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Yellowstone wolf pack and grizzly bear spar in rare video recorded by local tour guide

Outdoors

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WEST YELLOWSTONE, Montana — Sometimes you are just in the right spot at the right time.

Case in point, Island Park-based wildlife guide, Adam Brubaker of Tied to Nature, captured a stunning 15-minute video last week giving his guests, and the rest of us an intimate and rare look at the Wapiti Lake wolf pack as they engaged with a grizzly bear in the northern area of the Hayden Valley of Yellowstone National Park.

“I have been watching this wolf pack since it was established,” Brubaker told EastIdahoNews.com this week. “This is what I love about Yellowstone — that every day will be different.”

Guiding since 2014, Brubaker has owned and operated his tour company since 2018, but last Friday was a first for him. He filmed the 15-minute video from about a mile away using just his iPhone and a spotting scope. He then posted a three minute edited version online that has earned more than 3.5K shares on social media and has been viewed more than 230K times on his company’s Facebook page since Saturday.

In the video, a curious grizzly is seen standing up in an empty field as a few wolves come into the videos’ frame. The next few seconds show the grizzly running toward the camera with five wolves running toward the bear followed by gasps from the tourists. “I’ve never seen this before, you guys,” Brubaker is heard saying in the video as the wolves appear to nip at the grizzly who is now working circles around the pack.

Douglas Smith, senior wildlife biologist for Yellowstone National Park confirmed that Brubaker’s video was of the Wapiti Lake wolf pack.

“The footage depicts ‘classic’ wolf-bear interaction behavior and is not uncommon to the two species,” Smith said in an email to EastIdahonews.com. “Bears are stronger and have the upper hand in terms of strength, but the wolves are much quicker, or can move rapidly away from the bear, so almost never get caught or injured. Both species know this, so the behaviors are almost ‘ritualized’ or perfunctory. Meaning the wolves – like mosquitos – are just harassing the bear out of an area they don’t want it to be.”

The Wapiti Lake pack was established in 2014, according to yellowstonewolf.org. Smith said that the pack is currently at 25 wolves and that the Hayden Valley area is the center of their territory. Smith surmised from the video that there may have been a “kill” in the area because of the ravens circling above the bear and wolves.

“Probably the bear wanted to take (the kill) from the wolves; the wolves didn’t want that to happen and because the bear is stronger, the wolves’ only hope was greater numbers and harassment to try and get the bear out of the area – which appears to have worked,” Smith wrote. “The bear looked concerned but not worried, but the wolves looked relaxed with tails up showing excitement.”

In the video, some wondered if the wolves were protecting pups from the bear, but Smith said that given this time of year, any pups in the pack would be strong enough to get away from the bear.

Toward the end of the video, 12 wolves can be seen chasing the bear back into the forested area with Brubaker’s guests saying, “Run, bear!”

With snow in the air and about two more weeks before Yellowstone closes to transition into the winter season, Brubaker looks forward to catching more moments like this. In the winter he guides for Yellowstone Vacations via snowcoach.


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