photo credit: Bud Hamm
After years of scientific debate and public debate, 66 gray wolves from Canada were reintroduced into the Yellowstone area (31 wolves) and central Idaho (35 wolves) in 1995 and 1996. They were classified as a nonessential, experimental population in accordance with the Endangered Species Act, a designation that allows federal, state, and tribal agencies and private citizens more flexibility in managing the wolf population. Since then, the wolf population has thrived.
On September 30, 2012, wolves were removed from the list of threatened and endangered species, allowing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to return management of wolves to the State of Wyoming under an approved management plan. However, the National Elk Refuge assumes responsibility for the management of wolves within its jurisdictional boundaries. This includes the Pinnacle Peak pack, which has established itself on the National Elk Refuge.
A related article in the National Elk Refuge news archive describes the refuge's collaring of four more animals from the Pinnacle Peak pack on February 15, 2013. From the data generated by the collars, biologists will be able to monitor the size of the pack, document its distribution, record mortalities, measure the pack’s reproductive success, and note breeding pair status. The information will also help the refuge's biologist study how the presence and movement of wolves on the refuge may influence behavioral patterns in elk. Photos of the wolf collaring event are also posted on the National Elk Refuge's photo gallery.
Visitors to the National Elk Refuge can occasionally catch glimpses of these incredible animals. The Pinnacle Peak pack may be the most visible to visitors in winter because of the proximity of its territory to the town of Jackson. The
gray wolf ranges in color from white to black. Coyotes are often mistaken for wolves, but wolves are much larger in size.
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Elk aren't the only species of wildlife you may see on the National Elk Refuge.