GREATER YELLOWSTONE COALITION
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GYC strongly supports legislation that is introduced in the U.S. Congress, calling for protections for East Rosebud Creek, a spectacular stream that rushes off the granite shoulders of the Beartooth Mountains through undulating ranchlands. East Rosebud is a stronghold for native cutthroat trout.

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Wolves: Celebrating 20 Years in Yellowstone

Latest News: On January 12, 2015, Greater Yellowstone Coalition executive director Caroline Byrd joined a crowd gathered at the Roosevelt Arch near Gardiner, Montana to celebrate a milestone for Yellowstone’s iconic gray wolves: 20 years back in the world’s first national park. This remarkable occasion provided an opportunity to celebrate one of the most successful wildlife reintroductions ever, consider the changes that have taken place since, and ponder the future of wolves in and around Yellowstone.

20 years after their historic reintroduction, wolves have made their mark in Yellowstone. Changing everything from elk, raven, coyote, and grizzly bear behavior and transforming the park into the top wolf watching location on the planet. Local guiding companies, restaurants, hotels, and other businesses are now catering to wolf watchers from across the globe, and not just during the summer, but also during the coldest months of winter when you can find hundreds of parka-clad visitors lining the road through the Lamar Valley. Biologically, we are still learning about what it means to have wolves back in the ecosystem. Scientists are studying how wolves shape elk herds and coyote numbers, how vegetation responds, how wolves may be a buffer against diseases in big game populations, and myriad other topics that provide a better understand of the role wolves play.

While the 20th anniversary provides a great opportunity to reflect, it also helps us look forward and recognize there is still work to be done. We continue to work with all three states to shape wolf management in Greater Yellowstone through season setting, advocating for non-lethal management tools and supporting innovative new ways to fund wolf conservation like the recently proposed Wolf Stamp in Montana. Over the next three months, we will be working with concerned citizens in the state legislatures to ensure new laws don’t negatively impact Greater Yellowstone’s wolf population. We are also working with livestock producers to fund and implement tools like electric fencing or fladry, provide range riders, and test other methods for reducing conflicts and depredations.

Overview: Wolves are critical to the overall ecological health of Greater Yellowstone; indeed, without them it is not an intact ecosystem. The wolf-tourism trade also provide an important economic boost to gateway communities.

Nearly 1,700 wolves roam the Northern Rockies, in 250 packs with more than 110 breeding pairs. Nearly 450 call Greater Yellowstone home and more than 80 wolves live within Yellowstone National Park.

GYC continues to monitor wolf numbers in Greater Yellowstone. Meanwhile, Yellowstone wolves are still playing their ecological role.

A report from Oregon State University plant researchers William J. Ripple and Bob Beschta reinforces the belief that the wolf has been a primary factor in the improved health of aspen, willow, and cottonwood trees in Yellowstone National Park's Northern Range. This in turn has benefitted such Yellowstone wildlife as beaver, bison, pronghorn, songbirds, raptors, and trout. The return of the wolf has changed elk behavior and reduced some herds, but overall numbers remain strong in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. According to Yellowstone biologist Doug Smith, the Yellowstone herds remain healthy despite smaller sizes and that numbers are more in line with historic levels.

Project Goals: The Greater Yellowstone Coalition has consistently worked to find the middle ground on wolf management, to move beyond the ongoing conflicts. We will continue to promote science-based management and increased tolerance for this iconic animal with the goal of maintaining a healthy and stable population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Photo courtesy of Jim Peaco, National Park Service.

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OVERVIEW
  • When wolf restoration in the Northern Rockies began in 1995, the hope was for a population of 300; today, there are almost 1,700 in the region.
  • The restoration of the gray wolf to Yellowstone has contributed to the recovery of such flora as aspen, willow, cottonwood and berry bushes in the Lamar Valley, as well as enhancing habitat for beaver, trout, grizzly bears and other wildlife.

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Chris Colligan, Wildlife Program Coordinator

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