Monster-Sized Wyoming Wolf Leaves Tracks Near Lander

Tracks of a wolf that was probably three times the size of a German shepherd were found earlier this week by a rancher outside of Lander, Wyoming.

Mark Heinz

December 21, 20223 min read

Wyoming wolves scaled
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Finding the tracks of what was probably a bulldozer of a wolf on his family’s property west of Lander recently came as no surprise to rancher and local business owner Ron Hansen. 

“This was a big track,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “If I had to guess, I’d say this wolf was probably well north of 100 pounds, probably three times the size of a German shepherd.”

There has been wolves on or around the ranch for several years, he said. There was some “pack activity” a few years ago, but it’s mostly just been lone wolves since. 

The ranch hasn’t had any cattle killed by wolves yet, Hansen said, and they haven’t had to shoot any of the predators. But that doesn’t mean the wolves’ presence hasn’t taken a toll. 

“It’s not so much that wolves kill cattle,” he said. “It’s that during calving season, they can stress the mothers so badly they abort their calves. And those calves are the future of a ranching operation.”

Wolves Increasing In West, Northwest

The southern Wind River Mountains are home to several established wolf packs, Hansen said. He surmises that the wolves wandering onto his family’s ranch come from there. 

It’s part of a larger pattern of wolves expanding their territory across Wyoming, the West and Northwest. 

After being mostly absent from the Mountain West for decades, wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s and have since steadily expanded their range in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

Packs also established themselves in Washington and Oregon. 

Wolves from Washington and Oregon are thought to have trickled into northern California in the 2010s. That state now has three known established packs.

Wolves that wandered from Wyoming into Colorado formed the North Park pack. Three sub-adult wolves from that pack are thought to have wandered back into Wyoming and shot in October

A second pack might have formed in Colorado and is thought to have killed cattle near Meeker this fall. 

Despite that, Colorado still plans to go ahead with the reintroduction of more wolves by the end of 2023. 

Here To Stay

Sighting wolves or finding wolf tracks will probably continue to become more commonplace in Wyoming and across the region, Hansen said. 

“The genie’s out of the bottle,” he said. “They’re just going to keep spreading because they’re so resourceful.”

Wolves also are intelligent, “crafty” and good at avoiding people, he said. 

“They’ve learned to be highly nocturnal,” Hansen said. “I’m out on that ranch 24/7, moving cattle and fixing fence, and I’ve yet to see one during the day. My brother has seen them twice during the day, and our neighbor has seen them once.”

Hansen said he appreciates wolves as a magnificent and powerful example of Wyoming’s wildlife, so he wants to see them controlled, not eliminated. 

“I don’t mind them, as long as the ag community is allowed to protect our interests,” he said. “Wolves need to be managed like any other species and managed according to science, not politics.” 

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter