The Wolves of Yellowstone..

by Gary Luker April. 05, 2020 380 views

There are currently about 90 to 100 Wolves in Yellowstone National Park. These Wolves make up about 8 packs. The average size of a pack is about 10 Wolves. The Yellowstone Wolves are probably the most tracked, monitored and studied group of animals anywhere. About 30% of the Wolves are collared for tracking purposes, which is done on the ground and by aircraft. Plus there are diverse teams of Naturalists, Biologists, College interns, and volunteers that observe and collect all kinds of data on each wolf. It is really an incredible operation and demonstrates how important the Wolves are as the Apex Predator in the Park. Historically, by 1926, the Yellowstone Wolves were all killed due to hunting and trapping and Yellowstone Park suffered greatly from their loss and was almost ruined. An extensive program was finally introduced in the 90’s to bring the Wolves back to Yellowstone. This re-introduction program has been very successful and because of it, the Park has also been restored along with the balance of nature. Great success story !!

Wolves of  the Junction Butte Pack

Wolves of the Junction Butte Pack

My first sighting of a Yellowstone Wolf was one morning at about 6:45 am in below freezing temperatures. In the predawn light, with telephoto equipment, we could just make out the dark wolf figures in the snow at least a mile away. The Junction Butte pack was bedded down on the cold snow with two standing. Within 10 minutes, they had all gotten up, stretched and began walking away, on to their next destination. They were all out of sight very quickly with sunrise still half an hour away. What a thrill it was to see these magnificent animals, even at that distance and low light!

First Sighting

First Sighting

Off they go...

Off they go...

The next morning, again in the freezing predawn hours, we had much better luck. The same Junction Butte pack was seen bedded down at another location, so we rushed there and again about a mile away, we could see the dark shapes of the Wolves in the snow. This time, I had added a teleconverter to my telephoto lens for some added tele-power and the light was also better....

2nd Sighting of the Junction Butte pack

2nd Sighting of the Junction Butte pack

After about 45 minutes, we watched as the pack began to stir and howl…This is what I came for. That mystical, haunting, primal sound has to be heard because it is almost impossible to describe. I was transfixed :). ...

Howling time

Howling time

After their rallying howls, the Wolves got up and seemed to “socialize” , tails wagging, noses meeting as they appeared to be greeting each other with “good mornings” and “how did you sleep?” Mothers and pups relating. Then, it was time to stretch, shake off and get moving.

Morning greetings

Morning greetings

Stretch and get ready to go

Stretch and get ready to go

Off they filed, following their leaders going to wherever they go to start their day...

The Wolf line

The Wolf line

Not far away, they encounter a Bison foraging in the snow. They showed no aggression or fear, but rather just gathered around the Bison as if to let him know, he was in their territory...

This picture, for me, shows a couple of the Wolves exuding total self confidence, anchored firmly to the ground as if they owned it (and they did in this case) while the huge Bison looks a little wary as he peeps around to keep an eye on the Wolves. Very interesting encounter...

The parting shot

The parting shot

This particular Wolf was of great interest to me. He was large and beautiful. I found out later, this was a young male less than two years old. The researchers watching these Wolves said, he was responsible for most of the pack’s “kills”, and that he is a Wolf to watch as he grows. Maybe he has Alpha Male status in his future ?

Macho Wolf !

Macho Wolf !

OK, that was my first Wolf sighting experience,,the next segment will show some Wolves at "work" !

I have to add, that as I watched these Wolves, I marveled at how they could lay all stretched out on the snow in the dark single digit temperatures !! But that was just one of the things I was "marveled" by. These are truly remarkable animals.

Join the conversation
13
There are 13 comments , add yours!
Fernando Bourgon 1 year ago

Simply fantastic!!!!

1 year ago Edited
Gary Luker Replied to Fernando Bourgon 1 year ago

The wildlife in Yellowstone, especially the wolves is indeed fantastic ! I felt very privileged to be able to photograph them.

1 year ago Edited
Richard Manning 1 year ago

That's a real cool series. amazing photos from that distance!
thanks

1 year ago Edited
Gary Luker Replied to Richard Manning 1 year ago

I had a lot of trepidation about the wolf photos..When looking through my viewfinder, I could just make out some dark lumps in the snow in the distance and low light. I was fearful that when I got home and brought these photos up on my computer screen,,and zoomed in,,I would just see some fuzzy lumps in the snow ! But thankfully, using RAW format and having some pretty good "glass" (rented :),,I was able to tease out enough detail to actually see the wolves.  The posted pictures are pretty small crops from the original grinning and not the close up full face wolf shots I was hoping to get,,,but you just can't get that close to these wolves.  Which is probably a good thing..for the wolves ! right?

1 year ago Edited
Heike 1 year ago

I really really envy you for this experience!!!

1 year ago Edited
Gary Luker Replied to Heike 1 year ago

Yes,,it was a great trip, Heike.  probably a once in a lifetime one.  But being from Arizona,,that freezing cold was a challenge ! blush

1 year ago Edited
Heike Replied to Gary Luker 1 year ago

Gary, I hate coldness, but for such an experience i would lie in t-shirt and shorts in the snow, if necessary! grin

1 year ago Edited
Jay Boggess 1 year ago

Exciting series! What a thrill that must have been for you & us!👍❤️👍

1 year ago Edited
Gary Luker Replied to Jay Boggess 1 year ago

Indeed it was, Jay. This trip was on my "bucket list" and took almost a year to plan.  I just wish I could have had more sophisticated equipment. I thought beforehand that I could get within about half a mile of the Wolves, in which case I could have gotten closer and sharper images,,,but I'm pleased with what I got on my first try..it was exciting and happy that I can share them...who doesn't love our wildlife ?

1 year ago Edited
Jay Boggess Replied to Gary Luker 1 year ago

Well, that just means you'll get to plan another trip......no???
Just take along some longer lenses, next time.....right???
Sending my best hopes & prayers for the safety, wellness & joy for you & yours.......
Salud!

+1smile+1

1 year ago Edited
Björn Roose 1 year ago

There's an old Latin saying that man is a wolf for man, but everyone who has ever watched a pack of wolves just knows that such is an insult for wolves. One just has to admire their social structure, doesn't he ?

1 year ago Edited
Gary Luker Replied to Björn Roose 1 year ago

For sure, Bjorn ! The stories I heard from our guides and others about Wolf behavior and especially some specific Wolves were simply amazing.  One particular Wolf,,,Wolf Number 06,,comes to mind. You can do a search on Wolf number 06 and see she was the World's Most Famous Wolf !!  Even the New York Times ran her obituary when she was killed. Lots of great stories.

1 year ago Edited
Björn Roose Replied to Gary Luker 1 year ago

Yeah, and then there's always an asshole shooting them down ... In recent years a very small number (maybe 5) of wolves have found their way from Germany to Flanders. At least three of them have ended up being shot, even while it is absolutely illegal to shoot them. "Oh, but they kill our sheep ...", is the main "reason" for hunting them apparently. If that is a valid reason to kill wolves we should hunt people, because even accidentaly they kill other people, right ?

1 year ago Edited
Up
Copyright @Photoblog.com