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18 Interesting Facts About Yellowstone Wolves

by Roger Turner

What are the three most controversial topics in Yellowstone? Politics, religion and wolves! Bring up the subject of wolves with ten locals and your likely to get 10 different views. Anywhere from "It's the best thing to happen to the area" to "Let them cause havoc somewhere else."

Since this isn't a political forum, I will not take sides, at least publicly, on the wolf controversy. But I will provide information on wolves.

First, let me say that I think that the wolf is a beautiful animal. But it is like all the other animals in the park; it is wild. As you look for wolves to view, you may be shocked to see wolves attack and kill another animal. In 1998, wolves in the Slough Creek area attacked a coyote that had wandered into their territory. It was viewed by many tourists and was a shock to some of them. Death is a part of nature, so if you think something like that would shock you, or your children, don't go looking for it. On the other hand, I think it is a great opportunity to teach your children about nature, the food chain and the natural order of things.

Shortly after Yellowstone Park was established, predator control was practiced. In other words, predators such as wolves were killed. Between 1914 and 1926 over 136 wolves were killed. After that, wolf packs were rarely seen. By 1970, there was no evidence of a wolves in Yellowstone. The wolf is presently listed as "endangered" except in Minnesota where it is listed as "threatened."

In 1987, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone. In 1991, Congress provided funds to restore wolves to Yellowstone and central Idaho. In 1995, wolves were reintroduced into the Lamar Valley, and later into other areas of Yellowstone.

Today, if you want to view wolves, the Lamar Valley is where you will most like see them, unless you choose to go into the backcountry.

The biggest concentrations are in Yellowstone, central Idaho and northwestern Montana.

Wolf facts

  • Average length; females- 4.5 to 6 feet (tip of nose to tip of tail); males- 5 to 6.5 feet.
  • Average height; 26 to 32 inches (at the shoulder).
  • Average weight; females- 60 to 80 pounds; males- 70 to 110 pounds.
  • Average foot size; 4 inches wide by 5 inches long.
  • Length of Life; up to 13 years in wild (usually 6 to 8 years); up to 16 years in captivity
  • Fur color; gray, but can also be black or white.
  • Number of teeth; 42 teeth.
  • Breeding season; February to March.
  • Gestation period; 63 days.
  • Weight at birth; 1 pound.
  • Litter size; 4 to 6 pups.
  • Pack size; 2 to 30 or more.
  • Average pack size; 6 to 8.
  • Pack territory size; 25 to 150 square miles in Minnesota; 300 to 1,000 in Alaska and Canada.
  • Average travel speed; 5 miles per hour.
  • Sprinting speed; 25 to 35 miles per hour for short distances.
  • Common food; deer, moose, caribou, elk, bison, musk-oxen and beaver.
  • Main threats to survival; loss of habitat due to destruction, development and encroachment by humans; persecution by humans.

You can go to this Fish and Wildlife Service page to answer your FAQ's about Gray Wolves.

In the 2006 report on Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains it was stated that livestock depredations that year included 184 cattle, 247 sheep, 8 dogs, 1 horse and 2 llamas as killed by wolves. As a result, 142 wolves were lethally removed (abour 12% of the population). There are about 1,300 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.

You can also visit theirGray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains to see weekly reports and other information on the Gray Wolf.

About the author: Roger Turner is the webmaster form www.yellowstone-area-guide.com. He also teaches high school band. He loves the outdoors including camping, skiing, hiking, rafting and sight seeing. The Yellowstone area is one of his favorite places to visit.

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