• A bull elk bugles in Yellowstone National Park


    National Park ID,MT,WY

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Wolf Management

Two wolf pups gnaw at on bison bones.

As a recovered population, wolves are now managed by the appropriate state, tribal, or federal agencies. Within Yellowstone National Park, no hunting of wolves is allowed. Outside the park, regulated hunting is allowed and managed by the respective states where wolves occur. Because wolves do not recognize political boundaries, and often move between different jurisdictions, the harvest of some wolves that live within the park for most of the year, but at times move outside the park, occurs. To learn more visit these links:


2012 Executive Summary
At the end of 2012, at least 83 wolves in 10 packs (6 breeding pairs) occupied YNP. This is roughly a 15% decline from the recent three years where the population had stabilized around 100 wolves. Breeding pairs declined slightly from eight the previous year. The wolf population has declined by about 50% since 2007 mostly because of a smaller elk population, the main food of northern range wolves. The interior wolf population has declined less, probably because they supplement their diet with bison. State managed wolf hunts contributed to the 2012 decline by removing 12 YNP wolves adjacent to the park. The severity of mange continued to decline in 2012, although some packs still showed signs of the mite. There was no evidence of distemper being a mortality factor as it was in 1999, 2005 and 2008. Pack size ranged from 4 (Blacktail and Snake River) to 11 (Lamar Canyon, Cougar, and Yellowstone Delta) and averaged 10 which is the long-term average. Seven of 11 (64%) had pups. The average number of pups/pack in early winter for packs that had pups was 2.5, which is lower than previous years' pups/pack averages of 4.1 (2011) and 4.8 (2010). A total of 20 pups in YNP survived to year end, 14 less than in 2011.

Project staff detected 255 kills (definite, probable, and possible combined) made by wolves in 2012, including 159 elk (62%), 32 bison (13%), 13 mule deer (5%), 2 whitetail deer (1%), 5 deer unknown species (2%), 4 pronghorn (2%), 2 moose (1%), 2 Canada geese (1%), 9 wolves (4%), 1 bighorn sheep (<1%), 1 otter (<1%), 1 grizzly bear cub (<1%), 1 coyote (<1%), and 23 unknown prey (9%). The composition of elk kills was 28% calves, 4% yearlings, 40% cows, 21% bulls, 4% adults of unknown sex, and 3% of unknown sex and age. Bison kills included 17 calves, 1 yearling, 8 cows, 1 bull, 2 adults of unknown sex, and 3 of unknown sex and age.

Other research included population genetics, population regulation, disease, hunting behavior, spatial analyses of territory use, wolf pack leadership, multi-carnivore-scavenger interactions, breeding behavior, dispersal, and observations of wolf, grizzly bear and bison interactions in Pelican Valley.

19 wolves were captured and collared in 9 packs. At year's end 21% of the wolf population was collared.

Wolf management activities included den site closures and several hazing events. Staff continued to manage wolf viewing areas in Slough Creek and Lamar Valley and other hot spots where wolves were frequently sighted leading to a minimum estimate of 27,500 people observing wolves and 17,978 visitor contacts by Wolf Project staff. Wolf Project public outreach included 280 talks and 89 interviews.

Yellowstone Wolf Population Estimate as of 12/12/2013 Adults Pups Total
Northern Range
8 Mile 9 9 18
Blacktail 3 3
Junction Butte 5 4 9
889F/755M group 2 2
Lamar Canyon 2 2
Northern Range Totals 21 13 34
Non-Northern Range
Bechler (no collars) 4 4 8
Canyon 5 3 8
Cougar Creek 7 6 13
Mollie's 2 5 7
Snake River (no collars) 4 2 6
Yellowstone Delta 8 5 13
Non-Northern Range Totals 30 25 55
YNP Total 51 38 89


Wolf Population Estimate by Recovery Area as of 2012 (2013 official counts will become available in early 2014)

  • Northwestern MT—460
  • GYA—463
  • Central Idaho Recovery Area—662

Total (93 breeding pairs)—1585


Wolf Population Estimate by State (as of 2012)

  • Idaho—683
  • Wyoming—277
  • Montana—625
  • Oregon—46
  • Washington—43
  • Utah—0

Total (103 breeding pairs)—1674

Did You Know?

Fire in Yellowstone Pineland in 1988

The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.