Latest Studies On Yellowstone National Park's Wolf Packs Shows Stable Population

Latest research on Yellowstone National Park's wolf packs shows that the largest packs, and some of the largest wolves, roam the interior of the 2.2-million park. Photos courtesy of Doug Smith, Yellowstone Wolf Project director.

Editor's note: Contributing writer Beth Pratt recently caught up with Douglas Smith, who has been studying wolves for more than 30 years and who currently leads the wolf project in Yellowstone National Park. He is the co-author of Decade of the Wolf, a book that details the historic wolf restoration in Yellowstone. The two talked about the current status of wolves in the park and their impact on elk populations.

You are the middle of your annual winter research—what are you finding initially?

The wolf population is pretty stable compared to last year. We had 94 wolves in the northern range in 2007, but now we have 38. We saw a big drop for the two consecutive years prior, but essentially no change in the population this year.

Do you think the population has stabilized?

To a degree, and I guess the message from this trend is “less is more.” The wolves for many years overshot the capacity of the ecosystem, and now we are seeing a balance—a balance of all parts not just wolves. When wolves weren’t in Yellowstone the system was out of whack because there were tons of elk and tons of coyotes and other things suffered as a result. Now there’s greater balance among both plant and animal species.

I imagine this is more what Yellowstone was like before it got changed because of European humans. From research we know when you have a full suite of carnivores, you have lower densities of the main prey species, but you also have really resplendent and luxurious vegetation. Because without predators the herbivores are mowing it all down. In the lower 48 we eradicated wolves before we knew what they did, so we have these erupting game populations that exceed what a healthy ecosystem can sustain.

Many have been critical of the wolves for reducing the elk population and don’t see a decrease in elk as a positive development.

It’s incredibly painful dealing with people who don’t like wolves and say they have devastated the elk herd. And it’s difficult to talk to people who just want Yellowstone to be an elk farm. Yes, with carnivores you have fewer animals to hunt. But this is the way it was in Yellowstone before we interfered and we need to know what it was really like and be honest about it. I’m not saying I am in favor of predators being everywhere, but what’s happening here is a system being restored to balance.

When we start killing predators because we want more animals to hunt, it becomes agriculture. It’s like spraying weeds. Is that what we want the forests and the landscapes of the West to be, a big farming operation? An author I read recently said when wolves go, wilderness goes and I agree. I don’t want the world to be so highly manipulated that we have no place where wild nature can just be.

I hunted elk for four days this year and I didn’t get one and I am not disappointed. So I had four great days in the wilderness hunting and I did not take a shot. And I will do it again next year and if I don’t get one I am okay with that. I don’t live on elk. It’s a recreational pursuit. I don’t need to kill an elk to feed my family and I would say there are very few people who do.

Do you think wolves are the only reason the elk herd in Yellowstone has decreased?

Elk have come down for many reasons, wolves being just one of them. Yellowstone is a multi-carnivore system, one of the most beautiful and rich in North America. You go to Alaska and northern Canada you don’t have the carnivore richness you have here in the park with cougars and bears. Cougars have a higher per capita kill rate than wolves, and bears take a ton of calves. Also contributing toward the decline is that the state was managing for fewer elk. They were shooting cows like there was no tomorrow.

The third reason for the decrease that’s a harder thing to put our finger on is climate change. I think climate change makes elk more vulnerable to wolf attack.

Can you expand on this—the connection between climate change and elk predation by wolves?

The best answer to this question—it’s all changing here because of climate. The landscape is changing and it’s affecting elk and wolves are responding.

This is evolving research, but there is an interesting study going on east of the park by a graduate student at the University of Wyoming. We’re looking at the same trends, but we’re a little bit behind him. What we are both finding is that the annual “green-up” [when snowmelt gives way to vegetation] is starting earlier and it’s also burning up the mountainside a lot quicker.

The link to elk is this—when new vegetation is growing it’s the most nutritious for elk. At the start of spring elk are existing on fumes. To restore their fat they need quality vegetation for a sustained period. In the past the green-up would extend until August and the elk had a lengthy period to restore their condition. Now that time period is being reduced by up to 40 percent.

