Views of the Agate Pack dominate Yellowstone wolf watching through late July


I recently spent 12 days in central and north central Idaho, exploring, and looking for wolves in vain. It's almost impossible to find wolves in Idaho without telemetry unless you are lucky. Nevertheless, it is fun to see their tracks.

Recently two woodcutters nearly Stanley, Idaho had an interesting experience when they were sharpening their chain saws, and the squeal attracted a pair of wolves who must of thought it sounded like an injured animal. The wolves sniffed around the perimeter of the wood cutters site and left without event.

On July 25, I was up on the Lolo Trail admiring the beautiful country where the Idaho Fish and Game Commission wants to reduce the wolf population by 80%. I did see elk, despite record high temperatures and a lot of elk and deer tracks on the dirt road and in the adjacent forest. On that day Kathie Lynch emailed in a new Yellowstone wolf report which follows below. She also reports today that the Slough Creek Pack appears to have reconstituted itself. . . Ralph Maughan

Clearwater Mountains from the Lolo Trail
July 25, 2006. The vast Clearwater Country from the Lolo Trail.
Copyright Ralph Maughan

YNP WOLF Field Notes, July 25, 2006. © By Kathie Lynch   

Wolf watching in Yellowstone this summer had settled into a routine of morning and evening viewing of the seven adults and six pups of the Agate Creek pack in their rendezvous site near Antelope Creek on Dunraven Pass. However, the early morning of July 25, 2006, offered much excitement with the sudden appearance of two gray wolves running full speed toward the sound of a squealing cow elk which was lying injured near a third gray.   

   The wolves involved included alpha 113M (looking very chipper, considering that he is one of the two oldest wolves in the Park at the ripe old age of nine), beta 383M (who brought down the elk) and the yearling female 524F (who doesn't seem at all hampered by her very bad teeth, the probable result of whatever disease she survived last year as a pup.)

   Mercifully, the elk died in seconds. The carcass lay only about 400-500 yards away from the road and in plain view, but the wolves soon tugged it partially out of sight behind trees. By evening, only bones and hide remained. The entire day offered a wolf watching bonanza as all seven Agate adults arrived at various times to feed on the carcass and then headed back toward the rendezvous to cache meat or regurgitate to the pups.

   Alpha 113M made at least three trips back and forth, caching tidbits all along the way. I have treasured every moment of watching him this summer as he provides for and plays with his pups. He is every inch the benevolent patriarch. Together with his mate, alpha 472F (whose silvery black body and white face is so reminiscent of her father, the great Druid alpha, 21M), the Agate alphas make a dynamic duo. 

   Another Agate wolf I have especially enjoyed watching is the uncollared gray male yearling. He is always into something and is such a character! You may remember my story about how he recently treed two black bear cubs and an hour later was four miles away being chased by a bull moose. His latest endeavor has been trying to dig his way to China!  A few days ago we noticed a big cloud of dirt flying and discovered him digging deep into what may be an old coyote den. He would dig and dig, with only his rear and tail showing, then go all the way in, turn around, and pop back out or lie in the entrance with just his head protruding, like a turtle. By coincidence, the elk carcass just happened to be right by his excavation project, so, in his spare time, he got right back into it and sent the dirt flying again. 

   All of the Agate wolves appear to be in wonderful condition. The adults are almost comical to see from the front or rear, as their bellies bulge out to the side. And, the six pups, now over three months old, are so gigantic that it's difficult for casual observers to tell them apart from the adults.

   After the staggering pup losses of 2005, it's wonderful to see a pack so full of vitality and life! These happy, healthy pups are a tribute to the leadership of the Agate alphas and the support of the other pack members. They are surely a fitting legacy to their grandfather, Druid 21M, their great grandparents, Rose Creek 9F and 10M (who were reintroduced to Yellowstone from Canada in 1995) and to the entire wolf reintroduction program! 

YNP WOLF Field Notes, July 31, 2006. © By Kathie Lynch

As of today, the Agates have remained at their rendezvous site in view from Dunraven Road, so we're hoping they stay there a while longer.  And, this morning eight of the 10 surviving Slough Creek wolves were together near Crystal Creek and then bedded on Jasper Bench--alpha 490M and seven females, including the three yearlings who survived last year's disease. 

The only two pack members missing are the male Slight Right and the old gray female (who was probably with beta 489M when he was killed by the Unknown Group in April.)

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Ralph Maughan PO Box 8264, Pocatello, ID 83209
Wolf Recovery Foundation; PO Box 444, Pocatello, ID 83204