A complete update on Yellowstone Park wolves

By Ralph Maughan copyright

Druid Peak Pack- As indicated in earlier reports, it appears the entire pack, 4 adults and 11 pups, have survived. They spent the summer near the the head of Cache Creek and its tributaries near or on the Park’s remote east boundary. The big question appears to be what will happen in the late fall when they come down and confront the Slough Creek Pack, which has regrouped with eight adults? The Sloughs lost their pups in the April siege with the Unknown pack. One wonders how much help eleven, 6 month old pups would be in a fight. The badly outnumbered Druids did well last June when all 4 of them attacked the sleeping “Unknowns.” The Unknowns were not really seen together again after that and disappeared, although Doug Smith tells me that there are reports of wolves way up Slough Creek, north of the Park. That’s where most people think the Unknowns came from. I have tended to believe the Unknowns were the old Rose Creek Pack or closely related to it.

Slough Creek Pack- “The Sloughs” have reclaimed their territory from the east end of Lamar Valley all the way west to Little America and lower Slough Creek.

The Agate Creek Pack- I have nothing to add to the report about the 2 Agate Creek pups that were left behind for 2 weeks. They are still traveling with the pack and its 4 other pups. On August 29 they were on the east side of the Yellowstone River Canyon. They are not visible from Antelope Creek where summer wolf watchers had so much to see.

The Hellroaring Pack- This pack proved very hard to observe. It moved farther and farther down into the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone. Today there were right on the north boundary of the Park and the Absaroka/Beartooth Wilderness to the north, out of the canyon and up in summer elk country. This is the pattern the old Rose Creek Pack took as they gradually became a non-Park pack and contact with them was lost. The pack has four pups this year.

The Leopold Pack and their split-off group — “the 536 group”- The large Leopold Pack of about 12 wolves has done what it always does, spend the summer way back on the Blacktail Deer Plateau, out of sight. As in 2005, they had a large number of pups (double litter), but last year almost all the pups died of that unidentified disease. On the contrary, this year there is total survival. In the first visual sighting of the entire pack in a long time, there were 15 pups! It’s going to be a huge pack again like 2 years ago. The break-away group of Leopolds, currently called the “536 group” with 4 or 5 adults, has 8-9 surviving pups. It looks like wolf biologists decided the alpha female was 536F. This group too seems to have had a double liter from females 536F and 470F. I think it is unlikely they will rejoin the Leopold Pack come winter. The two groups of Leopolds are too large to do that in my estimation.

The Swan Lake Pack- It has climbed back from almost extinction to a pack with 2 adults and its six pups doing well in the traditional Swan Lake Pack territory near Swan Lake Flat and the surrounding mountain slopes down to Mammoth Hot Springs.

The Gibbon Pack- It seems to have 7 adults, but no pups have been seen, although they might exist. The pack has traveled all over the place from the Gibbon Meadows area to the Park’s Central Plateau. I have heard reports of them at the geysers too. Dr. Smith believes the Magpie Forest Fire might have been the cause of their wandering. They have to travel around it. The fire occupies a strategic backcountry location.
Folks will recall that last winter the Gibbon Pack dispatched the remnants of the long-standing Nez Perce pack and essentially occupied that pack’s territory.

The Hayden Pack- The Hayden Pack continues to inhabit the area around Canyon, and is seen by many people, although as the summer progressed they were found more and more in the Hayden Valley. The pack has a very light gray alpha female, 540F. People called her “white.” The alpha male (540M) is large and light gray, and the rest of the pack is fairly light colored too.

This Haydens are not only the pack most likely to be seen close up, it is the pack most subjected to human intrusion on its space. There have been many occasions when they were close to large numbers of people, such as when they kill an elk in the middle of Alum Creek, next to the Park highway. Individual and small groups have also run into them or approached them at close range even when they were some distance from the road. One couple walked right into their den site this year. Perhaps more than one did, but did not report it.

The pack has 3 adults, 2 yearlings, and they have pups this year, the fewest of any Park pack for which a pup count is certain. Biologists never counted the number of pups at the den site, so it is unknown whether the 2 pups are 2 surviving pups, or the size of the original litter. It is also unknown whether human disturbance of the den site and rendezvous site affected the number of pups. The pack has always produced just a couple pups, and it has always been subjected to human disturbance.

Mollies Pack- I guess Mollies Pack is the most interesting story to me in this report. This pack, which had no pups last year, but six this year, is having serious trouble with grizzly bears in its remote Pelican Valley territory, which has also always been a part of Yellowstone where grizzlies are at their thickest.

Grizzlies have always stolen the pack’s elk carcasses, but grizzlies are incredible in the memory of where food is and how to get it. It seems that all the grizzlies know that the trick is to follow the Mollies Pack and steal their kill.

