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All About Wolves: Gray Wolves of Yellowstone

Wolves Return to Yellowstone

An adult gray wolf In mid-January 1995, after years of preparation and many legal battles, 14 wolves were trapped in Canada and transported to Yellowstone National Park to begin their acclimation (getting used to) period prior to release.

The purpose of this "translocation," called Operation Wolf Stock, is to restore a vital element to the Yellowstone ecosystem that has been missing for over 60 years.

In late March 1995, three packs, now known as the Crystal Bench pack, the Rose Creek pack, and the Soda Butte pack were released into the wilds of Yellowstone.

In January 1996, another 17 wolves were brought in from British Columbia and put into four acclimation pens. The four groups are the Druid Peak pack, the Chief Joseph pack, the Lone Star pack, and the Nez Percé pack. These wolves were released in April 1996 after a 10-week acclimation period.

In the fall of 1996 Deb Guernsey of the Yellowstone Wolf Project reported:

"Nineteen months into the Yellowstone wolf restoration effort has brought witness to considerable success. Thirty-one wolves currently inhabit the Yellowstone ecosystem. These wolves are grouped in five packs, in addition to some who roam the area as loners. An estimated 13 pups have also been born during this 1996 season, bringing the total count to approximately 44 wolves. But the success of the project has not been without its share of obstacles. Nine wolves have died since the project began in January 1995. Still, the wolves have persevered in spite of the deaths by reproducing in numbers that have left biologists surprised and delighted...

Examining a gray wolf pup in the Yellowstone acclimation pens "The idea of wolf restoration started as a mere thought — a dream. This dream has become a reality. After over 60 years of silence, the wolf's howl can once again be heard. Their future is bright, but much work remains to ensure a self-sustaining population of wolves. It is important to monitor wolves closely to learn about what effects they are having on the ecosystem, and also to determine when a self-sustaining population has been achieved.

"Wolves are unpredictable. In turn, wolf restoration is also unpredictable. But given all of the variables wolf restoration brings, success is still a very real possibility. The importance of restoring wolves to Yellowstone National Park may be best stated by Mike Phillips, Wolf Project Leader: 'Wolf restoration is evidence of a new way of thinking that will lead to protection of ecosystems, biological diversity, and humankind.'"

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