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This bison drowned in the Yellowstone River over the winter when it tried to cross. Donovan says a grizzly bear had been feeding on this carcass for several days before he set up a camera trap.

Photographer Ronan Donovan on Yellowstone

A biologist turned photographer chronicles the lives of Yellowstone's iconic gray wolves.

Ronan Donovan is one of six photographers who contributed to  National Geographic magazine's special issue on Yellowstone. Learn about the other five at

Ronan Donovan’s love of the natural world was born, as he was, in rural Vermont. A biologist turned photographer and filmmaker, he went to Africa in 2011 to study wild chimpanzees in Uganda. His film work has aired on PBS’s Nature. For the Yellowstone issue of National Geographic, Donovan spent 2015 living in the national park and chronicling the life of one of its iconic species, the gray wolf.

Now based in Montana, Donovan describes the gray wolf as “an animal that resembles humans in many ways: social mammals, strong family bonds, top predators.” Reintroduced to Yellowstone in the mid-1990s after a 70-year absence, the wolves have thrived. To Donovan, they symbolize “wild places, places that haven’t been completely engulfed by Western civilization. ... They are wild, as we once were.”

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The Mollie’s wolf pack investigates grizzly bear tracks in Yellowstone’s Pelican Valley. Wolves were reintroduced into the park beginning in 1995, and Yellowstone now has the full complement of large animals that existed there before Europeans arrived in North America.
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A biologist with the Yellowstone Wolf Project uses a tranquilizer dart to immobilize wolves.

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A gray wolf, Canis lupus

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The carcass of a bison that drowned in the Yellowstone River became a feast for an alpha female of the Mollie’s wolf pack and her two year-old offspring. Bringing down a live bison is dangerous; Yellowstone wolves far more often target elk, which make up 85 percent of their winter diet.

See more from Ronan Donovan on Instagram.