Watch a playful wolf trying to steal grizzly bear’s meal at Yellowstone

Wolf and grizzly bears
(Image credit: Getty Images / Byrdyak)

In the fictional Jellystone Park, it’s the tourists who have be wary of Yogi bear stealing food out of their picnic baskets. In the real-world Yellowstone National Park, however, it seems like it’s the grizzly bears that have to be careful they don’t lose their dinners. But not to tourists. To hungry wolves (cue Duran Duran…)

In this incredible footage, shot by wildlife photographer Trevor LaClair, a playful wolf seems very interested in the carcass that the grizzly is merrily chowing down on (the carcass having been thoughtfully pixelated out by ABC’s Eyewitness News).

As the wolf bounces around like a playful puppy, it’s not entirely clear if it’s actually more interested in the meal or trying to get the bear to play. Which seems unlikely and a very dangerous ambition.

Wolf Shows Playful Interest in Grizzly Bear's Meal - YouTube Wolf Shows Playful Interest in Grizzly Bear's Meal - YouTube
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Anyway, the grizzly’s having none of it. It lashes out at the leaping lupine at one point, though not with any great enthusiasm, then just goes back to eating. The wolf isn’t put off at all, and continues its merry dance for a while longer before eventually giving up.

In fact, earlier this year National Geographic published an article on the unusual interactions between the wolves and bears at Yellowstone. “The park has very large packs of wolves,” says says Clayton Lamb, a wildlife scientist at the University of British Columbia and research firm Biodiversity Pathways. "And they have grizzly bears that overlap with them, which is not uncommon, but they do so in very open and easily viewable landscapes. It can be fairly difficult to observe those sorts of interspecies interactions in other places.”

Normally, wolves will drive away unwelcome grizzly bears when they get too close to their pack, or a bear will scare off wolves entering their territory. But it seems the wolves and bears at Yellowstone are becoming increasingly tolerant of each other.

The likely motivator, suggests the article, is food.

Bears will sometimes snatch a wolf pack’s kill if they are hungry enough, according to Daniel MacNulty, a wildlife ecologist at Utah State University.

“I've seen this kind of interaction between a large pack like that and a single bear," he says. “It does kind of look as if the wolves are maybe being playful with the bear, or vice versa, but honestly, I think it's all business for both the bear and the wolves.”