New Book: Charting Yellowstone’s Wolves

Jim Halfpenny puts together all his past wolf charts, making a valuable insider’s wolf guide-

In 1996 Dr. James Halfpenny and Diann Thompson wrote Discovering Yellowstone Wolves. It described the original wolves brought from Canada and released in Yellowstone National Park.  The wolves’ first travels and adventures were chronicled. Discovering Yellowstone Wolves was a must have book for the first Yellowstone Park wolf watchers. The book also included a chart of the first wolf packs and the wolves in it.

After the reintroduction years were past, Dr. Halfpenny and Diane Thompson continued to make annually updated wolf charts. Many laminated copies of these were for sale in the gateway towns around the Park.  The charts were a plain-to see essential carried by many wolf watchers, myself included.  For a number of years I memorized every detail the charts provided. Over time the wolf population grew and so charting them became quite complicated.  Sometimes more than one version a year was made available. At others, only some parts of the Park were covered, such as the wolves on the Park’s Northern Range.

Now, 16 years later, all of these charts have been bound into a 108-page volume, with 46 charts.  This book, Charting Yellowstone’s Wolves provides additional details about the wolves’ genealogies and territories. Those have closely followed the Park’s wolves will be interested.

Here is one of Halfpenny’s original charts, now included with the others in Charting Yellowstone’s Wolves.







  1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    I should have added that for a long time, Halfpenny made a heroic effort to chart not just the wolves inside Yellowstone Park, but the entire Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

  2. skyrim Avatar

    I remember when I tried to keep the early pack information sorted out. After about 3 years, when things began to get complicated, I, like many, found myself ever grateful for Dr. Halfpenny’s work in this arena. Bless him and his team for their dedication to the cause. I still have my first chart around here and it now reads like ancient history. Oh what those animals taught us about what we did not know about wolves…..

  3. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I have purchsed several of these charts over the years and it always irritates me to see how many of Yellowstone’s wolves are stuck with a number and an intrusive radio collar. (Any wolf with a number, M-666 etc., on the charts is collared.)
    As the wolf numbers have declined over the past few years, Doug Smith has put approximately the same number of collars on the wolves, so that some Yellowstone packs have 4 or 5 collared wolves in them. The druid pack had 7 out of 14 wolves collared just before they got mange and ceased to exist. This is a prime example of “Studying Wildlife To Death”.
    I would like to see Yellowstone biologists be required to follow the same rules about approaching wolves as the visitors are : No closer than 100 yards.

    1. louise kane Avatar

      I hate those collars too Larry. Imagine wearing something like that all the time.

  4. Ron H Avatar
    Ron H

    I feel that the radio collars have allowed us a glimpse into wolf behavior that would have otherwise been impossible. In doing so, I think it has allowed us to better understand behavior and just how complex these animals are.

    That being said, I think there is a certain point where biologists need to take a step back and evaluate if this practice still has enough value to justify the intrusion of the animals day to day life. Unfortunately, wolf management has nothing to do with science anymore and everything to do with politics..

    1. Jon Way Avatar

      Good points Ron H. The problem is, without the collars the long term study (the first in the world where the wolves are known so individually) is only possibly b.c of radio-collars. Not nearly as much would be known without them. And it isn’t a day to day intrusion. It is a one or two time in their life intrusion when they get the collars.

      Outside of the park I fully agree as that is where a collared wolf is sometimes used to get tracked to its death. For the Larry T.’s of the world, things like Kathie Lynch’s great seasonal reports here on the Wildlife News would either cease to exist or be a fragment of its current scope – b.c not as much would be known about individuals… it is important to note that besides rare exceptions there are no long term effects of the collars (scientifically documented at least).

      Now, for pure aesthetics in a park, that is where some on this form might disagree with my viewpoint.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Ron H,

    I agree that wolf management by the states today is mostly done for political reasons, but I think that is less true in Yellowstone Park because they rarely kill a wolf or move one there. If politics enters, it is most likely pressure to be quiet about Montana’s perhaps unintended threat to kill a fair number of Park wolf packs “accidentally” because their normal range includes wilderness lands directly north of the Park where the hunt is going on.

    Wolf Management and wolf research are not the same thing, and a lot of good wolf research is still being done. It tends not to get much publicity, however, and it doesn’t sway the public because so many reject scientific findings that contradict what they already believe.

    The tendency to reject facts discovered by the scientific method is growing, especially among conservatives. We are in a time that feels like the edge of another Dark Age to me.

    1. Salle Avatar

      I posted this in the “News” thread but it certainly applies here…

      As America Grows More Polarized, Conservatives Increasingly Reject Science and Rational Thought
      The Tea Party has intensified social pressure on conservative-leaning Americans to shun science and academia.

  6. Jerry Black Avatar

    One reason so many wolves in Montana are collared is a bill (SB461) that the Montana legislature passed requiring a collar on at least one wolf in every pack……….

    WHEREAS, the 2005 Montana Legislature enacted SB 461 which requires collaring of at least one wolf in each pack;

    I’m sure lots of taxpayer money goes into this effort.

  7. Ron H Avatar
    Ron H

    Good point Ralph. I had the opportunity to be part of the winter wolf predation study in Teton National Park and the one thing that jumped out more than anything was the large amount of misinformation and fear people had about wolves that I spoke with. Although the science is important and should continue, even more education will be needed to ensure wolves keep a place in the Western U.S. It’s not to say that all people should love wolves and embrace their presence, but it would be refreshing to have more informed people engaged in the conversation, people who are willing to look at science and then make an informed decision.

    This is where I feel collars have been a big benefit, allowing people such as Jim to spark interest in the youth who will eventually be the ones deciding rather or not humans will choose to live with wolves. And I could not agree more with your last comment..

  8. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I am someone who takes the world as I see it. I am pro science, but I am also pro “WILD” life. Treating Yellowstone wolves like domestic livestock with numbers and collars goes against everything that Yellowstone is supposed to be.
    Chasing Yellowstone wolves with helicopters and then darting, drugging and collaring them is just a modified version of the WAR on wolves being conducted outside of the park by the fish and game departments of the surrounding states.
    The Park biologists that proudly pose with their captured wolves are not much different than the Josh Bransfords that photograph wolves they have trapped in Idaho.

  9. Jim Halfpenny Avatar

    Ralph, thank you for reviewing Charting Yellowstone Wolves. Your review has generated calls and emails asking how to purchase the guide.

    – – – –

    This book is available at Webmaster

    1. Salle Avatar

      Thank you, Dr. Halfpenny, for your years of compiling this info to date, and now putting it all together in one book. I’ll be getting a copy soon.

  10. Mtn Mamma Avatar
    Mtn Mamma

    Cheers to Dr. Jim for your hardwork and educatinal efforts! I remember you talking about this book at the Lamar Tracking class this past spring. Will place my order soon. ~Alicia


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Ralph Maughan