Wolves free to wander

Kirsty Peake made a zoom presentation to 30 members of Bishopsteignton Probus Club about the wolves of Yellowstone Park, USA.  She told members that in the 1920s, visitors to the Yellowstone National Park wanted to get rid of the wolves.  The authorities supported this and wolves died when they were shot and when they ate carcasses containing a mixture of poison and glass.  A large number later died after the introduction of mange, a contagious mite which causes itching, leading to hair falling out and preventing wolves from chasing their prey for food; it was difficult for wolves to run fast and escape predators when wolves needed to itch their skin.

All the wolves had died by the mid-1930s, but by the 1990s the authorities wanted to re-introduce wolves in the Park, bringing them in from Canada.  They built special pens for the imported wolves which protected them and stopped them migrating back to Canada.  After ten weeks, the wolves were collared, ear-tagged and released into the wild.

Kirsty told many stories about the early years of imported Canadian wolves in the Park, including the annual need for each wolf to be darted, captured, examined and if they were not wearing ear-tags and collars, they were sedated and fitted with new ear-tags and collars.   Data was collected as part of the Wolf Project which has maintained pedigrees of all wolves since 1995.   Wolves feed mainly on coyotes and elks; they do not normally prey on cattle.   Indeed, one of Kirsty’s stories was about a pack of wolves walking through a herd of cattle and looking at them as if the wolves did not know what the cattle were.

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