Latest observations on the Northern Range.
Kathie Lynch has once again provided us with her observations of wolf watching from the Northern Range of Yellowstone. Thanks Kathie!
One additional item — below Lynch discusses the Slough Creek Pack. One pack member 453M, was identified as a likely early disperser from the pack, and indeed, he was recently located in the Sunlight Basin area east of Yellowstone Park on Jan. 13. I don't know if he is with the Sunlight Basin Pack or not. He is the wolf that got caught in a coyote snare in the Lamar Valley, Oct. 2004.
I should have additional news on wolf collaring activity on the northern range on Jan. 30 (afternoon). For example two members of the Hayden Valley Pack were finally collared. RM
By Kathie Lynch
A quick trip to Yellowstone in late January brought the opportunity to see the Slough Creek and Leopold pack wolves and near misses on the Agate Creek and Druid Peak packs.
Nine members of the Slough Creek pack spent a couple of days on a rocky ridge across Slough Creek flats, easily visible from the parking lot and Dave's Hill. They evidently had a kill down in the flats, and they mostly lounged around on the hilltop, enjoying the sun and snow. The group included the black alphas 490M and 380F, the black female yearlings "Bolt" and "Babysitter," plus the three black pups. The gray Beta male, 377M, and the gray female yearling, "Sharp Right," were also present. I enjoyed watching the alpha female, 380F, and the three black pups playing keep away with a stick or bone. It is the very beginning of mating season, and I did see a couple of attempts at mounting by 490M and 377M, but the females weren't ready and willing yet. The six Sloughs not with the group were mostly males (489M and the yearlings 491M, "Blaze," "Slight Right," and "Left Tail"), plus the gray Beta female "Straight Tail" --perhaps they were all out looking for dates!
I watched 11 Leopold wolves one morning in their usual territory on the Blacktail Deer plateau. It's always quite a long distance view from the Forces of the Northern Range turnout, but I could pick out both alphas, who led the rest in an excited rally and group howl before bedding down again.
The Agate Creek pack had a fresh cow elk kill only about 25 yards off the road just east of Floating Island Lake. Although I heard a lot of howling in the area (especially north of the road from the Elk Creek turnout), and there were fresh wolf tracks in the snow on the side of the road, I never did get to see any animals except ravens feeding on the carcass. I'm sure that there was just too much human activity nearby, especially considering that I actually saw three people walk right over to inspect the carcass the same day it was killed!
Trying to see the Druid Peak pack has been vexing lately. Strong radio collar signals indicate that they are hanging out in the Round Prairie area, but they are rarely visible. They stay hidden in the dense forest on both sides of the road and rarely howl. I'm hoping that if one or both of the females gets pregnant, they won't den in the area--it's still just too close to what is now Slough territory. These two Druid females are the last link to our dear old Druids of the good old days. Druid Alpha 480M can't protect everyone--and we all know that 302M is a lover, not a fighter!
Wolf watching has grown quite a bit more challenging lately, with only about 118 wolves in Yellowstone National Park now, compared with 171 a year ago. If my calculations are right, and you subtract the 22 pups born this year from 118, that means that only 96 of those 171 are still present, which means that 75 wolves are missing. This staggering loss is appalling! It really makes me wonder--what happened to them all?