20th Anniversary of Yellowstone wolf reintroduction Celebrated

20th Anniversary of Yellowstone wolf reintroduction Celebrated

Kirsty Peake and her husband in every two years move to Montana for six months just to utilize their winter by watching wolves.

She and her husband saw the wolves for the first time in 1999 and they were so enthralled that they planned tours to help pay for their comeback to Yellowstone again and again until 2005, only to watch the park's wolves.

"We never come in the summer; there are too many people", she said while standing next to her spotting scope near Tower Junction on a relatively warm morning of about 28 degrees.

On Monday, the 20th anniversary of the wolves' reintroduction to Yellowstone, the wild canines seemed to have showed up to celebrate, even howling. The popularity of wolves, attracting people from around the world is one of the success stories of wolf reintroduction into Yellowstone. People spend on lodging, food and transportation, which profits close-by communities and the park.

According to park biologists, returning such a top-shelf predator as wolves is a good thing. Doug Smith, Yellowstone Wolf Project biologist, said elk numbers have decreased. According to studies, decreasing the number of elk has freed riparian areas from grazing and that has increased amount of streamside foliage that has benefitted beavers and birds.

One thing that has not altered is the controversy over having wolves on the landscape. People such as Peake are enamored with the big predators. According to Smith, he thinks that wolves and elk have reached equilibrium. Numbers of wolf will likely bounce around 100 animals annually and elk numbers seem to have bottomed at about 5,000 to 6,000.

Outside of the Greater Yellowstone Area, wolves carry on to move individually and in pairs into new territory involving Utah, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.