Wolves and Coyotes

Wolves have been demonstrated to reduce coyote density in Grand Teton National Park and in the southern Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This from a study recently released by the Wildlife Conservation Society and reported by Science Daily.

Coyote densities were 33 percent lower in wolf-abundant sites in the Tetons. Similarly, coyote densities declined 39 percent in Yellowstone National Park after wolves were recently reintroduced there.







  1. elkhunter Avatar

    I bet the coyote hunting up there is pretty slow.

  2. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    Here’s a question that I have about this. It’s well documented that Coyote densities in the park have thinned out with the wolf reintroduction. Coyotes are also one of the main culprits in the predation of livestock. How has the reduction in Coyote numbers effected the overall depredations in the GYE area?
    The wolves relatively speaking, take very little livestock, and when they do they are generally “controlled”. So I wonder what this has done overall to the number of livestock depredations around the park? I’ve never seen any data on this subject, but it stands to reason that the overall predations in the area should be affected by the change in predators.
    Anyone know?

  3. begreen Avatar

    that’s the question that i had. it would certainly be interesting to see some real data on that… one could take the depredation levels from coyotes in the GYE area and project the level of decreased depredations given the same ratio of decreased numbers – but i think it’d be interesting to see how/whether coyote behavior is affected with regard to livestock predation, whether wolves make up the difference ~ etc.

  4. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    in keeping with the theory that nature abhors a vacuum it is pretty well accepted that the reason coyotes have spread across the continent from west to east and raccoons from east to west is because wolves were eliminated.

  5. todd Avatar

    during the colorado wolf working group process (that was to set the state policy on whether wolves would be welcome or not) I looked into this question. i ended up talking to lots of folks who study wolves and/or coyotes, but there does not seem to be any data out there. a bit to my surprise, there seemed to be a strong opinion that ranchers could deal easier with more coyotes and no wolves rather than less coyotes and some wolves. this opinion was reflected by researchers and (level-headed) ranchers alike.


  6. Moose Avatar


    I’m not suprised. How does the old adage go?
    Better the one you know than the one you don’t.

  7. Monte Avatar

    I live around a bunch of coyotes and have never lost a calf to a coyote. The only threat coyotes present to cattle is to young calves, really the threat is negligible. Wolves, of course, can present more problems. Since coyotes and wolves both present a threat to sheep, I don’t know which is worse. They can both prey heavily on adult and young sheep.

  8. Jay Avatar

    One of the things I heard of coyote behavior in the park was that they were hanging closer to roads and human-used areas, ostensibly to take advantage of the protection that comes from the places wolves tend to avoid. So, from that standpoint, perhaps wolves could cause increased coyote-livestock depredations if having wolves around means coyotes spend more time near humans and livestock?

  9. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    The coyote behavior that I’ve seen in the park over the past few years is consistent with the theory that because of the wolf presence that they ARE tending to hang out closer to roads and developed areas. I actually had one walk through one of my ranger programs two years ago. He paid very little attention to my group of 25 as he trotted past us at about ten yards.

    This is why I asked the question though, what does this balance change in canine numbers actually do? Logically, it would seem that there would have to be some effect right?

  10. launnchpad Avatar

    Coyotes do not change miration patterns of elk or deer. Or alter summer and winter feeding grounds. Wolves do. and it has not been for better. There are now elk and deer that have to take year round residence near human residences because it is the only safe place to survive the latest onslaught of mismanaged wolf reintroduction. More is not always better especially when it comes to sacrificing one specisis to bring out another one. Just take some time north of Yellowstone park and go in the back country looking for elk in the summer they are not even using the back country habitat for forage any more and this is where is no cattle grazing. You will find them staying near civilazation and domestic livestock figuring safety in numbers. Wolves do not always go after the weak and sick it usally what takes off running and is fun to chase down. I am a 6th gen Montanan and I get tired of all of the armchair quarter backs saying how wonderful this. what a joke!

  11. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    There aren’t as many elk in your area period.

    Everyone knows the northern range herd is down in number for a wide variety of reasons.

    That wolves take the weak and the sick is statistical generalization, just like the mortality rate of 20-year old people is low is a statistical generalization. Wolves chase potential prey and the slow and the stupid get eaten, when you tally up the results, these animals usually have something wrong with them that made them slow (or unwilling to stand their ground, which is the best elk tactic when surrounded by a couple wolves).

    I haven’t seen any evidence of deer and elk hanging around residences due to wolves, although with the influx of rural home developments, elk and deer sometimes find the residence area is a safety zone (and sometimes not, e.g., dogs).

    You are new to this blog, so don’t call people “armchair quarterbacks” when you don’t know who comments here.

  12. launnchpad Avatar

    I can understand your position but you have not witnessed a healthy 6 point elk taken down by 10 wolves on our ranch. Also let detail that the animals are staying near ranch buildings that have been here since the mid 1880’s. And this has not occured until wolves were reintroduced. The average age of a cow elk has increased to nearly senoir citizen status. On our place there is around 100 elk and right now there is only 3 calves that have survived the summer. Everybody knows that when a new animal gets introduced to a new enviroment the population explodes beyond what the rest of the eco-system can handle. I do not have a problem wolves but they need to be managed since we reintroduced a gray wolf to a timber wolf enviroment. Wolves should fear man and this is why nobody ever seen them and thought they were extinct which is a false assumption. before gray wolf reintroduction. Yellowstone Park is either hazing but mostly killing and transplanting the mountain goats that are entering YNP because they are a non-native animal but reintroduce non native gray wolves, the old double standard. The encroachment of more rural homes is a problem. But in the west it stems from the the ranchers and farmers no longer able to keep the land due to economics caused animal predation,high operating costs,unreasonable enviromental concerns, endangered specis act that uses false science, the taking of water rights, and death tax supported by mostly democratic people. But you seem to slam all of the food, and product producers in the country, and some do need to clean up there act but not all of them. Remember that the next time eat meat and veggys, live in your wood home,drive your steel car, put gas in car heat your house, and all of the electricity and resources used for your web site has to come from someplace.

