Wolf packs are extremely territorial, and a video that was recently shared to Instagram shows what can happen when two rival packs meet in Yellowstone National Park. An epic chase ensues, with one wolf running like her life depends on it. And it does.
The video was shared on March 30 by Yellowstone Wolf Tracker, an adventure company that offers guided wolf-watching trips in the park. Michelle Holihan, who was guiding a tour that day, recorded the video.
“Today our Winter Wolf Watch saw the Rescue Creek Pack run across the Lupine Creek Pack and an epic chase began,” Wolf Tracker explains in the post. “Several Rescue Creek Pack wolves ran up on a grey pup from Lupine. The rest of her pack fled but she didn’t understand the danger until it was too late, and she had to flee full speed down a mountain slope to escape.”
As the video shows, the Rescue Creek pack is running six or seven members deep when they cross paths with the Lupine Creek pack. Jogging toward their rivals, the Rescue Creek wolves run right past a lone bison without even slowing down. They’re clearly on a mission. One of the female pups in the Lupine Creek pack doesn’t recognize this until coming face to face with a large black wolf from the Rescue Creek pack at the top of a ridge. She immediately spins around and takes off downhill.
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Sprinting down the mountainside through patchy snow and sagebrush, the bigger black wolf stays right on her heels. A second member of the Rescue Creek pack follows close behind, but by the time the three wolves reach a narrow gully, the young female starts to break away. She might not be as large as her pursuers, but she’s clearly faster and more agile. After jumping across the gully, she starts side-hilling and turns on the jets, eventually getting away from the rival wolves that are trying to run her down and kill her.
Wolf Tracker noted that Holihan’s group lost sight of the lone female, and they weren’t sure what became of the wolf at first. They noted in an update that she was seen alive with her pack the following day.
Territorial Battles Between Wolves Are Often Deadly
Yellowstone is home to an estimated eight wolf packs, totaling roughly 95 individuals, according to the National Park Service’s latest count. These packs have established territories throughout the park, and they typically stay within their respective turfs. This can change during the winter months, however, as deep snow pushes wildlife into lower elevations and concentrates the animals. The wolves will follow their prey down, which can lead to violent run-ins between packs.
Studies conducted in Yellowstone over the years have shown that gray wolves will often go out of their way to kill members (especially the pups) of rival packs. One study from 2014 found that these territorial battles can occur even when food is abundant. The same study found that the number-one cause of death among the park’s wolves that year was other wolves.