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Field Journal: Gray Wolves of Yellowstone


Yellow Mike Thursday, October 10, 1996

Where the wolves are
Reported by Mike Phillips

The wolves released on Monday, October 7, 1996, are five of the 53 wolves that currently live in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Of the 53, only 12 wolves are in pens at the moment.

Five of the packs stay in the north and northwest part of the park. They are the Crystal Creek, Rose Creek, Leopold, Druid Peak, and Chief Joseph packs. These packs range from 2 to 11 wolves, which hunt and travel together.

The newest wolf packs have been introduced in the southern part of Yellowstone. One new pack is a group of three wolves. We saw the pack form this summer when a free-ranging female wolf was seen hanging around two male wolves in a pen. We released the males wolves (one adult, one pup) from the pen on October 4. We're hopeful that this new pack — which doesn't have a name yet — will have pups in the spring. In the past, we've seen that packs that form in captivity continue to stay together after they are released.

The Soda Butte pack, which was released on Monday, October 7, will probably stay in the southeastern part of Yellowstone also. Some packs travel more than others. There are currently two lone wolves in the park, one male and one female, and they cover the most territory. But packs tend to stay in one area, especially if there are pups in a den that need to be fed.

During his telemetry flights over Yellowstone and neighboring areas, Doug Smith tries to locate all the wolves by listening to the signals that come from their collars on his telemetry radio receiver. Pups born in the park that have not been captured yet don't have collars but can sometimes be seen and counted from the air.

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