Soda Butte Pack is re-released and


This update is the summary of a number of wolf events in the Greater Yellowstone Area in recent weeks.

Most significant was the Oct. 7 release of the Soda Butte Pack in a remote location near the SE arm of Yellowstone Lake (released in the Trail Creek/Trail Lake area). In addition, two male/female wolf pairs have formed in Yellowstone, meaning possibly two new packs next spring.

The five wolves presently in this pack were successfully released on Oct. 7. This included nos. 13M and 14F (the alpha pair), yearling no. 24F, and the two surviving pups (one died in the pen), nos. 43M and 44F. The two pups weighed 50 (44F) and 65 (43M) pounds on release, hardly the pups that Park biologist Mike Phillips pulled out of their den near the West Rosebud River last June. Nevertheless, he and other biologists had to run down the pups again, finally netting them, so that they could be fitted with radio collars before their release.

The Oct. 9 issue of the Jackson Hole News had a nice photo of Phillips and Lisa Dickmann hefting the very long-legged black female pup to the spot where it would be radio-collared.

The biologists left the pack in the opened pen with 280 pounds of frozen meat. Each wolf had a "wolf house", essentially large dog houses, where they could hide. The pups were left in their houses where the sedative could wear off, and the alpha male hid in his house, just as he has done whenever humans have approached since he was brought to Yellowstone in January 1995. No. 13M is a very old, 115 pound wolf. His color has usually been described as "bluish". Because of his shyness around humans, it took some time before biologists determined he was the alpha male of the pack.

Since 1995 former Soda Butte pack members, nos. 11F and 12M, were shot illegally (in separate incidents), and no. 15M was separated from the pack this last June when the pack was recaptured. No. 15 could not be captured until later. Upon capture he was put in a different pen than the rest of the Soda Butte Pack (the Nez Perce enclosure). Since his release, it appears he has bonded with wolf 26F to form the nucleus of a new pack (see below).

NEW PAIR 15M and 26F
Number 15 from the Soda Butte Pack was penned most of the summer with pup 47M born to female 27F last spring. When no. 15 and the pup were finally released from the Nez Perce pen this Sept. 17, they quickly found no. 26F, a yearling daughter of 27F, born to her and 28M in British Columbia. Unfortunately the pup was soon hit and killed by a vehicle. See my articles of 9/17 and 9/25.

Since bonding, nos. 15M and 26F have ranged around the central part of Yellowstone Park.

NEW PAIR 35M and 30F
I have reported this earlier. 35M had been penned with 36F in the Blacktail Deer enclosure (now dismantled) last January. They were released, however, near the Lone Star Geyser. Upon release, pregnant 36F rather quickly fell into a hot spring and soon died of the burns.

No. 30F is another yearling daughter of nos. 28M and 27F, born to the "Half Way Pack in British Columbia.

This new pair has so far ranged along the remote southern and southeastern border of Yellowstone Park.

The Park's most famous, and largest pack, continues to do well. On Oct. 13, a number of us observed six of them in the Lamar Valley at the base of Specimen Ridge. They soon moved up into the timber at Chalcedony Creek. According to Park wolf interpreter Rick McIntyre, this was the most easterly penetration made by the pack since its June 18 territorial battle with the Druid Peak Pack.

We didn't see the Druid Peak Pack, but wolf observers said they had watched this 5-member pack for an hour on Oct. 12 on the mountain slopes on the north side of the Lamar Valley near Rose Creek. McIntrye told us that the Druid Peak Pack has been frequenting the Rose Creek and Druid Peak area quite a bit and has often been found near the Rose Creek enclosure that presently contains 10 pups from defunct Sawtooth Pack from NW Montana and 2 more offspring of nos. 28M and 27F born in British Columbia.

My comment: am I wrong to assume the Druids are a most aggressive pack?

CRYSTAL CREEK PACK (the remaining pair)
McIntyre told us that the remaining two wolves in this formerly impressive pack had moved out of the Lamar Valley and now inhabited the upper Lamar River Canyon. This is the remote backcountry part of the Lamar River to the SE of the Lamar Valley. This would seem to take them out of direct competition with the Druid Peak and Rose Creek packs.

CHIEF JOSEPH PACK (remaining pair)
Since the truck-caused death of no. 32F, the pack's alpha female, wolves 33F and 34M have roamed around the northwestern part of the Park and sometimes the western part. No. 31M has been a lone wolf.

An acquaintance in Pocatello, Idaho, told me today that he had twice recently seen nos. 33 and 34 near U.S. 191 in the NW corner of the Park. It was at night on this speedway that no. 32F was hit and killed by semi-truck this summer.

After numerous attempts to capture her and 1996 pups, capture was called off as she moved away from the Beartooth Front towards the Park. This was apparently due to the huge forest fire raging on the Beartooth Front area. Since that time, she and her three remaining pups have apparently moved back to the Beartooth Front.

I don't have any specific information on the pack other than that no. 7F and 2M and their three 1996 pups are doing well in the northern part of the Park.

This unanticipated development will eventually result in their release in the Pelican Valley just the NE of Fishing Bridge at Yellowstone Lake.

The Crystal Creek Bench pen was dismantled in September by a team of youths from the St. Anthony, Idaho Juvenile Corrections Center under the supervision of Park Service staff. It was reassembled in the Pelican Valley. Plans are to release the 12 wolves here in late March or early April. I don't know when they will be moved from Rose Creek to the Pelican enclosure.

The young people who live at the correctional facility have helped the NPS on various construction and trail clearing projects for several years now.

This was a free-ranging pack in NW Montana. It roamed the Rocky Mountain Front near Augusta, and was named after nearby Sawtooth Reef. It is not the captive pack held by the Wolf Education and Research Center near Winchester, Idaho. Often, in the past, when the wild Sawtooth Pack has been mentioned, WERC gets worried phone calls from some of its many supporters.

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Copyright 1996 Ralph Maughan
Not to be reprinted, archived, redistributed, etc., without permission.