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Yellowstone Wolf 163

163Frm.jpg (26964 bytes)

Druid Peak Pack Male

1998 - 2000, deceased



Male 163Dies

Long Live 163

Druid Peak Pack

Tracks of 163


Looking for stories and photographs of Number 163: Please contact the editor

Limited edition Prints of Wolf 163 Are available


Tracks of 163

A Poem by Lynn Weston


From the east he came in a gentle light;

Towards the Lamar picnic area with an old carcass in sight.

His trail would take him across a flooded marsh;

But the soggy land would not make his travels harsh.


Where he would step toward his satisfying goal;

He left in the mud the imprint of his soul.

After feeding & disappearing into familiar pine;

I examined what he left in the shadows of time.

Impressed upon the land more precious than gold;

The spirit of the wolf was seen perfectly formed & bold.

The elements may eventually erode away the actual facts;

But in my dreams I will see him forever leaving tracks!


Based on a sighting of Wolf 163 on the morning of June 14,  1999


Wolf 163 Dies

Male 163's remains found with mountain lion sign nearby

Male Wolf 163 has died, apparently of natural causes.  Biologists report that the body of Wolf 163 has was examined at a location deep in the North Absaroka wilderness east of Yellowstone.  The body appeared to have been scavenged upon extensively and not a lot of the information could be gained from the remains.  However, mountain lion sign including tracks were found in the immediate area.  163's remains were also found near the carcass of a female bighorn sheep. Circumstantially, it appeared that either Wolf 163 or a mountain lion had made the kill and Wolf 163 died in a confrontation either defending the carcass or trying to usurp it from the lion.


Wolf 163 was originally from the Druid Peak Pack.  He was the only surviving pup of the Wolf 40's 1998 litter.  It was assumed that Wolf 163's father was Wolf 21. After leaving the valley in 1998 with two pups, a gray (163) and a black, the Druid Peak Pack returned with with one, 163.  As an only child, of sorts, he enjoyed a comfortable place in the pack.  After the dispersal of Wolf 104, he was the only male besides his father in the pack.

Park biologists captured Wolf 163 in January 1999 and fitted him with a radio collar.  At the young age of 9 months he already weighed in excess of 100 pounds, and was in overall good health.

One thing Wolf 163 will be remembered for in particular was the variety of objects he would transport to the den for the 1999 pups.  Branches and rocks were common, but on occasion he would find a real prize.  National Geographic film-maker Bob Landis filmed 163 carrying a boot!

Over time, Wolf 163 became very popular among park visitors and wolf enthusiasts.   He was one of very few wolves that grew to tolerate human presence resulting in a lot of close encounters and good photographs.  Increasingly he began to travel on the road and into pull-outs, even weaving through parked cars and coming close to observers.   While never aggressive toward people, 163 did rummage through the contents of an over-stuffed garbage can.  His disposition led to some minor aversive conditioning by area rangers, the first action known to have occurred for a wild wolf since their reintroduction to Yellowstone.

Fears that this behavior would increase in frequency were quelled in early autumn of 1999 when Wolf 163 began to leave the pack with more regularity.  Soon he did not return was considered to have dispersed.  Flight reports early that winter found him roaming the upper Lamar drainage and on at least one occasion he had joined up with another wolf of unknown identity.  The pair were not considered a pack pending their long-term fidelity to one another.  It was not know if the other wolf was with Wolf 163 at the time of his death.

A significant period of days had elapsed between the time 163's collar was discovered in mortality mode and the actual investigation of its body. This was due in large part to the remote area in the North Absaroka Wilderness in which the signal had been found.  When biologists did make it to the site there was little left of the wolf, but tell-tail signs in the area suggested a battle between large carnivores, the wolf and the mountain lion, had taken place.



Long Live Wolf 163

by Justin Franze

As I was reading over the mid-February wolf report for Yellowstone, I came across some sad news. During the second collaring operation, researchers came across a mortality signal from high in the Absaroka Mountains east of Yellowstone. Unfortunately, the collar and the signal coming form it belonged to Wolf 163. As shock and then sadness came over me, I kept replaying the experience I had had with Wolf 163. As I told myself the story, I thought that I should share it with other people who have come to know the wolves of Yellowstone and have had similar encounters. Not similar in substance, but similar in the emotions it brought out.


Here is my story of 163.

In June of 1999 my girlfriend Stacey and I headed for Yellowstone. Our mission was obvious, to observe wolves. Not only to observe wolves, but to observe wolves in the greatest surroundings possible, Yellowstone. After two days of driving non-stop we finally made it to the park. We decided to stay at the campground and go to bed early so we would be up at the crack of dawn. We hoped that this would increase our chance of seeing wolves. As it turned out, we could only imagine how much so. The alarm went off at 4 a.m. and we pulled ourselves out of our sleeping bags and got ready for our first viewing opportunity of the trip. To say that we were excited would be an understatement. Stacey had never been to Yellowstone before, and I wanted her to see her first wolf. I on the other hand had seen wolves last year, and was ready to see them again.


We got into the car and headed out to the valley. We tried to control our excitement and focus on our objective: spotting and viewing wolves. Just after the campground, there was a moose in a field on the side of the road. We stopped and watched for a minute and continued on. I had never seen a moose before, but I had a strange feeling that something more would be just ahead.

As we continued down the road, something caught my eye. Something was moving just off of the road, and it was black. I couldn't believe it, it was a wolf. This was the closest I had ever been to a wolf, and I could not keep back my joy. Here on the first day of our trip we struck gold. A wolf at ~20 yards away. What could be better?


It took only thirty seconds to answer my own question. While I was going crazy and studying every movement of the wolf to my side, Stacey was silent. It took me a minute to realize this and see why she was so quiet. As I turned to look at her, I noticed she was staring straight ahead. Before I could ask her anything, I saw it for myself. There, not even five feet from the front of my car, stood Wolf 163.

He had stopped, and was just standing in front of the car staring right back at us. He was looking right at us and all I could do was stare back. He wasn't afraid, or nervous, he just seemed curious. My heart was racing and I could barely talk. I simply muttered, "Wolf." My head was spinning. I couldn't believe our luck. Here I had spent a year preparing for this trip; trying to find out where the best spot to see wolves would be and standing right in front of the car was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen.


He stared at me and I stared at him. It was awesome. After standing there for about a minute he continued on his way. He walked past the car and met up with rest of the pack. It was if he wanted to see what on earth would be blocking his path at 4:30 in the morning while he was on the hunt. He wasn't afraid of me, he was just curious. He wanted to see what I was up to and then he moved on. I'm sure I really made no impression on him that day. He had seen people before and probably wasn't that big of a deal for him. But he definitely made an impression on me.


I will never forget that day. It's as clear in my mind as the day it happened. I will also never forget Wolf 163. He was so big, so bold. He never seemed to be afraid of anything. I was saddened when I heard the news that he had dispersed from the Druid's. This meant that I would probably never see 163 again, but I was hopeful that he would start his own pack. With any luck, he would find a mate and they would reproduce. He would help restore the wolf population to Yellowstone. I was hopeful that he would be OK, hopeful until today when I heard the news that he had died. I will miss 163, but I am forever grateful for the experience he allowed me to have. I will always remember him as I saw him on that day, big, bold, and ready to take on the world.

Long Live 163!


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