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Timberwolves: Where in the US is the Best Place to Spot One?

Updated on August 25, 2015


Only a small handful of states in the lower forty-eight have known wolf populations, out of which only Minnesota has a confirmed wolf population of more than a couple of thousand. Needless to say, unless you live in Alaska, finding a wolf in the US could prove to be endeavoring. But if you're committed to seeing a wolf somewhere other than caged up at the zoo, or at least hearing the howls from a pack of wild wolves at night, I know a couple of places where the odds are in your favor.


Lamar Valley: Yellowstone National Park

Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995 when fourteen were shipped there from Canada. Since then, they reached their peak population in this regaion in 2007, at close to 200 wolves dwelling within approximately 11 wolf packs. In 2008, after the Gray Wolf was removed from the endangered species list in the Northern Rocky Mountains Distinct Population Segment, which included Yellowstone, their numbers there began to decline. However, there are still approximately 100 wolves roaming the highlands of the nation's most famous national park, many of which can be located in a Northeast section of the park known as Lamar Valley.

Like most regions located within Yellowstone, you can hike and camp in Lamar Valley, presenting fantastic opportunities to see or hear this rare animal. I visited this scenic area during the summer of 2009. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to camp overnight there, or spend much time hiking on account of time restraints. More interested in tracking Grizzlies during my most recent visit to Yellowstone, I only drove through Lamar Valley during this visit. However, the displayed photo was taken on Highway 212, not far from the park's Northeast entrance in Lamar Valley. I believe this was a small wolf crossing the highway, although I never got close enough to determine whether or not it was merely a large coyote. Nonetheless, the park rangers in this area informed me that a number of tourists had in fact spotted wolf adults and pups there that weekend. I haven't been back to Yellowstone since then, but this information, along with my arguable wolf sighting, has convinced me that a full weekend at Lamar Valley during my next Yellowstone getaway is more than just a possibility.

The Superior Hiking Trail

The Target Center isn't the only place to go to spot a Minnesota Timberwolf. Bad joke, but in truth, if you're searching for the animal in the wild, most of which are confined to Minnesota's Northeast forests, there's a rather ideal place to go to find them.

The Superior Hiking Trail is a 275 mile dirt trail, which begins North of Duluth, Minnesota, and stretches Northbound along Lake Superior's north shore, ending just shy of the Canadian border. There's an abundance of back country campsites along this trail, most of which are free to camp on, and oftentimes vacant. These isolated campsites are a fantastic place to track timberwolves.

I first visited this hiking trail during the summer of 2007. I camped during this visit at a back country campsite near Castle Danger. It wasn't until I was awoken after midnight in my tent to the low-pitched sound of howling that I developed a theory as to how the term "Danger" in Castle Danger may have originated. I grew up on a small farm in Southeast Minnesota, where I could hear the yips of coyotes almost every night, but this sound was clearly distinguishable. This was the low-pitched prolonged howling that could only have been created by a nearby pack of wolves. Since then I've read that Timberwolves are abundant in that area, along with numerous additional areas along this trail, and are tracked by hikers and campers on this trail quite frequently. With free parking at most of its trail heads, along with the free campsites, it may cost you less to locate a timberwolf on this trail than at the Minneapolis basketball arena.


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