While in the past, grizzlies usually showed up after 4 or 5 hours to claim the kill, and it was usually 1 or 2 bears, Dr. Smith told me observations this summer show the the pack usually gets to feed but an hour or less before the grizzlies –multiple grizzlies — come, and take the kill. This very likely is harmful to the pack because they have to kill many more elk than other packs, and with each chase a wolf expends a lot of calories and suffers risk of injury or death.

In the past Mollies Pack has made forays onto the northern range and other parts of the Park as though they might be seeking new territory. They also winter outside of the Park, usually in the area of the North Fork of the Shoshone River. Individual Mollies wolves have also left the pack to try the northern range with mixed success, meaning toleration or sometimes fights. These wolves tend to come back to the pack.

The availability of high protein elk meat also affects the grizzlies, probably increasing their reproduction success and allows them to abandon more difficult food like grasses, sedges, berries, etc. If the wolves leave, the grizzlies might have to scramble more for nutrition.

The Yellowstone Delta Pack finally lost all of its collars (or chewed them off ), and, as many times in the past, its location in the vast wilderness of SE Yellowstone was not known, but finally on August 29 they were located in part of their large territory. Eleven Deltas were seen from the air. I don’t know if any seemed to be pups. The Delta Pack has produced two important splits in the last two years — first the Buffalo Pack and next the Pacific Creek Pack. These now inhabit the country in the Teton Wilderness (Pacific Creek Pack) and further south in Jackson Hole and the mountain country east (The Buffalo Pack).

The Bechler Pack of SW Yellowstone was not located on Aug. 29, although that is especially meaningful. They have been doing well this year with good pup survival.

Finally there is the new Snake River Pack. Two or three adult wolves took up residence near the South Entrance of the Park, and they had 7 pups, 3 black and 4 gray.. They have no radio collars, but Mike Jimenez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlfe Service will try to trap some when they leave the Park, as they often do to hunt the John D. Rockefeller Parkway and the Teton Wilderness that adjoins the Yellowstone Park for many miles on its south boundary.

Snake River Pack wolf pup
Dan Stebbins seems to be the only person who has gotten
a photo of this new wolf pack. This is one of their 7 pups.

Thanks Dan!







  1. Jack Bean Avatar
    Jack Bean

    Hey Ralph

    Great report. Thanks so much for taking the time to put this information together. I for one and I am sure there are many, many more of us that look forward to your detailed reports.
    Your a Great American Ralph.


  2. Carolyn Zeuthen Avatar
    Carolyn Zeuthen

    Thank you very much for all the detailed information as well as all the reports about the wolves we received in the past. I eagerly await the news and it helps us when we come to see wolves in Yellowstone. We even attended a wolf class. I am concerned about them being shot. Hopfully, we will see some wolves when we return to Yellowstone in a couple of weeks. Last July, we missed the big excitement about the Unknowns while we were there, but think we met you. The person we talked to was very helpful and informative.

  3. Cody Hoagland Avatar
    Cody Hoagland

    Thank you so much, these page is great I like this much better than the other one

  4. Linda Hoydic Avatar
    Linda Hoydic

    Thanks for the update on all of the packs. I had written you in June prior to our trip to the park to find out where the Druids had been seen. Unfortunately, we did not see the Druids, but were lucky to spend every morning at Antelope Creek watching the Agates. We saw all of the pups and watched as the adults returned to the pack and were greeted by the pups – what an awesome sight. We also were able to drive down to Alum Creek after the kill and watched the wolves feed on the carcass for about an hour before the rain started. We truly had one of our best wolf watching experiences this summer and can’t wait until next summer when we return to the park at the beginning of July.
    Thanks for your info, I will check back often over the winter and into the spring to keep track of the wolves. Thanks again for the info you provided earlier in the year, and maybe next year I’ll be able to see my beloved Druids.

  5. Anja Baldock Avatar
    Anja Baldock

    I have been trying to find updated information on the wolves of Yellowstone ever since the Institute course I took in May, with a trip to the Rose Creek Pens, created an enormous interest on my part for the welfare of the wolves. It’s almost scary how they have touched an emotional string in my psyche. Thank you for your wonderful, informative blog. I look forward to keeping up with all the news you find fit to print. The photo’s are awesome as was your well written update. Thank you Nathan for providing me with this link.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Anja, I’m glad you found my blog. You might have found the rest too. However, in case you haven’t, I wrote updates on the Yellowstone wolves, and other wolves, for ten years before going to the blog format.

    You can find these earlier stories (several hundred) at:

  7. Larry Avatar

    Just returned from a week in the park. Saw 5 packs. Druids,Agates,Hellroaring, Sloughs and Leopolds. need someone to give me an update on pack color composition Please.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan