During the 19th and 20th century, as ranching businesses boomed, hunters nearly eradicated the United States’ population of wolves and bears. Shortly after the disappearance of these two predatory species, conservationists observed the dangerous imbalance in Yellowstone National Park’s ecosystem. Without wolves to hunt elk, the elk population boomed and overgrazed on the plants, trees, and grass. Smaller animal species began to disappear from the park, having a domino effect on the population of coyotes and foxes. Hoping to cure these ecological problems, scientists pushed to reintroduce wolves in Yellowstone in the 90s. As they suspected, the presence of wolves impacted the population of many other animal species. Fewer elk improved the health of plants and grass, bringing back rodents and the animals that hunted them.
While this project proved to be a success, no scientist could have predicted the sudden fame and fascination surrounding one wolf in particular. O-Six was born of the fourth generation of reintroduced wolves, named after the year she was born. Park visitors took a quick liking to O-Six as she broke off from her pack to claim a new territory for her own. She was a skilled and courageous lone hunter, attracting the attention of photographers who witnessed her life and shared it through social media. Eventually, she took on two brother wolves and trained them to hunt, teaching them to cooperate to feed their pack and defend their territory in Lamar Valley. Spectators were baffled at the undeniable leadership and empathy of O-Six as they followed her life. Through the lenses of their cameras, they were able to see her interact with her companions, maneuver through territorial rivalries, and protect her pack from danger. O-Six quickly became the most famous wolf in the world.
For years, O-Six and her pack thrived and dominated the Yellowstone territories. It wasn’t until 2012 that the pack strayed outside of the national park, no longer protected by conservation laws. O-Six was killed by a trophy hunter, unbeknownst to him that he had targeted the legendary wolf. Following her death, wolf-hunting policies surrounding the national park received national coverage. Her legacy as a prominent, clever, and courageous alpha remains as fuel for those fighting to protect the wolf population today.
O6 ENV strives to embody the O-Six Wolf mentality, delivering service to our clients through collaboration, perseverance, and innovative thinking. Through our Relentless Solution Focus, our team leads efforts towards restoring infrastructure and natural land to improve our communities and protect our environment.
For more information about the story of O-Six, Yellowstone’s famous wolf, visit: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/article/american-wolf-nate-blakeslee-yellowstone-hunting