Winter is just tough for an elk. I sometimes wonder why evolution made it so tough—it’s bizarre. Elk head into winter with a fat content that will vary from 10 to 20 percent. If it’s less than 10 percent they can’t even conceive a pregnancy and they probably are not going to make it through the winter. If they are at 20 percent they will probably burn through all of that fat during a long winter like this one. They are eating, but it’s maintenance eating—to survive they are really relying on reduced activity and fat reserves. And if they have a calf on top of that, their energy reserves really get depleted, and it takes a long time to build back up.

So global warming is altering this green up, and they can’t recharge as well. Now this is all in the hazy phase of research, but what they are finding east of the park is the elk are adapting by not reproducing annually. Typically older elk would switch off, but 90 to 95 percent of younger elk in the past reproduced every year. Now we are seeing rates of only 60 percent of young migratory elk being pregnant.

Is there a difference in the findings with migratory versus non-migratory elk?

Non-migratory elk, which years ago did not exist, stay all year in alfalfa fields at low elevations. And they are doing great--they are booming. They can’t kill enough of them.

The elk that migrate into Yellowstone are not doing well at all. One reason is that they are exposed to a lot more predators in the summer, but the other factor is this relationship to changing vegetation. So you have to ask the ultimate question—why do elk migrate then? These elk migrated decades ago because it was a good thing to do and the green-up was working. But what used to work for elk and essentially was a really good strategy, isn’t anymore. And that to me is really disturbing. This strategy is hardwired in elk and they are still doing it and it’s failing them.

They may get a break this summer, as I think this is not going to be a year like I just described in the research, unless it turns hot soon. In 1996 and 1997 we had big snow years, but it turned hot and there was not a gradual letting out of the snow. Instead the Yellowstone River overnight was a chocolate, frothing mess, which isn’t normal either.

If it lets out slowly this spring and summer, it will resemble the pattern we had decades ago. But the problem is next year is anyone’s guess -- we can’t rely on normal cycles anymore. This winter was the snowiest in decades, while last winter was anemic, all the snow came in April and May. It’s the unpredictability that’s the problem. We used to have an average with little blips here and there. Now it’s all across the board and animals can’t adapt.

What’s your opinion on listing the wolf as an endangered species?

I have this idea that being able to hunt wolves increases tolerance of them and lowers resentment. At the end of the day for me, that’s better than keeping wolves on the list when animosity towards them is high.

I think it’s fair to say we want to vigorously protect wolves in some places. But I’m very much in favor—for a lack of a better way to talk about it— of zonal management. We can designate areas where we are not going to harvest wolves. And in other areas where wolves are clearly hard to live with because people are trying to make a living, you have some harvesting. This idea of social tolerance increasing by a regulated hunting season is where I think we need to go. It’s a very modern position, but I think we really need to be modern.

Any surprises in your research this year?

A really cool finding that we’ve discovered is that black wolves have longer survival times than grey wolves. For female wolves it’s double the life span. For a black female wolf the average age of death is 8, while for a grey female wolf the average age of death is 4. And we don’t have an explanation. When the results first came through I didn’t believe it and I made the guys who ran the survival analysis run it again. We’ve rerun it like three or four times now and with the same results.

What we think is happening is the gene is for black is tied to an immune function, so somehow black wolves have a higher survivability because they have a better immune system. Now the complicating factor is all of our black wolves except two—and we’ve genotyped over a hundred—are heterozygous black, not homozygous. Homozygous black—these guys are dying young. Heterozygous black have a survival advantage. Dan Steel is heading this work up as part of his doctorate study.

Is mange still a problem in the park?

It’s declined—it peaked two years ago. It may be something that just never goes away. We’ve handled a few wolves this year that don’t have bad mange but they have annoying cases of it.

Now that the Druids (wolf pack) are gone, who do you predict will be the next “rock star” pack?

The pack that is filling behind them is Lamar Canyon, but the biggest pack in the northern range now is Blacktail with 14 members at year-end. One trend with the wolf population decline is that pack sizes have dropped across the board, except Blacktail and Mollie’s, and Mollie’s probably hasn’t dropped because they are bison killers.

