WATCH: Unsuspecting Hikers Startle Pack of Yellowstone Wolves

by Jennifer Shea

You’ve got to keep your eyes and ears open when you’re hiking in Yellowstone National Park, as a pair of hikers recently demonstrated.

The duo accidentally surprised a wolf pack. Then they went on as if nothing had happened, a photographer noted in video she captured of the incident.

“They have no clue,” Jule Argyle said, per USA Today. She and her cohort were observing the scene from about 600 yards away. “Isn’t that funny? Those people have no clue.”

Watch the video of the run-in here:

Photographer Hopes Incident Will Showcase the Nicer Side of Wolves

In her Facebook post on the Sept. 25 incident, Argyle pointed out that the wolves, while startled, did not attack the hikers. They didn’t even behave aggressively towards them.

“What happens when two hikers unknowingly walk into an area where a pack of wolves is sleeping? Absolutely nothing,” she wrote. “Contrary to what some people want you to believe, wolves are not going to attack you. In most cases they will run away from you if you encounter them in the back country.”

Yellowstone rules require visitors to maintain a distance of 100 yards or more from bears or wolves. That’s primarily for their own protection. But the hikers got through their close encounter unscathed and oblivious.

Biologists only recently reintroduced wolves to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Prior to their eradication from park grounds, they were actually a part of the landscape before the park was even founded.

Wolves Were Eliminated from Yellowstone After Park Was Established

When Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872, there was a gray wolf population in the park. Early park managers killed over 136 wolves on park grounds to protect the more desirable species that the wolves preyed upon, according to the National Park Service. Little was known at that time about the symbiotic relationship between various species in an ecosystem.

By the time the Endangered Species Act passed in 1973, humans understood much more about the need to restore the natural balance in ecosystems like Yellowstone’s. And all wolf subspecies made the endangered species list in every continental U.S. state except Minnesota by then.

In the mid-1990s, biologists took wolves from Canada and imported them into Yellowstone and central Idaho, where they were placed in acclimation pens. They were fed and allowed minimal human contact, with law enforcement rangers standing guard over the pens to keep tourists from stumbling upon them.

Biologists believe the gradual reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone has fostered biodiversity. The wolves mainly target elk and bison, and their leftovers provide an important resource for scavenging animals as well as bears experiencing lean years. Moreover, the wolves have driven out some of the coyote population, helping out smaller predators, rodents and birds of prey.  

As for the elk affected by coyote reintroduction, biologists are studying the matter. But so far they say the effects on elk vary from significant to very modest.