The legacy of wolves in Yellowstone
Although packs of the Gray Wolf, Canis lupus (Canidae), once roamed from the Arctic tundra to Mexico, loss of habitat and extermination programs led to their demise throughout most of their range by early in the 1900s.
In the first years after restoration began in Yellowstone in 1995, the wolf population grew rapidly as the newly formed packs spread out to establish territories with sufficient prey, primarily elk. The wolves have expanded their population and range, and now are found throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The park’s wolf population has dropped substantially since 2007, when the count was 171. Most of the decrease has been in packs on the northern range, where it has been attributed primarily to the decline in the elk population there. Disease, primarily distemper and possibly mange, have also been factors in the population decline.
The gray wolf was removed from the endangered species list in 2011 in Idaho and Montana. Wolves are now delisted throughout the northern US Rocky Mountains, including Wyoming. For the first time since restoration, wolves are hunted in each state surrounding Yellowstone.
The wolf pictured is a daughter of Yellowstone’s most famous wolf (IMO) aka Wolf 302.
Photo credit: ©Doug Dance | Locality: Near Phantom Lake, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, US (2012)