Blacktail will probably be the dominate pack in terms of size, but what gets you stardom and fame is visibility and that happens in Lamar Valley and Slough Creek—and the pack in that area is Lamar Canyon. And what also gets you stardom and fame is having charismatic individuals. And Lamar Canyon does have one with their alpha female—06 is her nickname, but she’s not collared. She’s a very smart wolf, very atypical, and a big hunter. Males usually have a lot to do with the hunt—she does it all. To the wolf-watching community she is starting to be their rock star.

What are some other trends you have found in your observations this year?

I talked about the population decline, but it’s been mainly with the northern range packs. In the interior of Yellowstone, the number of packs have been largely stable. I think that’s because for the northern packs it’s primarily a wolf-elk system, while in the interior, it’s a wolf-elk-bison system. They subsidize their diet with bison, which I think is pretty important as that population has not declined as precipitously as the northern range.

Last year we spoke about 495M—the alpha male of Mollie’s pack—a pack that regularly takes down bison. Is he still the largest wolf ever recorded in Yellowstone?

495M is a pro. He’s doing great. We think he’ll turn 7/8 in April, so he’s past his prime, but he’s still hunting bison. That is what is interesting about wolves—there is no such thing as a generic wolf. They are best at killing between 2-4, but if you have to keep killing and there’s no-one to help you, you just do it. I am skiing into Pelican Valley later this month and we’ll watch him for several days.

But there is a new big guy--760M in the Delta Pack. The last time we caught 495 he had meat in his stomach and weighed 143 pounds. When we weighed 760, he had a truly empty stomach, which I know because the effects of the drug cause them to vomit sometimes, and he was puking bile. So he weighed 147 pounds with nothing in his stomach.

I’ve been studying wolves for 32 years, and 760 was a sight to behold. I’ve handled hundreds of wolves, yet I thought he was a wonder of nature. And then I just started thinking in my head as I looked at him, he lives in the most remote area of the lower 48, and this is the kind of wolf that remoteness produces.

As a scientist you take the viewpoint that you can find answers. And for the first time I thought this is a wolf that truly has secrets. This is the Lower 48, it’s not northern Canada, it’s not Alaska, and we have a modicum of wildness here. He was something—not just another wolf. And it sort of reinvigorated my fight and restored that mystique of the wilderness for me. We have to redouble our efforts to save wildness.

Comments

At least this year he didn't try to claim the elk were "down to 10,000" like he did last year in Ntional Geographic. In fact they evidently were careful not to count in March this year since there were only 4000 by counting into Montana last fall, and we have had a very hard winter. Interestingly the elk in areas all around Yellowstone, including Rocky Mountain National Park are increasing in spite of global whatever.

Editor's note: In January park officials released their annual winter elk count and noted that the tally was down by almost one-quarter, to 4,635 elk, a 24 percent decline from the 6,070 animals counted a year earlier. Biologists differed on whether the cause was a miscount or predation or some other factor. As for Rocky Mountain National Park, it's located nearly 560 miles southeast of Yellowstone, and lacks predators that might keep the elk population there in balance.

Dr. Smith doesn't "claim" anything. He is an experienced scientist and he reports the numbers that are accumulated by his team and others who know their jobs. He's not sitting on a couch sniping at the people who actually are making a difference. If you think you can do better, go out there and do the hard work.

Some people just will not accept the scientific evidence thats right in front of them. No amount of clearly stated, verifiable evidence will change an uneducated wolf-haters mind.