  13. Jay Avatar

    I was willing to give you the benfit of the doubt, but after your second post, your ignorance is obvious. Non-native gray wolves in Yellowstone, really? Have you ever seen the pictures of the wolf pups that were temporarily reared by Park Rangers back in the thirties, before they were euthanized? Or were those planted for a photo shoot? You must’ve been reading Ron Gillett’s talking points for this unitelligible rant.

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    There is a name for Launchpad’s point of view. It’s called resourcism — the idea that real wealth comes only from raw materials and those occupations that grow or extract them: mining, timbering, farming, livestock, etc.

    It’s, of course, a common view in rural areas, but because it is a poor description of the way the economy really works, it comes back to bite its believers in the butt, although it does raise self esteem.

    For example, this person hasn’t figured out what drives the construction of those irritating rural homes outsiders build. I find the houses irritating too, but because so many rural folks can’t figure out what drives their construction, and come up with blame on predators and laws to keep the air and water clean, I am not so irritated by the houses — why try to help people who strongly hold a self-defeating view of the way things work?

  15. Jay Avatar

    I was going to offer up “Stupidicism”, but then I’d be making up words like Launchpad’s favorite president, The Decider.

  16. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    Obviously wolves are controversial, and there is a segment of the population that repeats the same arguments that Launchpad is using. While I disagree with most of it, he’s entitled to that opinion. I would encourage him to check out the data being collected by the Wolf Project in the Park and take a look at the ages of elk being taken by wolves. That data and the trophic cascade that wolves have caused may just be dismissed as “false” or “flawed” science. In which case it would probably just be better to agree to disagree.
    However, does it seem to anyone else that the wolf has become a scapegoat of frustrated farmers and ranchers? These are people that are unfortunately finding it harder & harder to make a living doing what they do. The wolf is just a tangible target for people to focus on. We definitely need a healthy and sustainable farming and ranching community in this country, and frankly I’m not sure what should be done to help them. It just seems that when you consider the economics, and all around rising operating costs, that the wolves here are realistically a small part of their overall challenge.

  17. elkhunter Avatar

    Ralph, did they ever do another study on the age class and sex of the elk being killed in YNP? I dont know if that was the first of a couple studies, or just one final study. Have you heard anything?

  18. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    The winter study periods have been studying age class and sex of wolf killed elk every year since the ’95 reintroduction. I saw and helped record some of this data when I volunteered on the March ’02 study. Doug Smith has a graph that shows those findings, and I would think it is available in one of the Wolf Project annual reports, but I’ve been looking quickly and haven’t found it.
    In any case what it shows is that for cows, they have a high predation rate as calves and yearlings, but once they reach 2 yrs and throughout their first 10 yrs they are rarely taken by wolves. Once they reach 11 the numbers begin to creep upward peaking at about 15 yrs and then back down again as their age reaches 20 (obviously because very few cows reach the upper teens).
    Bulls have a very similiar chart, they also have a high predation rate for their first two years, then little or no predation until the age of 6 or 7, at which point they become more vulnerable until they peak at 10 (approximately).
    Basically the data shows that elk are vulnerable as calves and a little less so as yearlings. Females then are usually in good shape from 2-10 years which is when they usually have a calf every year or when they are at their most productive. Then as they age and maybe have a calf every other year then they are more susceptible. Bulls on the other hand have a more physical and shorter lifespan because of their rut battles, but the pattern is similar. Bulls also tend to be at their most vulnerable during late winter, which is thought to be because of how much of their physical resources they use during the rut.
    If I can find a link to this chart I’ll post it for you.

  19. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thanks, Dan.

    Launchpad should read this because, among other things, he claimed that the northern range elk cows are now mostly geriatric.

  20. elkhunter Avatar

    Thanks Dan, Ralph I was trying to plan a trip to YNP this winter to try and see me a wolf! What time of year do you feel would be the best time, and what area of the park? Would I need to hike? Thanks

  21. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    October through May is the best time,and the best viewing is from the road. Hiking lacks the vantage points and the info wolf watchers share with each other.

    Nevertheless, we ran right into the Rose Creek Pack in 1998 when hiking on Specimen Ridge.

  22. Jay Avatar


    Hike the couple miles into the Slough Creek cabin–one of the prettiest places in the park, in my opinion, and a good chance of seeing wolves (and grizzlies, elk, bison, etc.) on the hike in. The fishing is supposed to be pretty good too. If you don’t see any woofs (as is the common vernacular here in Ideyhoe), you can always join the crowds on the roadsides for a viewing. I’d much rather see them away from a throng of people, though…

  23. John Avatar

    Funny thing about coyotes, most people hate them and I agree that they do take more livestock than the wolf (don’t agree with their methods of ‘control’ though). However very little thanks is given to this meso predator for keeping down rodents that raid crops and would cause erosion (big problem with rabbits here – shinning example of what would happen if no predator was around).

    As for their relationship with the wolf, they link to one another in a great example of a balanced ecosystem.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Brian Ertz