YNP wolf packs are large and old versus other wolf packs

The great thing about Yellowstone Park wolf packs is that they are never “controlled.” The largest source of wolf mortality is other wolves. Yellowstone wolves don’t rely much on smaller prey like deer, and so we find large and complex wolf packs that show behavior not seen elsewhere.

This article in the JH News and Guide is about these big YNP wolf packs. YNP wolf packs large, old versus other wolves. By Cory Hatch.
Regarding USFWS biologist Mike Jimenez’s comments that “smaller packs do just fine anyway,” it depends on what you are interested in.

We want to be able to study wolves in a natural setting, and Yellowstone Park may not be representative of how wolves behave naturally in other places. Yellowstone, for example, is not really very productive elk country. The large visible elk herds are the result of little human interference, just as are the large wolf packs.

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I should add there there are some large and complex wolf packs in central Idaho. They are not systematically observed, with one exception.




  1. Dave J Avatar
    Dave J

    This interesting article demonstrates the gap between USFWS and the modern conservationists’ view of what constitutes meaningful recovery. USFWS sticks to a very simplistic view, that recovery is defined by a simple tally — all the species needs is “X” number of packs with at least “Y” number of individuals. This works great in terms of a bureaucracy that desires a measureable result. But Franz is advocating restoration and maintenance of natural procceses. In this framework, wolves would pick up where they left off a hundred years ago, an ancient evolutionary trajectory. What we are seeing instead is a scheme where most of the wolves in the West will have to adapt to constant disruption. Personally, I think the argument that fragmentation may lead to livestock conflict has significant merit. But on the other hand, could limited disruption lead to higher reproductive success? Consider the Druids: Would the pack have grown to over 35 members if alpha 38M had not been shot? Probably not. So it will be interesting to see what Jimenez has to say 3 or 5 years from now when mortality is way up.

  2. Ronnie Avatar

    Yellowstone being a “Natural” place?
    I’m sorry but its been a long time since Yellowstone has been “Natural.” For some reason, because there is no hunting within boundaries, some feel it’s a more natural place to study their little science projects on. Humans are just as much a part of the ecosystem there, as anywhere on the outside.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The word “natural” is tricky, and I probably shouldn’t use it.

    What I should say is that the wolf packs there live an existence undisturbed by human intervention that is not known anywhere else where it can be observed.

    “Little science” projects.” What do you mean by that?


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