Actually the evidence is pretty clear, the 19,000 elk prior to the wolf import are now 4600, a little over 2000 of which actually are inside of Yellowstone, and much less after this winter. It isn't just the northern herd, the Norris-Firehole herd that numbered a steady non migrating 600-700 animals ever since counting began was down to 50 last fall and may soon go extinct. The only elk herds in any of the three states severely impacted by wolves are those with active packs.
The non migrating elk herd out of Cody that he mentioned, has now been predated to the point that hunting may have to be ended or at least severely curtailed.
As for distance from Yellowstone to Rocky Mountain, the drought level has been approximately the same in both places, wolves are the differing factor.
At this point nothing can be done except to try to find something except wolves to blame for the elk demise.

i read everything i can get my hands on that dr smith writes. think about what he says and of all the books,articals and opinions i have read.....he just makes sense. my husband and i travel to yellowstone every year to watch elk,bears,bison and wolves what a drama it is!!

How can you "re-introduce" an animal, let alone place it on the endangered species list, when its not a native animal to the environment and is not in any danger of going extinct? Has anyone realized the Rocky Mountain Timber wolf, the true native species of wolf for this area, has an average weight of 70lbs for a full grown male? Or that because of the Canadian Gray wolf that was "introduced", which by the way the average size is 130lbs for a full grown male, the true endangered species has been pretty much wiped out. How about the fact that the canadian gray hunts in whats called "super packs" where as the timber wolf that were the original species of the Rockys only hunted in pairs. These Canadian Grays are twice the size, hunt in large groups, and are not endangered by any means.

Great article. My question: The bison numbers seem to have been carefully managed for many years, but if the wolf has changed the environment by reducing the elk numbers should'nt that allow for a higher number of bison to be allowed in the park? What about the deer population, now?

What about the educated "wolf haters"? Most people that live and reside in wolf country don't blame the wolves for the destruction of our other wildlife. We blame the people that have hijacked the wolf to further their agenda.
Elk happen to be thriving everywhere but some how global climate change is really hammering elk in the Yellowstone area?
I wish Doug Smith would have touched on the fact that moose will be non existent in 2-4yrs. Its a real success story that accompanies the wolf reintroduction. I'm sure thats not the fault of wolves or the people that have hijacked wolves. Global warming, yeah right!

Wolves were in yellowstone at one time until they were hunted to extinction within the park. Now after 70 years they are finally being brought back in to the park. I think its about time that they brought them back.

Global warming is one component affecting elk survival. Constant movement to avoid predators decrease the amount of energy elk have for survival and reproduction. If you think about it as a budget, global warming decreases the energy income during spring and summer at the same time wolves increase energy costs during winter. One or the other does not break the energy bank, but both together are too much.

THE MOOSE IN COLORADO & UTAH ARE DOING GREAT! NO WOLVES NO PROBLEMS WITH THERE WITH THE NATIVE WILDLIFE SURVIVING! GLOBAL WARMING WHAT A JOKE! The servival rate the calf elk is in the single digets thanks to the wolves. The elk on average are much older in Yellowstone nowdays. If this whole wolf thing continues we will not have any elk left in Yellowstone someday soon. I've read that the moose will be gone in another 3 to 4 years. All killed off by wolves.

These pro- wolfers are talking out there butts. We had Mt.Lions Bears Coyotes, Etc. We supposably have Global Warming killing everything in sight. Amazing how we have any of the native wildlife left at all in this country to listen to the pro-wolfers talk. When are these pro-wolfers going to admitt to themselfs and the world that this Canadian wolf is not the same wolf as our native wolf? The only natural missing predator in Yellowstone, And places like Estes Park in Colorado is the human predator. Hunters take only the animals that the ecosystem can afford to have taken to keep things in check,(Bull to cow ratios, age of the elk in the herds for example). Humans are ethical hunters that don't slaughter big game animals the way these non-ethical Canadian wolves do.(Out Of Control) We would not have the wildlife in this country today if not for the sportsmen in this country.

I was in and around Yellowstone for a couple weeks this winter. Exploring some of the boundary areas I came across a number of mule deer carcasses surrounded by wolf tracks. It was very cool. Unfortunately, I didn't actually see any wolves, but I did see a few coyotes.

Reading most of the comments here, one starts to wonder how elk managed to survive for thousands of years before the livestock industry brought the wolves to near extinction. I'm fairly certain, as long as poaching is kept under control, the elk and wolf populations will stabilize. It sounds like this happening already.

