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Yellowstone Wolf Population Remains Steady in 2018

The Yellowstone wolf population remained steady in 2018, according to a report issued by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department as part of its management of the state wolf population.

According to a report issued Tuesday:

There were ≥80 wolves in ≥9 packs, including 7 breeding pairs, living primarily in Yellowstone National Park at the end of 2018. Overall, wolf numbers fluctuated little from 2009 to 2017 (83-108 wolves) but dropped slightly in 2018, particularly in the interior of Yellowstone after the Snake River pack shifted into Wyoming. Breeding pairs remained consistent with the historic average. Pack size in 2018 ranged from 3 to 19, averaging 8.7 in size (Table 3). Park-wide, 24 pups survived to year end, split between northern Yellowstone (12 pups) and the interior (12 pups) of the park (Table 3).

Twelve wolves in 5 packs were captured and collared in Yellowstone National Park in 2018. Five of these were re-collars to replace old or malfunctioned transmitters. In addition to marking them, a number of measurements and biological samples were taken while the wolf was sedated. Five females, 6 males, and 1 hermaphrodite were captured; 2 were old adults ( under 6 years old), 6 were adults (2-5 years old), and 4 were yearlings.

Three radio-collared wolves died in Yellowstone National Park in 2018 (Table 3). One adult (Wapiti 1091F) and 1 old adult (Mollie’s 779F) died of unknown natural causes as their necropsies were delayed due to remoteness and exact cause of death could not be determined with certainty; although evidence suggests they died after being kicked by an ungulate. The third wolf (1116U), an old adult, died after being shot outside the park. In addition, staff recorded 4 uncollared wolf deaths. Two wolves, the uncollared alpha female of the Lamar Canyon pack (old adult 926F) and the alpha male of the new 1005F group (adult), were harvested during the wolf hunting season in Montana and 1 subordinate female (adult) was harvested during Wyoming’swolf hunting season. The last uncollared wolf was a female 8-month old pup likely kicked and killed by an elk or deer. This is the first year since 1995 we recorded no intraspecific-caused mortality in Yellowstone National Park, which is usually the leading cause of natural mortality in the park.

Historically, a total of 80 wolves is low. However, there’s a caveat here: the number does not include a pack that was counted as being outside Yellowstone National Park. Unlike humans, wolves do not consider boundaries when considering their travels.

You can view the report here, including information on how wolves fared in 2018 across the state.

Photo courtesy National Park Service.

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