Yellowstone Wolf Project

Yellowstone Wolf Project

Since the Yellowstone Wolf project launched in 1995 when wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone, Yellowstone Forever has provided 60% of the project’s yearly budget through private funds.

Yellowstone Forever’s members and corporate partners help fund the Yellowstone Wolf Project’s crucial research and monitoring of wolves in Yellowstone. This research informs wolf management policy as well as contributes to a greater understanding of Yellowstone’s entire ecosystem.

The history of wolves in Yellowstone

The wolf, one of Yellowstone’s most important predators, roamed its landscape and defined its ecosystem for thousands of years. By the early part of the 20th century wolves had completely disappeared from the landscape.

By the 1920s, the last wolf pack in Yellowstone was killed in an effort by the U.S. government to tame the wilderness. This action had a profound effect on Yellowstone. Elk and coyote populations boomed. Beavers became increasingly rare, and so did willow and aspen trees. The park was missing a keystone species and it affected the balance of the entire ecosystem.

The tide began to turn with the help of the watershed Endangered Species Act, one of a few dozen United States environmental laws passed in the 1970s. As a result of this new law, the gray wolf was listed as endangered and recovery mandated in 1974. Immediately, the National Park Service began planning a wolf homecoming in Yellowstone—their native territory and historic home.

The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone

It took 21 years, but in January 1995, all the pieces were in place. Fourteen gray wolves were captured in Canada and relocated to Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley. In 1996, 17 more Canadian wolves were brought into the park, followed by 10 wolves from northwestern Montana in 1997. The wolf population grew quickly, as pack territories and breeding pairs were established.

This monumental undertaking marked the first deliberate attempt to return a top-level carnivore to a large ecosystem. Its impact has been significant; wolves have affected the dynamics of the entire Yellowstone ecosystem.

Why this work matters

The nationally acclaimed Yellowstone Wolf Project oversees all research and monitoring efforts regarding wolves in Yellowstone. It is the only continuous program in the region, and it maintains a 25-year period of wolf study and analysis. Year-round field research helps biologists gain data that will inform wolf management decisions for years to come. Data is gained through the following research methods:

  • GPS collaring
  • Radio telemetry tracking
  • Aerial monitoring flights
  • Genetic testing and lab analysis
  • Predation studies
  • Population counts and pup survival counts

In addition, this project maintains ongoing research that studies the park’s wolf population dynamics, wolf predation impacts on bison/elk, genetic diversity of park wolves, and disseminates these findings to the public.

How your support helps

Your gift to protect Yellowstone’s ecosystem and wildlife will help fund seasonal research associates, biological technician positions, the wolf capture program, and disease monitoring equipment and lab work. By supporting this project, you ensure the future health and stability of Yellowstone’s famous wolves.

Support the Yellowstone Wolf Project