I suspect much of this griping has to do with the fact that unlike RMNP, Yellowstone is no longer an elk farm serving the surrounding national forests. The good old days of shooting from the road are over. If you want to hunt elk, now you may have to actually hunt (that's why its called hunting). Hunters may even have to get off of their ATVs and walk. I think this is the most important side effect of a re-established wolf population. The further people have to leave their vehicles behind, the better they'll be able to develop a real relationship with the land. The more people expereince real wilderness, the easier it will be to protect our last wild and roadless lands.

This guy sounds like another ... kid to me. I have to laugh every time that I here someone talk about ATV's, hunting from trucks on roads etc. I have people tell me all the time when talking about hunting why don't you use an ATV to get up there. Or why don't you use an ATV to get your game out of the woods. The answer is simple you couldn't get an ATV in the places I go! I do all my hunting on foot! Ipack all the animals that I harvest out with a backpack on my own back! ... (Kid) ... go back to school and get an education, and stop your sterotyping!

Hey anonymous,

I am an adult. You are too?! Nice to meet you. When you're packing out game in your pack, do you ever wonder if wolves are following you?

I want to thank you for such insightful article into the wolf introduction and the over impact that the grey wolves have had . Once again it proves that mother nature works better than men can at managing elk population in yellowstone.It proves to me about an island somewhere in Minnasotta where the wolf and the moose live in harmony. I read about years ago and was impressed how the moose herds stay healthy now.I one hated hearing story after story about the slow starvation of the elk in yellowstone and around the surronding area.I believe for once man got it right putting the wolf back in its natural habitat. Again thank you for the article it was very refreshing .


Thank You Doreen Sanders

Stop listening to all the lies and propaganda. Yellowsone had 1200 moose in 1995 before the non-native Canadian wolf, now they have less than 100. Some HARMANY!

So much for facts people want an elk farm then let them buy the land for it.I for one am glad to see that the wolf is back and the elk are not starving and dying of disease at a slow pace.Man is not mother nature but we pretend we are and thats where we get all wildlife into trouble.Let the wolf alone and enjoy the fact they are back to fix what man did to Yellowstone so long ago.It is so sad that people cannot listen to the facts and see what good the wolf is doing..........

Listening to all the lies huh .How long has it been since you were in yellowtone.I was there just the other week and seen lots of moose buffalo and elk.If your so interested in saving the moose than why allow cars in the park. They are just as hazardous to the moose and elk population as the big bad wolve.Did you ever see the elk roundups that they had to do before the wolf introduction .I think not because to see that many elk die in an entrapped enlosure was not nice to see.Yellowstone is natural park not just an elk farm. Get out and enjoy all the wildlife not just the ones that moo at you.

As one other person stated - before wolves were HUNTED to extinction from Yellowstone - the wolf/elk populations worked in harmony... man got too greedy.. now to bring the balance back into the ecosystem what animal must be returned?? a predator the wolf.. its like any ecosystem - they need balance.. predators prey on the old, weak or injured animals meaning only the strongest survive, this means the prey become stronger.. The wolf was around before we were in most of these areas... Man is to blame for a lot of the problems because we are moving into their territory with our livestock and wondering why animals are being lost - because the predator sees it as prey.. move to other areas where the wolf doesn't roam if you have such a problem.. anyone that thinks hunting a wolf is sport is sick!!! you dont eat a wolf.. so I'm sorry but its just blantant killing of a defenseless animal who cant defend itself against a bullet.. Hunting animals to eat and survive is fine but we have enough meat with livestock to mean no one should need to hunt anyway.. and the livestock people are the ones who complain about the wolves and have moved into the wolves territory and kill the wolves so we dont need big man hunters killing animals for SPORT!!! get a life and get a real hobby..

Wolves were NEVER hunted in Yellowstone, since Jeremiah Johnson left. Get that straight. No hunting in Yellowstone. As for the decline in elk,It's The Wolves,....

Actually, wolves were hunted, and poisoned, in the park in the late 1800s. Later, in the early 1900s, they were hunted again ... because they were seen as a threat to game animals. Sound familiar?

