Wolf packs attack the toughest prey in Yellowstone

Wolf packs attack the toughest prey in Yellowstone. By Brett French. Billings Gazette Staff.
“It’s not easy being a bison-eating wolf in Yellowstone National Park.”

Mollies Pack has become a rugged bison-killing wolf pack. They are a pack ideal for this with their big brawny male wolves. It’s no accident. With elk, big males in a pack are superfluous as long as their is one big guy, but not so with bison. So the big males born to Mollies tend to stay with the pack and others sees to join it.

To some degree the Cougar Creek and Gibbon Meadows Pack have become bison killers too.




  1. Maska Avatar

    It’s interesting that it doesn’t even take such a big male in a pack to pull down elk. A “big” Mexican wolf runs up to a maximum of around 80 pounds. Packs rarely contain more than six or seven members. Yet the lobos have been pulling down elk since the original Hawk’s Nest pair killed their first elk only two weeks after their release from captivity into Arizona in March 1998.

  2. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    The article is excellent….the “comments”, especially about SSS are despicable!

  3. Pronghorn Avatar

    It really is a good article, but why do the biologists insist on making human value judgments?–wolves are “cowards” and the way they attack is a “dirty job” because they pursue prey from the rear…when, to wolves, this is just self-preservation and “how you get a meal.” One wonders how much these negative values assigned to wolves serve to fuel the ignorance & hatred of the SSS nimrods on the Billings blog and elsewhere.

  4. Maska Avatar

    Good point, Pronghorn. When I talk about wolves with folks, I often point out how amazing it is that they can pull down these large, potentially dangerous animals armed only with sharp teeth, fleet feet, and a cooperative social structure.

    I know that many wolves found dead, or captured for collar replacement, etc., show evidence of old broken bones or other injuries from having been kicked, gored, etc., by prey animals. It’s a tough life. Elk, bison, moose, and other prey aren’t defenseless pacifists!

  5. Heather Avatar

    I still appreciate the wolves tenacity for life – including hunting. Talk about dirty tactics, we have only to look at ourselves, homo sapiens. energy should be focused there!

  6. JB Avatar

    Pronghorn makes a great point–the biologists are anthropomorphizing by judging wolves’ behavior using human ethical standards. There is no cheating in nature (or as my mother used to remind me, there’s no fair fairy). Nature favors those individuals that obtain more food, regardless of the method. Human ethical standards simply do not apply.

  7. natehobbs Avatar

    I was lucky last fall to be able to witness the Mollies attempt to hunt Bison in Hayden valley last yea shortly after the skirmish with the Hayden pack. quite amazing.

  8. John Avatar

    Hard hooves, long legs and sharp horns vs stamina, strategy and ‘doggedness’ (pun intended).
    Makes for a great show.

  9. Linda Hunter Avatar

    I got snagged on the cowardly comment as well. I wonder if a man were trying to survive without tools how brave they would be in the face of food on the hoof. People always seem to forget that animals can’t go to Safeway and they have to eat.

  10. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    What is cowardly is darting these wolves from helicopters after they have been chased to exhaustion by Smith and his helpers. The wolves in Yellowstone have been darted, drugged and collared for 13 years. Yellowstone wolves run for cover or hide in the sagebrush whenever they hear or see a helicopter. It is time to let them be wild and free without the continuous harrassment by Smith and company.
    You can click on my name to see photos of the Haydens howling (with their ugly non-functioning collars) and hunting elk 2 days before they met up with the Mollies and of the Mollies just days after they decimated the Haydens.

  11. Izabela Avatar

    Why do we hate wolves?
    What is wrong with people?
    Why do we have to kill?

  12. Linda Avatar

    Larry, wonderful pictures. Thank you!

  13. Kristen Avatar

    Larry very nice pictures. I don’t believe that the collars had anything to do with the death of the haydens. I believe the mollies were stronger in their fight to take the territory over.

  14. Mark Avatar

    Hello everyone! Just ran across this website while surfing the net. My first visit to Yellowstone was in September of 2008 and was a fantastic one with two lone wolf sightings, one of which I got a photo of and have posted on my new website: http://yellowstonephotos.multiply.com
    and the other was too quick for me. I look forward to reading some of the posts here and welcome anyone who is interested to post photos of their experiences in Yellowstone on the new site. Thanks!


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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