Much has happened since the new wolves in Yellowstone
were finally released from their "acclimation enclosures."
Some of the news is tragic. The pair that had been in
the Blacktail Deer enclosure was taken south and released
near the Lone Star Geyser. This release site, 40 miles
south of the enclosure, was selected because two of last
year's wolves had bonded and were using the country near
the Blacktail Pen. This new pair is, in fact, called the
Blacktail Deer Pack. It is hoped that the female R7F will
bear pups in the near future.
Back to the pair released near Lone Star geyser -- R 35M and
R36F. The wolves remained together, but on Sunday, April 14,
the Park received a "mortality" signal from the female wolf's
radio collar. Her carcass was soon found with the male wolf
nearby. She had fallen in one of the Park's thermal features
and badly burned her rear legs. This loss was compounded by
the fact that it was discovered she was pregnant with six
pups that would have been born in about 2 weeks.
More bad news. The wolves in the Nez Perce enclosure near
the Lower Geyser Basin (about ten miles north of Old Faith-
ful) quickly split apart upon their release. This may have
been caused by the reluctance of one of the male pups to
leave the enclosure. The large male alpha remained behind
with the 10-month old (100 pound !) pup. Since their release,
the male alpha and the pup have moved across the Park to
near Tower Falls.
The alpha female left the enclosure quickly with the three
large female pups. They went to the NE and just kept going.
Soon they were out of the Park; then over the rugged Bear-
tooth Mountains. They came to the Montana plains and continued
to the NE. The alpha female also became separated from her
three pups. As of yesterday she was near the city of Billings,
The Park Service may capture them, and then return them to the
Park. The female (R27F) may then be penned if she is found to
In the last day,R27F has turned around and is now back near
Red Lodge, Montana near the base of the Beartooth Mountains.
She is somewhat to north of her wandering female pups.
There had been great hopes for the wolves in the Nez Perce
enclosure because they were captured in Canada at a bison
kill they had made. Many believe that Yellowstone has an
overpopulation of bison, but none of the wolves from last
year have killed bison. It was hoped the Nez Perce pen
with its large pups and very large alphas would produce
a bison-crunching pack.
With the Nez Perce pen empty and its former occupants many
miles from the area, the Park Service decided to take the
last enclosure of wolves -- those in the Crystal Bench
enclosure near the Lamar Valley -- to the Nez Perce enclo-
sure and release them. This has been more successful.
The four wolves left the enclosure, explored several miles
to the east and then to the west, and then they killed an
Originally the Park Service had planned to release this
group in the backcountry near Heart Lake. Release at their
Crystal Bench site was deemed unwise because the Lamar
Valley area already is occupied by wolves from last year.
This group is for now being called the "Chief Joseph
The five new wolves in the Rose Creek pen behaved completely
different from the original wolves from the Nez Perce pen.
The door was opened and the Park Service stopped bringing
them food. Nevertheless, it took about a week for the
wolves to leave. Then they lingered nearby. By last Tuesday
(April 16) they had moved about four miles into the lower
part of Slough Creek to the west.
This pack is being called the "Druid Peak Pack" to avoid con-
fusion with the Rose Creek Pack from last year.
The Rose Creek Pack has been the unexpected success story in
Yellowstone. Last year R10M, R9F, and R7F were released from
the Rose Creek pen. R9's sub-adult daughter R7 soon split and
R9 and R10 headed over the Beartooth Mountains where Chad
McKittrick (now in prison) shot R10. R9 was about to give
birth, and she soon bore eight pups under a tree on the out-
skirts of Red Lodge, Montana.
Biologists captured her and her new pups, put them back in the
Rose Creek enclosure, feeding them all summer. In October they
were released. Soon R8M from the Crystal Creek Bench pack bonded
with the pack and he became the new alpha male, replacing dead
Since then, the 9-member pack has roamed the Lamar Valley and
nearby Slough Creek, the Buffalo Fork, Hellroaring Creek, and
the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone River, killing coyotes and
an elk about every other day.
Recently R9F has begun to hunt less with the rest of the pack,
and may be about to have more pups.
The Crystal Bench Pack from last year, which has lost three
members (two to other packs), recently moved from the Lamar
Valley to the Pelican Valley twenty miles to the south. The
Pelican Valley is a lush, but higher valley, full of bison;
and in the summer, elk, moose, and grizzly bears.
The Soda Butte pack from last year, which gained one pup but
this winter lost two members to illegal gunshots, remains in
the Stillwater River drainage in the wilderness north of
The Blacktail Deer Plateau Pack (pair) remains on the Black-
tail Deer Plateau about 7 miles SE of Mammoth Hot Springs.
This pair is a male from the Crystal Creek Bench Pack and
R9's daughter, R7, who spent most of 1995 as a lone wolf. It
is hoped that R7 is pregnant.
© 1996 Ralph Maughan
Not to be reprinted, archived, redistributed, etc., without permission.
© 1996 Ralph Maughan