Day 1 with the Junction Butte Wolf Pack – Yellowstone National Park

All of us had our heart set on seeing wolves during our three guided days in Yellowstone. During the summer months when Yellowstone visitation peaks, wolf sightings decline. Raising pups keeps most members close to den sites so it’s a rare occurrence to see a wolf in summer.

A fall trip was selected for a variety of reasons including bird migration, elk rut, and wolves and bears gearing up for the winter months. Little did we know that we’d be visiting Yellowstone at an incredible time to observe all 12 members of the Junction Butte wolf pack.

Our first stop during our search for wolves was at Slough Creek. There were reports of a bison carcass south of the main road and an overlook provided views in all directions. Our group was the first to arrive and within half an hour the first wolf was spotted to the west. In all, we saw seven members of the Junction Butte wolf pack from that vantage point.

View of area where we observed seven members of Yellowstone's Junction Butte wolf pack.  There is one black wolf on the ridge in this photo.
View of area where we observed seven members of Yellowstone’s Junction Butte wolf pack. There is one black wolf on the ridge in this photo.
Our group watching and learning about the Junction Butte wolf pack.
Our group watching and learning about the Junction Butte wolf pack.

Reports of another bison carcass in Lamar Valley garnered our attention. Observers reported a grizzly bear and five more wolves around the carcass so we packed up and moved on. By the time we arrived, the wolves were nowhere to be found. The male grizzly bear, however, was sleeping on top of the carcass. Fall is the time of hyperphagia (over-eating) for bears and an adult grizzly bear may consume upwards of 20,000 calories a day. It’s worthwhile for a bear to defend its food until it’s consumed its fill.

Male grizzly bear sleeping on/ defending a bison carcass in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.
Male grizzly bear sleeping on/ defending a bison carcass in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park.
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