Yellowstone National Park Wildlife

The gray wolf (canis lupus) has returned to Yellowstone National Park following an absence of approximately sixty-nine years. In 1995, wolves from Alaska and British Columbia, Canada were brought to the park as part of a program to repopulate hunting areas in the western and northwestern states. Today they flourish and have become one of Yellowstone's most popular species of wildlife.

Wolves in North America can range in color from black to the solid white coat of the arctic wolf, although gray is the most prevalent color. The adult male can be up 38 inches at the shoulder and have a body length (not counting the tail) of up to 58 inches. Females will usually range up to 20 percent smaller than the male.

Wolves, like all canines, have olfactory organs that give them the ability to locate and identify scents at great distances from their source. This sense of smell is the first tool a pup uses to identify a food source immediately after it is born and greatly facilitates its success in hunting later in life. Hearing is the next strongest sense for the wolf. They can hear at much higher frequencies than humans and when combined with other assets such as strength, stamina, speed and the ability to cooperatively work within a pack, their acute hearing makes the wolf a formidable hunter. Food sources for the packs include elk, bison, deer and moose.

At the end of 2005, there were approximately 118 wolves living in 14 identified packs in Yellowstone. Most of the packs are identified and named for the area in which their hunting range is located. Although scattered throughout the park, Lamar Valley, in northeastern Yellowstone is considered one of the best places to view wolves in their natural habitat.

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