Some wolves don’t care where the map lines end for Yellowstone National Park and where the rest of Wyoming begins.
In keeping track of the oldest national park’s wolf population, wolf project leader Doug Smith said monitoring of packs showed the Snake River and Huckleberry groups spent time in the southern portion of the park, but were not considered residents.
During 2018, a recently released park report indicates there were about 80 wolves in nine packs (seven of them breeding pairs) that primarily lived in Yellowstone.
This represented a slight decline in population from the period of 2009 to 2017 where the annual count was between 83 and 108.
“In 2018, we noted a drop in pup numbers,” Smith said. “However, there were no intra-species wolf killings, which is usually the reason for the most wolf mortality. “This marks a 10-year period of relatively stable wolf numbers.
“While the reasons for this are unknown, a relatively stable elk population is likely a large factor.”
During that year, from studying what wolves eat, officials accounted for 95 elk killed by wolves, 25 bison, 11 mule deer, three other deer, one grizzly bear, one mountain lion and 11 unidentified animals.
Smith, a major player in wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone from its beginnings in 1995, recently spoke in Cody about the status of wolves inside the park.
One major way park officials keep track of wolves in Yellowstone is through radio collars. During 2018, five wolves were captured to replace old or broken radio transmitters.