Officials from Yellowstone National Park have shared a video appearing to show resident wolves bringing toys to their pups – a behavior that might seem more human than wolf.
The video, which you can watch below, was captured this spring shortly after the pups were born, and shows a number of the park’s wolves from the Mollie’s Pack carrying bones and antlers to their young. Scientists theorize the items give the wolf pups something to cut their teeth on, a little like a teething ring for a baby, and the gifts might not be entirely selfless.
“Pups await food deliveries from successful hunts, but in the absence of food adults bring “toys.” The instinct to bring items back to the den may be reinforced by evolution, and probably helps keep adults from being mobbed by sharp puppy teeth,” park officials wrote on Instagram.
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Of all the wildlife you can see at Yellowstone, gray wolves are some of the most thrilling. The largest non-domesticated member of the canine family, gray wolves were classified as an endangered species in 1974 and efforts to reintroduce them began in 1995 in Yellowstone National Park and Idaho. As of January 2023, there are at least 108 wolves estimated to live in the greater area of Yellowstone.
Yellowstone officials explain that wolf packs typically have one litter of four or five pups each year. By late October, the pups will be two-thirds of their adult size and start traveling with the pack through the harsh Yellowstone winter which typically sees food in scarce supply for wolves.
“Pups that survive the winter have learned to help the pack hunt large prey like elk and bison and will help raise the pack’s next litter of pups – delivering food, and sometimes toys.”
Viewing a wolf in Yellowstone is a very special occurrence, and if you’re traveling to the park in the hopes of catching a glimpse of one, you should first read up on what to do if you encounter a wolf on the trail. Yellowstone’s Northern Range is one of the best places in the world to see a wolf in the world, but they are very elusive, so make sure you bring your binoculars. Your best opportunity to view gray wolves is at dawn and dusk.