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Druid youngsters kill a bison. Molly's Pack kills a lot of them, but has a hard time keeping them.

4-2-2002


About 10 days ago, the Druid Peak pack killed an adult bison. Observers saw about 7wolves bring down the bison at about dusk. Dr. Doug Smith head of the Yellowstone wolf team told me today that the bison had been killed, not by the main group of the pack lead by venerable 21M and 42F, but by a satellite group of Druid wolves, consisting of pups and yearlings.

Meanwhile, bison are providing most of the spring diet for Molly's Pack which is in the still deeply snowbound Pelican Valley. Smith said Molly's pack is killing a bison every 5 to 7 days. There are no elk in the area. The elk all migrate out of Pelican by late December or early January.

"The pattern for Molly's Pack is now obvious," Smith said. "They stay in the Pelican Valley until almost all of the elk have migrated out. Then the wolf pack migrates out of the Park into the North Fork of Shoshone river winter range." Smith said the wolves stay there about a month, but they have learned that by March the bison, back in snow of Pelican Valley, will be weak. The pack migrates back into the Park and lives on bison. Smith said the bison are staying on the nearly bare windblown slopes waiting for the green-up and trying to conserve their energy. The wolves repeatedly test the bison. "The bison tend to do well if they stand they ground." He said he saw the pack test a big bull 4 times before giving up.

Smith and his team of observers have noted that every bison kill is soon claimed by the grizzly bears which have emerged from their dens. "Soon" means from almost immediately to about half a day. Smith said in every case the griz displaced the wolves from the kill, except for one case where the bear and pack jointly fed on the bison. Nevertheless, the wolves can consume a lot of meat in the hours before the grizzly comes.

The Pelican Valley is noted for its dense population of grizzly bears. The valley is closed to human entry most of summer for this reason.

Smith said that in Yellowstone usually more wolves participate in a bison kill than an elk. Elk are brought down by an average of 3 wolves. He said their observations of bison kills usually involve 10 to 14 wolves. Molly's Pack had 10 members at the end of 2001. Besides the Druids, another pack observed to kill bison is the large Nez Perce Pack (18 wolves) which maintains a deep snow, central Yellowstone range most of the time. Smith other packs probably have killed bison too, but have not been observed.


 

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