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Hungry Wolves Hunt Lone Bison In Yellowstone National Park

American bison. Image by Mike Beaumont via Unsplash

An incredible scene played out in Yellowstone National Park, where a pack of wolves were hunting down a bison! While the bison is running at incredible speed through the rocky terrain, one can’t help but be mesmerized by the dramatic footage. 

The Scene

Wolves hunting bison
Screenshot from @montanawild_ via Instagram

The video shows a pack of wolves hunting down a bison, and getting alarmingly close to catching the massive mammal. Running through the canyon, the footage gets a bit shaky, but what does one expect with all that adrenaline? 

Sweet Escape

Image via depositphotos

Luckily, for the bison, it escaped from the hungry jaws of the wolves after crossing a river. The bison could run to safety while the wolves were left hungry, and had to set out on another energy-draining hunting mission! Hopefully, it was more successful. 

Wolves Hunting Bison

gray wolf
Image via depositphotos

A pack of hungry wolves can take down almost anything, even the largest mammal in North America! However, wolves only succeed about 15% of the time and need between 9 and 13 pack members to take down a bison. 

Watch The Video 

American Bison grazing in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Image via depositphotos

You can watch the video taken by Andrea Baratte in the Yellowstone National Park on Instagram here

Wolves Hunting Bison

grau wolf
Image via depositphotos

This incredible video had me thinking: how can wolves hunt these massive mammals? Especially considering their size and speed difference. So, let’s have a look at some of these stats and compare these two animals

Bison Size 

Adult female American bison and 1 week- and 1 month-old calves at the Prioksko-terrasny biosphere reserve, Russia. Image by oksanavg via Depositphotos

Bison bulls typically weigh between 800 and 2,200 pounds! They measure between 5 and 6.5 feet at the shoulder and 7 to 12 feet in length. Bison cows, although slightly smaller, are still massive. They weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds, measuring around 5 feet at the shoulder and 10 feet in length. 

Wolf Size

gray wolf
Gray Wolf (Canis lupus). Image via Depositphotos

Much smaller compared to the bison, male wolves weigh around 140 pounds and measure 3.2 feet at the shoulder and 6 feet nose to tail! Again, the females are slightly smaller. They weigh around 100 pounds and measure 3 feet at the shoulder and 5.5 feet from nose to tail. 

Bison Speed

Side profile close up of an American bison, also known as buffalo, with its tongue sticking out in Yellowstone National Park. Image by via

Despite their large size, bison are surprisingly fast and agile! They can run up to 40 miles per hour and take quick turns and jumps. 

Wolf Speed 

gray wolf
Gray Wild. Image by Milo Weiler via Unsplash

These wolves are built for endurance and chasing their prey over far distances. In short bursts, wolves can chase their prey at 37 miles per hour. However, their endurance is what sets them apart. They can maintain a steady speed of 6 miles per hour for hours on end, exhausting their prey. 

Bison Diet

They once roamed in vast herds numbering in the millions across the Great Plains. Image viaJack Dykinga, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It always boggles my mind that these massive animals are herbivores. Living on a diet of primarily grasses and sedges. And in the winter months, when food is scarce, they will also eat a variety of herbs, shrubs, and twigs. Luckily, their digestive system can get nutrients from these tougher plant materials. 

Wolf Diet

Gray wolf suddenly stopped.
Gray wolf suddenly stopped. Image by bazil via Depositphotos

These predators are carnivores and primarily hunt large to medium mammals in their environment. Their pack hunting technique makes it possible for them to bring down large prey, like bison. If they need to, they will also hunt smaller animals like voles and beavers to supplement their diet. In some regions, wolves will even hunt fish!

Bison Social Habits

Bison and its herd
American Bison forming a large group during breeding season. Image Via

For the most part, bison live in herds divided by gender and age. Female herds exist of a bunch of female bison and their young, while bachelor herds consist of non-dominant males. Dominant males have priority access to breeding partners and food resources and will assert dominance over any other bull who challenges them. 

Wolf Social Habits 

gray wolf
Gray wolf. Mariofan13, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Wolves live in packs of 2 to 15 members, with an alpha pair (male and female) leading the pack. Not only do these predators hunt together, but they also share responsibility for each other’s young and will often be seen playing with each other. This play teaches the young how to fight and strengthens their bonds. 

Bison Defense Mechanism 

American Bison
American Bison and calf in Yellowstone National Park. Image via Arturo de Frias Marques, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

These large land mammals use their size, strength, and speed to their advantage and as primary defense mechanisms. When facing a threat, bison will charge at their predator with their muscular build and strong horns. If outnumbered, they use their fast running speed to run from their predators, as we see in the video. 

Wolf Hunting  

Gray Wolf
Gray Wolf. By Malene Thyssen – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

As we mentioned earlier, wolves are pack hunters. They use coordinated strategies and teamwork to target and take down their prey.  Their endurance allows them to chase and exhaust their prey before they surround it and strike. Wolves have keen tracking and stalking abilities, often focusing on vulnerable prey!  

Bison Conservation 

Herd of the American bisons in the spring steppe
Herd of the American bisons in the spring steppe. Image by anmbph via Depositphotos

Bison conservation efforts restored the number of these magnificent mammals in North America. Through a focus on their protection, population restoration through habitat preservation, breeding programs, and legal protection greatly aided in their conservation. However, the IUCN Red List still lists these animals as Near Threatened.

Wolf Conservation

Gray wolf
Gray wolf in spring. Image viaEric Kilby from Somerville, MA, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Gray Wolf is protected through conservation efforts to ensure that their population remains stable. Efforts include monitoring populations, preventing human-wolf conflicts, and ensuring genetic diversity. Conservationists work to maintain stable populations and healthy ecosystems, highlighting the wolves’ crucial role in biodiversity and ecological balance

Survival Of The Fittest

American Bison.
American Bison. Image by dmbaker via Depositphotos

The bison might seem lucky to have escaped, but on this day its speed was enough to save him from a pack of hungry wolves. The wolves, who might seem unlucky, just pulled the short straw of Mother Nature’s survival on this day. Another day, against a weaker bison, they might have succeeded! 

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mexican gray wolf
Mexican gray wolf. Image via Depositphotos

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