Here's what Aubrey Haines tells us in volume two of The Yellowstone Story:

Although wolves were marked for elimination in 1900, there is no evidence any were killed before the winter of 1914-15; in fact, it was stated in 1912 that "there is no absolute proof that they exist within the limits of the reservation." Proof seems to have been found two years later when they were reported as traveling in packs of up to ten animals. The reaction was predictable: "They are very destructive of game, and efforts will be made to kill them." By the fall of 1918, at least forty-five wolves were destroyed.

i have a couple of questions for you:
1. What was the apex predator before the wolves were reintroduced?
2. Does being an apex predator mean that the species is always successful when hunting? Explain.
3. How did changing the apex predator chang life for the coyote?
4.Do you think wolf hunting should be permitted? Explain your reasoning.
5. How do we prevent wolf hunting from wiping out the population and creating a situation similar to the early 1900's?
6. Do you consider the reintroduction of wolves to be successful? Explain please.

i want to chime in. i waited all my life to go to yellowstone which i just came back from a week ago. it was unbelievably disappointing. without throwing in i love wolves or i love elk argument i have to say yellowstone is for looking at mountains, trees, and gysers but no animals.
in my opinion i think the people running the fish and wildlife part have totalled fubard up the place and shame on them. As usual it sounds like people (this time the goverment people if you can believe that) have ruined wildlife in the park.
If you are planning on visiting Yellowstone dont go expecting to see animals. they are far and few inbetween. i drove over 200 miles in one day all thru the part to see 4 elk and maybe 30 - 40 bison. No deer, no antelope, no bears, nothing else. Go somewhere else to see wildlife.
Mistakes happen in wildlife management but since politics are now involved the right solution will never happen.
long live the elk


On scant wildlife observations seen during a quick Yellowstone NP road tour: (actually you saw more highway center-line than wildlife, for obvious reasons: had you takenrequired adequate time very early morning and late evening viewing, you may have seen more)
About 207 years ago, Lewis and Clark found/encountered little game except in the "Indian War Zones"that is, areas between warring tribes where game flourished because Indian hunting did not occur.Although Lewis & Clark traveled well north of Yellowstone, their experiences written in diariesare critical. Long before though, 13,000 years ago, Clovis People hunted to extinction the mega-fauna, (Clovis People hunting was the "straw to break the camel's back" effect) by culmulative deleterious effects, andthen European diseases descimated Indian People prior to Lewis & Clark's arrival atFort Clatsop near the Pacific Ocean shores. "In the absence of humans, we predict that much larger populations of bison, elk, deer, and wolves would have ranged the West than were reported in historic documents." 1999 War zones and game sinks in Lewis and Clark's West (PSM and Christine R. Szuter). Conservation Biology 13: 36-45.[/i][/b] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1046/j.1523-1739.2002.01272.x/full

Anon at 12:48, what times were you out? Early morning or late evening? Those are times when animals are most active.

Where were you? The large meadows around Norris campground are full of rutting elk these days. Bugling bulls keep the air ringing.

If you want to see animals, you need to slow down. Stop frequently. Look carefully. Listen.

Wild animals do not usually come forward wearing bright orange and carrying placards reading "Here I am. Photograph me."

You simply cannot expect to "drive over 200 miles in one day" and see much of anything. That's like stopping at Mather Point at Grand Canyon, snapping a couple of pictures and thinking you've experienced the place.

Go back to Yellowstone again. When you do, spend a week at least. Get out of camp at daybreak. Walk and look and listen and sniff the air and rejoice. You can't do that behind the steering wheel of your car.

Absolutely agreed, Lee. The last time we were in Yellowstone we spent several days [and that was too brief]. My wife took an early morning walk and saw a wolf playing out in a meadow. We wandered down a dirt road leading from here to there and saw a majestic elk. We looked around the park leisurely and saw a host of wildlife, going about their own daily business. Driving 200 miles in a day and calling it empty would be like spending an hour in Washington, DC, and claiming that there were no Smithsonian museums to be seen.

