Yellowstone wolf collaring ended until Feburary on Jan. 12 when the expert helicopter crew left for another job in Ontario, Canada. They will return in February to complete the job.
Radio collars were sucessful installed on 17 wolves and changed on four of the alpha males: the Rose Creek Pack (R8M); the Leopold Pack (R2M), the Druid Peak Pack (R21M), and the Thorofare Pack (R35M). The crew was not able to capture any of the Chief Joesph Pack. The Crystal Creek Pack is still in the North Absaroka Wilderness where it is not legal to land aircraft or to fly below 2000 feet. The Soda Butte is already heavily-collared.
As Doug Smith had predicted, the alpha male of Thorofare, no. 35, turned out to be the Park's largest wolf -- 130 pounds. Two of the Thorofare Pack's pups were radio collared too, a male (92 pounds) and a female (84 pounds). Smith observed that the alpha males were slower than the alpha females and they seemed more protective of the pack. The alpha females would run for the heavy timber. Chief Joseph was not captured because the pack moved into the timber and stayed there.
In pack movement news, all but one of the packs are in their usual locations with Soda Butte Pack returning to Heart Lake. The Crystal Creek Pack remained just outside the Park along the rugged east boundary in the North Absaroka Wilderness. They had inhabited the Park's Pelican Valley last winter, spring, summer, and most of the fall, but then they started to move farther east.
Wolf R29M continues to move back and forth between the Hayden Valley in the center of Yellowstone and Nez Perce enclosure, which houses his pup and two of the Sawtooth Yearlings.
Now that the packs have been carefully observed, the Park estimates that the total Yellowstone Country wolf population is somewhere around 80, given the summertime mortality of both adults and pups. The pups are more distinguishable now and their ID numbers will become more meaningful to those who follow what is happening with the wolves.
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copyright © 1997 Ralph Maughan
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