An animal of mythic character, the Grey Wolf is an elusive social predator that can often be spotted chasing ungulate herds across the Lamar Valley flats in Yellowstone National Park.
- Wolves are very territorial and live in packs, with one alpha mating pair leading the group.
- The best location for viewing wolves near Red Lodge is in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley, near the park's northeast entrance.
- Although elusive animals, wolves can be spotted while chasing prey across flats and open areas.
In Montana, wolves are mainly concentrated in the western portion of the state. Wolves are social predators and live in packs, led by an alpha male and female mated pair. Wolves are very territorial creatures and the average territory encompasses 200 square miles. With dense fur, broad snouts, small ears, and sloping backs, the Grey Wolf usually weighs between 50 – 80 lbs, and dines mainly on ungulates and rodents.
Wolves can reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour or more during a chase.
Wolves howl to signal alarm or to serve as a locating signal for other wolves during storms or when in unfamiliar territory.
Compared to coyotes, wolves are larger, and have a broader snout and smaller ears.
Wolves were de-listed and hunted in Montana in 2009, however a recent (2010) federal ruling has placed wolves back on the endangered species list.
Best Places for Viewing Wolves
The best viewing location near Red Lodge is in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley, near the park's northeast entrance. Here, best advice is to station yourself in a parking area along the valley during dawn or dusk and wait with a pair of binoculars and camera. Often, one or more wolves can be seen coming down out of the tree line in order to hunt ungulates such as deer, antelope and elk that are grazing on the flats.
For other locations in Yellowstone or in the Beartooth or Absoroka mountain ranges, advice is to simply keep your eyes peeled, especially checking periphery areas where large herd animals are congregated. If you see an entire herd or a portion of a herd on a dead run, a wolf may be in pursuit.
Though rare, should you happen to have a surprise encounter with a wolf:
- Stand tall; make yourself look large and as broad;
- Act aggressive; throw objects or make loud noises;
- If you can, slowly back away but continue to keep eye contact.
- Never turn your back and run, as this makes you look like prey.
- And never feed any sort of wildlife!