I like wolves

The problem is the researcher/biologists coming up with project after project (funded by tax dollars) to fatten their pockets whether it is to figure out why wolves were killing lots of bull elk or why the willows aren't growing despite dropping elk numbers by 70%. The fact is records indicate that 50 adult wolves were killed over teh 14 years that wolves were killed along with 86 pups, that was the total. In contrast 16 wolves were imported in the first load and 1 year later 15 more were imported. Menawhile the first wolves had pups and 10 more wolves were brought to the park from Montana because they were cattle killers. That means 31 adults plus the 10 Montana wolves were introduced in 12 months to an area that had a total of 50 adults killed over 14 years. In the meantime grizzlies had been protected and were increasing to a much greater number. They overloaded a limited area with major predators, very poor science, but lots of research dollars. Believe me it is very easy to see that the elk herds have decreased dramatically, and all herds have been impacted.

Has anyone yet made the connection that a reduced Elk herd will mean eventually, reduced wolf numbers. They go through stages as they do on Isle Royale. When there is plenty of prey, you get plenty of wolves. When prey numbers drop, the wolf population will drop shortly thereafter from lack of food (low pup survival rate). When the wolf numbers are down, prey numbers increase. And so forth...and so on.

The relationship between wolves and moose on Ilse Royale NationalPark has been continuously studied for over fifty years, and continues today. I think all you wolf haters should also do some studying. A good place to start would be reading the Isle Royale Wolf/Moose annual reports published on line every year. Some of the above comments are truely hilarious!

1. To those who like moose: Scientists have recorded less than 2 moose killed by wolves per year. More than 25 moose are killed by cars per year. There are at least 3 recorded moose kills from poaching(probably much more unrecorded) in the park each year. Seems to me like cars should be taken out of the park because they are more of a problem....
2. To those who complain about Rocky Mountain Timber wolves being the native species: The Rocky Mountain Timber wolves and the Canadian grey wolves are the SAME SPECIES. They are both Grey Wolves (Canis lupus), look it up if you don't believe me. Just look at their scientific name: Northern Rocky Mountain wolf(Canis lupus irremotus). They are both subspecies of grey wolves (Canadian grey wolf being a general term used to describe any of the various subspecies of grey wolves living in Canada) which have intermixed with all other subspecies of grey wolves in North America for thousands of years. Rocky mountain wolves share some Canadian wolf blood and vis versa.

I couldn't agree more.

First off, wolves aren't the only animals they prey on elk calves. BEARS prey on elk calves more than wolves, even. Climatic change, too, has effected whether they're even born! Global warming does have an effect, maybe not as big but just as significant.

Second, reread what you just said. Even if elk calf survival is in the ones, the most members of herd are the young ones, elk born at a max of two to four years before--so they're doing fine.

Third, its technically impossible for all of the elk from Yellowstone to be gone, especially solely at the hands of wolves. And not just Yellowstone and wolves and elk, but everywhere and every predator and their food source. Ever heard of balance? More so, heard of "survival of the fittest"? Let's use the wolf-elk example.

When the elk population is low, the wolves are likely unable to bring down the healthiest, biggest, smartest, etc. elk. Which, after a high-time for hunting, is pretty much the characteristics for the whole herd in such a situation. Wolves starve. They die. A chance for elk population growth. More elk. More sick, injured, old etc. elk. More chances. Wolves prey upon the weak. Wolf pop. booms. More wolves eqauls more food needed equals more hunting. More hunting equals low elk pop. but with healthy elk. Wolves starve. They die. And so on. (In a singing voice: "It's the circle of life!")

Wolves prey on everything they kill and don't even eat the elk. They kill a pregnant elk and while she is still alive they rip open her uterus and eat her unborn calf. They leave the mother to rot. They kill the strong also ripping them apart.

Typical waste of a resource and massive waste of taxpayer dollars. The wolf is and will prove to be a collasal mistake costing the states of mt, I'd, wy, millions if not billions of lost revenue.

