US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Yellowstone Science (2016), 24(1), pp. 37-42.


U.S. government work.


When Rudyard Kipling wrote The Jungle Book in 1894 and included the famous line "For the strength of the Wolf is the Pack, and the strength of the Pack is the Wolf," he would have had no idea that over a century later, scientific research would back up his poetic phrase. Recent studies in Yellowstone have found that both the individual wolf and the collective pack rely on each other and play important roles in territoriality. At a time when most fairy tales and fables were portraying wolves as demonic killers or, at best, slapstick gluttons, Kipling seemed to have a respect or even reverence for the wolf. Wolves in The Jungle Book raise and mentor the main character Mowgli, with the pack's leader eventually dying to save the "man-cub" from a pack of wolves. Kipling may have extended intra-pack benevolence to a human boy for literary sake, but he was clearly enthralled with how pack members treat each other. As wolf packs are almost always family units, most commonly comprised of a breeding pair and their offspring from several years, amiable behavior within the pack is unsurprising. By contrast, wolf packs are fiercely intolerant of their neighbors, their rivals. And this competition is proving to be an important facet in the life of a wolf and its pack.