Yellowstone Wolf: Tracking the Packs logo

Yellowstone Wolf: Tracking the Packs

Project goals

Yellowstone Wolf: Tracking the Packs seeks to:

  1. Recognize the wealth of information gathered by park visitors, photographers, and regular wolf-watchers and create an official venue for them to contribute to the long-term data collection on Yellowstone's wolves.
  2. Collect visitor photographs of wolves, and accompanying data on date, location, ID (if known), and pack to answer questions about pack composition, individual histories, and individuals' infection status with sarcoptic mange, a mite infection that causes hair-loss and increased mortality.
  3. Create a dynamic and engaging educational tool for the wolf-watching community and general public, displaying photographic histories of individual wolves, maps of territory ranges, information on pack compositions and genealogy, as well as highlighting some of the Wolf Project's most recent research.

Why your input matters

The return of wolves to Yellowstone National Park has been one of the most successful wildlife reintroductions in history. The wolves' visibility and the park's commitment to monitoring them has yielded some of the best data on predator-prey dynamics, survival and reproduction, genetics, and infectious disease within a wild population. However, there are a number of questions that we currently struggle to answer because we don't have fine-enough temporal resolution in our data. For example:

  • The ongoing outbreak of sarcoptic mange appears to be having a negative impact on the population. In our efforts to understand who gets infected, who recovers, and why, we need monthly observations of all radio-collared and uniquely identifiable individuals to determine their disease status. This is too big of a task to pursue with a limited field crew; but with the help of all the park's visitors who take photos, it becomes much more feasible.
  • We may get better estimates of dispersal rates by being able to track uniquely identifiable, un-collared individuals over time.
  • Photographs taken during the breeding season may give us better data on breeding events—who bred with whom?
  • By having a better record of pack composition over time, we may discover what drives the survival and cohesion of the pack as a unit.

In addition to these potential scientific discoveries, we anticipate this site being a source of discovery and education for the public. An informed and invested public is key to the success of conservation efforts throughout the region.

Wolf watchers in Yellowstone
NPS Photo