The Yellowstone elk herd could have been managed by sportsmen and it would have cost the taxpayer nothing instead the Feds came in and introduced a invasive species and pushed the states aside. There numbers swelled way past the management numbers and the states had to waste more tax dollars to try and contain the disaster. Finaly the states won in court to have a season. However hunting cannot possibly contain the wolf. So more wasted tax dollars to shot them from helicopters, trap them etc etc.

The wolf can do well and there can be a balance in a massive ecosystem where there are not people and agricultural boundaries confinement for both the elk and the wolf. When u turn them lose in a big zoo with no fences. Yellowstone is that it's not Alaska its not the far reaches of Canada. Things get messy and the once largest elk herd is reduced to nothing..

There is no such thing as a "Rocky Mountain Timber Wolf." It's a myth. The Canadian wolves reintroduced into Yellowstone in the early 90's are genetically identical to the Grey Wolves that lived there historically.

The "Rocky Mountain Timber Wolf" is a myth created by wolf haters. This myth may have come about from wolf/dog hybrids that existed after the demise of the Grey Wolf in the park. That's not a genetically pure wolf, just the straggling remains of what once lived in the park. Either they actually believe in a false species called the "Rocky Mountain Timber Wolf" or it's just an outright lie from folks who are having a more difficult time finding trophy elk to shoot for themselves or their rich clients. The trophy bulls aren't just wandering around waiting to be shot like they used to when there were no wolves in the area. A balance will return if the historic predators are allowed to do their thing. In areas with wolves, the days of the "canned" elk hunt are over, and rightly so.

The elk population is coming to an end because of wolves? It's called circle of life as others have stated when elk population goes down so does the wolf. When the elk population increases so does the wolves.. How hard is it to understand that!!

and to the ... last comment.. wolves dont just kill the elk and eat unborn calf wasting and letting meat rot away, they tend to eat everything if they can't finish it they come back to it, it also leaves meat for the scavengers such as coyotes, birds, foxes, bears, etc... just cause the elk population is going down doesnt mean shit it means things are leveling themselves out as they should its called an ecosystem try reading more and being better educated... Wolves were apart of yellowstone area long ago as they were in other states before man killed them of due to the big bad wolf theory..

Also get over yourselves saying man could of better controlled elk populations by hunting them and not decreasing them as much as wolves.. all you people care about is the hunting or trophy hunting! and I'm not against hunting what so ever. The fact is the wolf was hunted to near extinction. There now being brought back and the ecosystem is balancing itself out...

Heres an ex. the grand canyon used be a very lively lush environment and "sporting hunters" wanted to have more deer to hunt. so they killed off the wolves and other predators in the area which in turn increased the deer population dramatically! the deer ate all vegation in area and killed itself off or moved on to greener pastures, and forming the climate and ecosystem its currently at now.

So how is reintroducing a natural predator to an area where they were killed of because of humans a bad idea? Again its called an eco system people! get over yourselves already! the elk wont disappear completey cause of wolves being reintroduced, nature has a way of balancing itself out! so think before you spit out stupidity.. The reason bison nearly went extinct was due to european settlers killing them off to disperse indian tribes else where to take their land due to the fact that was their main food source.. It wasnt due to wolves now was it? in fact after they killed off all the bison they went after the wolves as well.

Get over yourselves and stop saying oh well wolves are bad... we should be farming the elks in yellowstone so theres a bigger population to hunt for sport.. Yellowstone is not a farming operation for hunters! its to preserve the natural ecosystem that man has destroyed elsewhere that you can no longer see! with population increases rapidly increasing of people how long do you think it will be before theres no natural environment or animals? it's already happened elsewhere! easter island was one them.. sounds to me like population of people needs to be better managed. not the other way around. How long before theres not much of anything left? you really want that happen?

Nature has taken care of itself just fine before we came along.. Its called an ecosystem! wolves and elks being a part of that they will balance one another out time and time again. They are not an Invasive species! we killed them off and their being reintroduced thats not invasive people! nature and the ecosystem will balance things out long after we're gone as well. Try reading the book collapse and how the effects of people killing everything off has.. including its own people. such as easter island as I stated..

Editor's note: This comment was lightly edited to remove some gratuitous language.