Six wolf packs that need our protection

These wolves deserve a safe home, but hunting, trapping and poaching threaten their lives.

Every wolf pack has a story to tell. Explore these packs to discover what makes them so special -- and what we can do to defend them.

RawPixel | Public Domain

Many people falsely believe that wolf packs are brutal gangs led by dominating alphas, but the truth is much sweeter: Wolf packs are families.

Most packs are composed of related wolves, usually parents and offspring, who hunt together, play together, and protect one another. Packs can overcome a lot together — but they can’t protect themselves from hunters and trappers.

Hunters are taking aim at the wolves of the Northern Rockies right now. Elsewhere in the country, packs are struggling to survive poachers and to establish themselves in new territories.

Every wolf pack has a story to tell. Let’s explore these packs to discover what makes them so special — and what we can do to defend them.

Junction Butte Pack

The Junction Butte pack of Yellowstone National Park is full of survivors, none more impressive than “Wolf 907F.” 907F, a female with shaggy gray fur and a missing left eye, is Junction Butte’s leader and the oldest known wolf in Yellowstone. For 10 years she has raised pups and fought rivals, and even temporarily lost her leadership to a newcomer — but under her restored guardianship, Junction Butte is the largest pack in Yellowstone.

Even though the Junction Butte pack makes its home in one of the nation’s most famously protected natural areas — and despite 907F’s savvy leadership — danger still lurks just outside the park’s borders. Lines on a map mean nothing to a wolf. Junction Butte pack had no way to know that roaming into Montana during the winter of 2021 would be a deadly mistake.

In the 2021-2022 hunting season, hunters in Montana were allowed to use bait to tempt wolves out of Yellowstone’s protective borders and shoot them. Over a dozen wolves were shot and killed, including some members of Junction Butte.

Wolves deserve to be safe wherever they roam. We’re working to win Endangered Species Act protections for the wolves of the Northern Rockies to prevent this kind of tragedy from devastating the Junction Butte pack and the rest of Yellowstone’s wolves again.

Wedge Pack

The Wedge pack of Washington state was founded when a pair of wolves started a family in 2012. Like all wolves, all the Wedge pack wants to do is hunt, play, and live safely in their forest territory — but their human neighbors make that simple dream difficult to achieve.

In the portions of Washington where wolves aren’t protected by the Endangered Species Act, state wildlife managers are allowed to hunt and kill wolves they consider problematic. In the summer of 2020, Washington started killing Wedge wolves one by one in an attempt to protect livestock.

By August of 2020, Washington had killed every known wolf remaining in Wedge pack territory.

But the pack survived. At least a handful of wolves still roam the Wedge pack’s territory today, although a series of illegal poisonings depleted the pack again just two years ago.

We’re working to stop the state sanctioned killing of wolves in Washington and Oregon, so that the remaining Wedge pack and the other wolves of the northwest are safe to thrive.

NPS/Jim Peaco | Public Domain

North Park Pack

Gray wolves were hunted to extinction in Colorado in the early 1900s, leaving the state without some of its most important wildlife — until 2021.

A pair of wolves originally from Wyoming crossed the border to make their home in northern Colorado, and they made history when their pups were born. The litter were the first wild wolves to be born in Colorado in more than 80 years. This young family became known as the North Park pack.

The pups, six black-furred siblings, grew and thrived for over a year before tragedy struck. Wolves are protected from hunting in Colorado, but not in Wyoming. When three of the young sisters crossed the Wyoming border, they never returned. Wyoming hunters killed them.

Hunters in Wyoming are targeting the Colorado wolves on purpose. They blasted audio recordings of a pronghorn antelope in distress to attract the wolves so they would come near enough to be shot.

We’re working hard to stop the annual Wyoming wolf hunt, to protect both Wyoming’s wolves and the fragile young population of Colorado wolves just across the border.

Gearhart Mountain Pack

On the northwest edge of the Great Basin, high desert scrublands meet rolling hills and mountains that are filled with ponderosa pines and western juniper. This varied landscape is known as Oregon’s Outback, and it’s here where members of the Gearhart Mountain pack hunt together, play together and protect one another.

In April 2022, biologists found two wolves — a lone male traveling from California and a collared female from Oregon — together in south-central Oregon. A year later, the pair was designated as a breeding pair after producing three pups.

That’s where the story of the Gearhart Mountain pack begins.

Every day, some of the members of the Gearhart Mountain wolf pack emit a GPS signal from their collars as they travel across Oregon.

But just recently, some of their radio collars fell silent.

State wildlife officials responded and discovered three wolves — including the mother and her two adolescent wolves — laying lifeless in the snow.

These three pack members were illegally killed. Badly weakened, the Gearhart Mountain pack may not survive.

wolf cubs
Outdoorsman |

Wapiti Lake Pack

The Wapiti Lake pack calls a valley at the the heart of Yellowstone home.

Since the pack’s first male and female pair had their first litter of pups in 2015, the pack has grown strong and the parents have shown great care in nurturing their family. The mother and father take turns caring for their young, distribute food carefully and make sure the pups get what they need to grow into strong, healthy adults.

But still, the pack faces grave danger.

Every hunting season, hunters lure wolves over the Yellowstone border with bait and recordings of distressed prey animals. Hunters know they can’t shoot wolves in the park. But once a wolf steps over that invisible boundary, hunters can and will aim and fire.

In 2022, an adult male from the Wapiti Lake pack wandered too far from his protected lands within the park. He was shot and killed by a hunter in Montana.

To a wolf, man-made boundaries mean nothing — but these lines can mark the difference between life and death. That’s why we’re urging states in the Northern Rockies to stop deadly wolf hunts.

Timberline Pack

For decades, biologists tracked Idaho’s Timberline pack. With over eight wolf pups, there was endless fun to be had — chasing one another, playing together and hunting as a pack.

But in 2021, biologists noticed that the pack’s den had been left empty.

Eight pups in the Timberline pack were killed by the euphemistically named “Wildlife Services,” a division of the federal government. Today, it’s unclear whether the Timberline pack still exists. But we know this: Their den remains empty.

We’re mobilizing grassroots support for our campaign to stop the federal Wildlife Services division from killing wolves with taxpayer dollars.

With your support, we can help protect these packs and the rest of America’s wolves wherever they roam.

From restoring vital Endangered Species Act protections, to stopping state-sanctioned wolf killing, to ending devastating annual wolf hunts — all of our campaigns to save the wolves are powered by supporters like you.

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