The Majestic Wolves of Yellowstone

The Shoshone Tribe respected the wolf as a Creator and watcher of their people.  Full of wisdom and strength, the wolf captured the essence of the Great Spirit and the majestic beauty of Mother Earth.  At the turn of the 20th Century, just a mere 30 years after an Act of Congress created Yellowstone National Park, wolves had nearly been eliminated from the Greater Yellowstone area.  By the 1910s, with the help of Congressional funding, Yellowstone began a campaign to eradicate predatory animals, including the wolf.  In 1933, the U.S. National Park Service adopted a policy to stop the mass killing of predators in Yellowstone, but the damage had already been done.

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Shoshone Warrior with Wolf – Illustration by David Joaquin “Mountain Spirit”

 

Fast forward 60 years to 1995, the “Year of the Wolf.”  Michael K. Phillips, project leader of Yellowstone Gray Wolf Restoration Project, and Douglas W. Smith, Wolf Biologist for the Restoration Project, led a team of passionate and determined field members to reinstate the Gray Wolf to Yellowstone.  On March 21, 1995, the restoration project team’s vision and dreams come true, when wolves were relocated from the Canadian Rockies and released into Yellowstone National Park.  Among the wolves were #2male(M) and #7female(F).  #2M and #7F formed the first natural wolf pack in Yellowstone, which became known as the “Leopold Pack,” named after famous ecologist and conservationist Aldo Leopold.  The Leopold Pack thrived for over a decade, and the wise and powerful Gray Wolf brought majestic beauty back to Yellowstone.

While the war on the wolf is not over, their population is growing, and the preservation of their story and remains are important to Yellowstone.  Here at the Yellowstone Heritage and Research Center (HRC), we have the esteemed honor of housing the wolf skulls and bones.  Collecting the remains of the Gray Wolf allows not only for the preservation of the reintroduction project but for researchers to conduct studies on gray wolves evolution and dietary habits.  Part of my curatorial duties at the HRC is to construct boxes to house and store the wolf skulls for safe keeping.  We also conduct public tours in which we display #2M and #7F’s skulls, and tell their relationship and forming of the first natural wolf pack in Yellowstone.  Who doesn’t like a good love story?

“Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf.” – Aldo Leopold

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#2M & #7M skulls – a great attraction during our public tours

 

 

For more information on amazing projects being performed by the Public Lands History Center of Colorado State University, please check out our website at: http://publiclands.colostate.edu/

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