations are also different. Wolves have a deep howl, while coyote’s howl has a high pitched tone.

The wolves color may also help. Roughly half of Yellowstone wolves are black and since coyotes are never that dark, if you see a group of canines and one of them is black you have found a wolf pack.

The best place to begin the search is the northeast corner of the park at Lamar Valley – the “Serengeti” of the Yellowstone. Many prey gather here, which attract the large predators like bears and wolves.

Once you arrive, find an appropriate place to park, set up your viewing equipment close to your car, then settle down for a relaxing couple hours of observation. Patience often pays off, so be alert.

Daniel MacNulty, associate professor in the Quinney College of Natural Resource at USU, who has been studying the Yellowstone wolves for the past two decades said, “Watch for prey standing alert looking at something, follow their gaze, they may point you directly to a wolf pack.”

So if you’re ready to find one of these majestic beasts, gather some family or friends, your high quality optics – and head north. The northern road in Yellowstone which passes Lamar Valley is open all year long, so you won’t have to wait till spring.

This is Shauna Leavitt and I’m Wild About Utah.

How to find Wolves in Yellowstone-Credits:

Images: Courtesy US National Park Service:

Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org
Text: Shauna Leavitt, Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University

How to find Wolves in Yellowstone-Additional Reading

Wildlife Viewing, Yellowstone National Park, US National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/viewanim.htm

Yellowstone National Park, US National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/yell/index.htm

Inside Yellowstone Videos – Lamar Valley and Wolves, Yellowstone National Park, US National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/0031lamarvalley-iy.htm

Wolves, Yellowstone National Park, US National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/nature/wolves.htm

Maps, Yellowstone National Park, US National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/maps.htm

Blakeslee, Nate, American Wolf: A True Story of Survival and Obsession in the West, Crown; First Edition edition (October 17, 2017), https://www.amazon.com/American-Wolf-Story-Survival-Obsession/dp/1101902787

Lamplugh, Rick, Deep into Yellowstone: A Year’s Immersion in Grandeur and Controversy, https://www.amazon.com/Deep-into-Yellowstone-Immersion-Controversy/dp/1546448322

Allphin, Don, Not crying wolf: There really are wolves in Utah, Herald Extra, Logan, Jan 9, 2015, https://www.heraldextra.com/print-specific/columnists/not-crying-wolf-there-really-are-wolves-in-utah/article_4c19beea-06c2-59d4-b963-49fe2fd48136.html

Wolves in Utah, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, https://wildlife.utah.gov/wolf/

Utah Wolves, Sierra Club Utah Chapter, https://utah.sierraclub.org/content/utah-wolves

Utah Wolves, The Wildlife News, http://www.thewildlifenews.com/category/wolves/utah-wolves/
See also:
http://www.thewildlifenews.com/about/
How to find Wolves in Yellowstone

Get Involved With Plans To Manage Yellowstone National Park’s Bison

Yellowstone Bison, Male
Photo Courtesy National Park Service, Neal Herbert, Photographer

Talk about iconic species at Yellowstone National Park and you’ll most likely start with bison. So tightly are these animals tied to the national parks that they’re even on the Interior Department’s emblem.

But Yellowstone bison also are controversial. Many of these shaggy animals head out of the park in winter and roam into Montana. That can be a problem, as some in Montana’s livestock industry fear bison will transmit brucellosis — a disease that can cause cows to abort their fetuses — to their herds.

Since 2000, the Interagency Bison Management Plan has governed how the park’s bison will be managed in and out of the park. Now state and federal agencies with connections to Yellowstone are working to craft a new approach.

Everything likely will be on the table as that effort moves forward, including the park’s work to maintain its bison population at a specific number.

The National Parks Conservation Association along with other regional and national organizations earlier this spring sent a letter to Montana Governor Steve Bullock and Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk outlining important areas of consideration for the development of the new plan.

Those groups hope a solution can be found to killing hundreds of bison that leave the park during the winter months.

Caroline Byrd is executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. She says the effort to craft a new management plan “offers the opportunity to improve, update and shift the management of Yellowstone bison and reduce the annual cycle of controversy and conflict that has characterized the public debate regarding bison management for too long.”

A new management plan, she says, should be “rooted in science, reflect the changes that have occurred in the past decade, incorporate our knowledge and experience managing bison, and chart a new course for bison conservation and management that is good for bison, good for Yellowstone National Park, good for the State of Montana…”

You can lend your thoughts to the process, too, as a public comment period on aspects that should be covered in an environmental impact statement are being accepted into June.

To comment, visit Yellowstone National Park’s website (www.nps.gov/yell) click on the “Get Involved” link in the left hand column, and then on the “Planning” link.

For Wild About Utah, this is Jameson Clifton with National Parks Traveler

Yellowstone Bison
Photo Courtesy National Park Service, Neal Herbert, Photographer

Credits:
Image: Courtesy US National Parks Service, Neal Herbert, Photographer
Text:     Jameson Clifton, NationalParksTraveler.com.


Additional Reading:

Bison Gores, Tosses Australian Visitor Several Times At Yellowstone National Park, NationalParksTraveler.com, National Parks Traveler Staff,
Yellowstone bison might look tame as cattle, but an Australian man discovered they are not/NPT file photo A bison whose space was invaded by Yellowstone National Park visitors Tuesday … not released. This is the second bison goring incident this year in Yellowstone. Last month a 16-year-old …

Teenager Posing For Picture Gored By Bison At Yellowstone National Park, NationalParksTraveler.com, National Parks Traveler Staff,
Yellowstone bison might look tame, but they can quickly charge you/Kurt Repanshek A 16-year-old exchange student was recovering Saturday from being gored by a bison at Yellowstone National … A 16-year-old exchange student was recovering Saturday from being gored by a bison at Yellowstone National Park. …

Agencies Working To Replace Interagency Bison Management Plan For Yellowstone National Park, NationalParksTraveler.com, National Parks Traveler Staff,
public ideas on how best to manage bison that leave Yellowstone National Park , the first step … the livestock industry in Montana largely opposes Yellowstone bison leaving the park and heading into lower … the park’s work to maintain its bison population at a specific number. A year ago Yellowstone spokesman Al …

Bison Removal In Yellowstone National Park Draws Protests, NationalParksTraveler.com, National Parks Traveler Staff,
Plans by Yellowstone National Park officials to remove roughly 1,000 bison from … and slaughter program, implemented by the National Park Service, is meant to keep the Yellowstone bison … support relocating Yellowstone bison to start herds elsewhere in their state. “(Montana) Governor …