Hearing Wolves in the Wild

Western United States
  |  Gorp.com
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Surrounded by controversy, a wolf reintroduction program brought wolves back to Yellowstone National Park for the first time since being eradicated by humans over 60 years ago. Today over 100 wolves inhabit the park ecosystem in 11 packs. The population is concentrated in the Lamar Valley at the park's northeastern corner, where large elk herds provide ample prey. During Yellowstone's peak visiting season (July to October), the elk move out of the Lamar and into the high country, and the wolves follow, making them very hard to find. Your chances of encountering wolves, or at least being able to see them, are much greater during the off-season, when the elk, with the wolves nipping at their heels, move back into the valley basin. The Yellowstone Association Institute offers excellent educational programs as well as great wolf-watching excursions with renowned naturalists.

Wolves have been at the center of heated disputes in Alaska, mainly over a population management plan that at one time saw wolves hunted down and killed by marksmen in helicopters. Unlike wolves in any other state, those in Alaska still occupy almost all of their historic range. Populations continue to increase throughout the state, so much so that recent years have seen a decimation of some caribou herds on which wolves prey—and which many subsistence hunters in Alaska rely on to provide food for their families.

Efforts to control Alaska's wolf population in the '70s and '80s relied largely on hunting, including aerial hunts that upset both environmentalists and some in the tourist industry, who felt that images of wolves being chased from the air hurt the state's reputation. Since 1997, the state has limited its predation management approach to non-lethal techniques such as relocation and sterilization. Though you have a good chance of hearing wolves anywhere in Alaska, your best bet is the Kenai Peninsula, home of the massive Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, where many of the state's transplanted wolves are being moved.

Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 7 Jul 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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