History of the Wolves in Yellowstone: What Effect Have They Had

history of the wolves in YellowstoneThere has been some debate for many years about weather or not wolves should be allowed to live in Yellowstone National Park.   This has been an issue that people feel very passionately about.  Both sides have good points to make but needless to say that the history of the wolves in Yellowstone has been full of conflict.

Let’s Look at the History of the Wolves in Yellowstone

Back when Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 the population of wolves was already naturally decreasing in the area and with the help of the federal government’s predator control programs wolves were essentially eliminated from Yellowstone by 1926.

In the 1940’s conservationists, environmentalists, and biologists began pushing for the first reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park.  They had observed that with the absence of wolves from the park the elk population increased which adversely affected the quality of the ranges, thereby affecting many other animals who lived in or grazed in the ranges.  All of these changes happened slowly starting from the time the last wolves were eliminated from the park.

It wasn’t until 1995 that wolves were finally reintroduced.  Early that year 14 wolves from various different packs in Canada were captured and released in Lamar Valley in the Northeast portion of the park.  The next year, 1996, 17 more wolves were released into Yellowstone.  Since then these 31 wolves have have gained in number.  There are approximately 100 wolves in Yellowstone that are divided into 10 different packs.

Below is a map of the 10 different wolf pack territories as of 2011.

History of the Wolves in Yellowstone


So What is the Opposition to the Reintroduction of Wolves

The opposition to the reintroduction comes in a number of different forms but mostly it is based on a resistance to change.  There are mainly two people groups who are in opposition to the reintroduction:  The ranchers and the hunters.


The ranchers’ main issue is that wolvesHistory of the Wolves in Yellowstone periodically will attack and kill their livestock which has an economic impact.  However, in many cases these losses are mostly compensated for by defenders of wildlife.  The actual numbers of livestock that are killed by wolves are quite low.  From the years 1987 to 2003 approximately 600 lambs and 400 calves were lost due to wolves.


The hunters claim that the wolves will completely wipe out the large game that they enjoy hunting and that the wolf population will eventually grow too large and out of control.  The presence of wolves also changes the distribution of elk so the hunters are not able to continue to hunt elk in the same place that they have been for years.

There are a couple other arguments that you might hear in opposition to the reintroduction of the wolves into Yellowstone.  One is that the grey wolves are not native to the greater Yellowstone area.  The second is that the wolves were just dumped on the locals and they were left completely unprepared.

No matter what your stance on the reintroduction of the wolves is I think it’s clear to see that the wolves have a great ecological impact on Yellowstone as is explained in the video below.

Video by Sustainable Human

We’d love to know your opinion about the history of the wolves in Yellowstone!  Leave a comment in the comments section below and check out our luxury tours of Yellowstone for information about how you can come see the park for yourself!