Soda Butte Pack to be re-released Oct.7


The Soda Butte Pack, one of the three original packs released into Yellowstone National Park in March 1995, is slated to be re-released Monday, Oct. 7 at Trail Creek, a very remote location in the SE corner of Yellowstone near where the Yellowstone River runs into Yellowstone Lake.

The pack was originally released in Soda Butte Creek in the NE corner of Yellowstone National Park 1 1/2 years ago. The release location gave the pack its name. Over time the pack increasingly moved northward, out of the Park and over the Beartooth Mountains where the Montana plains, farm and ranch country begins. Here on the Beartooth Front, the pack denned in April 1996, and no. 14, the alpha female gave birth to 3 pups. The den's location on private land near West Rosebud Creek was felt by many to be a bad location for a wolf pack, although the Soda Butte Pack had never attacked livestock. Nevertheless, all of the pack except one adult male was captured last June and put in the empty Crystal Creek Bench enclosure in Yellowstone's Lamar Valley.

In August the captive pack was taken across Yellowstone Lake to the roadless and very remote SE corner of the Park. They were placed there in a new enclosure near the Trail Creek ranger station. Release is planned for October 7.

The pack presently consists of 5 wolves: no. 13M and 14F, the alpha pair; no. 24F, a yearling born in the Beartooth Mountains May 1995, and pups no. 43M and 44M. Originally the pack also included 12M and 11F, young adults, who dispersed during the winter of 1995-96. Both wolves were shot dead in separate incidents in Wyoming. The shooting near Daniel, Wyoming, of no. 12, a very large wolf, has not been solved. Until June 1996 the pack also included no. 15M, another young adult. No. 15 escaped the June capture, but was finally captured in July, after it had paired with wolf 27F, who was raising five pups near Fishtail, Nye, and Roscoe, Montana on the Beartooth Front. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been trying all summer to capture her and her three still free pups.

No. 15 was penned with no. 27's pup no. 47M at the empty Nez Perce Creek enclosure (see stories of Sept. 17 and Sept. 25).

The three Soda Butte pups born this last spring were healthy, but no. 45F died of apparently natural causes in early September.

At the time the Trail Creek enclosure was built, it was believed the pack's release would provide the first wolves to the wildlife-rich SE corner of the Park and the two adjacent huge wilderness areas -- the Washakie Wilderness and the Teton Wilderness. However, in just the last several weeks wolves 35M and 30F seemed to have paired to form a new pack. They have been frequenting this country. It's called the "Thorofare". The pair was recently observed at the confluence of Thorofare Creek and the Yellowstone River near the Yellowstone Park/Teton Wilderness boundary.

The Thorofare area is the most remote wilderness location (in terms of distance from a road) in the contiguous United States. Mr. Lee Mercer and myself are currently writing a hiker's guide to this remote country. We did observe occasional wolf sign (a howl and scat) this summer.

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Copyright 1996 Ralph Maughan
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