New Wolf Pack Spotted in National Elk Refuge

   02.09.15

Officials at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming have reported that a new wolf pack may have been spotted hunting elk, pronghorn, and sheep at the refuge.

According to the Jackson Hole News and Guide, the wolf pack was first sighted in January after it killed at least two elk just north of Jackson. Instead of belonging to one of the already established wolf packs in the area, officials now believe the refuge wolves are an entirely new group that split off from a pack in Grand Teton National Park.

“Our best guess is that the pack with four black and two gray wolves that was observed in the refuge in mid-January was likely previously in the Huckleberry Pack,” refuge biologist Eric Cole told the Associated Press.

Wolves are not new to the refuge. Several wolf packs claim overlapping territory in the area, including a group of wolves that officials managed to capture and collar in 2013. The Pinnacle Peak Pack has perhaps the most visible presence in the refuge and every year, refuge biologists estimate that between 10 and 50 elk are killed by wolves. Despite these rare sightings, officials do not consider predators such as wolves or bears to be a major problem in the refuge, which is home to an average of 7,500 elk every winter. Instead, refuge staff consider the predators to be part of what attracts wildlife watchers to the area.

“Certainly we want people to come out,” refuge spokeswoman Lori Iverson said last month. “If people are wildlife watching, please use the pullouts and exercise safety and caution on the roads.”

Wolves have a wide range and it is not unexpected for new packs to form up in different areas. Wolves are also highly territorial creatures and packs that are situated too close to one another will engage in deadly clashes, which can lead to population declines. Reports already show that wolf numbers in Yellowstone National Park have declined steadily since 2007 due to mange and territorial conflicts, while elk herds in the park seem to have risen slightly.

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