Fall update on the Druid Peak Pack

 

Oct. 22, 2002


Yellowstone Park wildlife observers are always interested in the Druid Peak Pack because of its visibility, size, and the detailed history observers have obtained.

Here is the latest news on the Pack, and the packs and groups of wolves that split off of it after the great increase in its size due to the events of 2000. That was when its aggressive alpha female no. 40F was killed, probably by her sister 42F and one or more of her daughters from 1997. After her death, the pack ballooned in size due to multiple litters and high pup survival.

The main pack. The Druid Peak Pack-

The Druid Peak Pack currently consists of 10 adult wolves and 3 surviving pups from the 1 or maybe 2 litters born last spring. Early in the year as many as 8 pups were seen, but now it is a consistent 3 pups. There was a report of more pups with some wolves on Specimen Ridge above Lamar Valley, but that was some time ago and these have not been seen in the Lamar Valley, which is still the primary territory of the pack.

No. 21M and 42F still lead the pack. Born as black wolves, now like most older wolves, their colors have changed. 21M has a white face and sides. His underbelly is light gray and his back is dark. 42F is medium gray. 21M was born on Mount Maurice in 1995, the son of 9F and 10M of the Rose Creek Pack. He is now 7 1/2 years old. 42F was born in British Columbia in 1995 or 1994, so she is 7 1/2 to 8 1/2 years old. They still appear to be healthy and firmly the alpha pair.

The largest splinter? The Geode Creek Pack-

40F's daughters of 1997 were 103F, 105F, and 106F. None of them are now with the main pack.

106F's pack in unofficially called the Geode Creek Pack because the core of the territory is in Geode Creek and on the opposite bank of the Yellowstone River, Hellroaring Creek.

The Geode Pack consists of 6-7 adult wolves. Earlier this year 10 pups were counted, but just 3 are consistently seen now. Still, it is a pack of about 10 wolves.

Longtime Park wolf observers note that the core of the Geode Pack is where the Rose Creek Pack territory was from 1998-2000. The Rose Creek II pack is now mostly north of the Park in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness.

The fate of 103F.The Agate Creek Pack-

103F is a small, but feisty former Druid. In 2001 she denned separately from the main pack and had 3 pups. In 2002, she seemed to den in Agate Creek, while another group, mostly of Druids, but led by former Chief Joseph Pack wolf 113M denned near Garnet Hill. Since summer, however, the two groups of wolves have combined to form a combined pack, called "Agate Creek." Currently the Agate Creek Pack consists of 6 adults and 4 surviving pups. 113M is the alpha male, but the alpha female is an uncollared black wolf, not 103F, or 251F (who had also been mentioned).

Recently the  Pack moved well south of the Lamar/Tower Junction area and was located in Sour Creek, near the headwaters of the Pelican Valley, home of Molly's Pack. However, they have since moved back and were last seen at Tower Junction.

. . . A note on the "Tower Pair." A split off from the Rose Creek Pack, this group of wolves was reduced to just a pair because of dispersals. 103F's group attacked the Tower male last winter, inflicting what was thought to be a lethal injury. However, he survived and seems fine, but the attack came at a critical time and probably prevented pregnancy. The Tower Pair today is well and also patrols around the Tower Junction area.

105F's group-

105F did not seem to den, and pups were never seen with this group. However, radio-collared 105 is still usually seen with 3 or 4 other wolves, mostly in the Slough Creek/Lamar Valley area. Sometimes they go north of the Park as far as the Silvertip Ranch at the headwaters of Slough Creek.

The end of the huge pack and wolf population growth-

Once a pack of 38 wolves, one of the largest ever recorded, and with an amazingly high pup survival rate in 2001, the Druids have split into 4 packs or groups. The pup production over the 3 packs was again about 20 this year, but it looks like only about half of them have survived, about average for wild wolf packs. If you add up the wolves in the 4 Druid packs or groups, the total is still about 38-40 wolves. Although not conclusive, it is a reasonable assumption that the wolf population growth on this part of the northern range of Yellowstone has ended. The future will bring variations around today's population mean.

A note on dispersals-

A number of Druid Pack wolves have left Yellowstone Park. Two ended up in trouble with livestock. Former Druid 224M was shot by the government along with 3 other wolves in Paradise Valley north of the Park on March 26 after some minor interactions with horses and perhaps killing a cow calf.

On October 7, a sheep producer shot radio-collared dispersing Druid 252M. Of this the USFWS wrote: "A sheep producer near Dillon who had previous wolf-caused sheep depredations on his private property shot a collared gray male wolf on the 7th- #252, a former Druid wolf. His sheep bands were being moved onto his ranch prior to shipping. He had been issued a shoot-on-site permit for one wolf on his private land. This was the first time a wolf was killed under these permits [shoot-on-sight permits]."

The area around Dillon, Montana, well west of Yellowstone Park has been a black hole for wolves, with numerous wolves shot for killing sheep and at least 4 wolves accidentally poisoned by M-44 cyanide "coyote gitters."

Undoubtedly other Druids without collars have dispersed and have joined other packs or are wandering. For example, former Druid 219M has joined the Sheep Mountain Pack, just north of the Park, and might be the new alpha male.

Note added on Dec. 10, 2002. Druid 253M, a bold wolf with a limp, and well known to Park wolf watchers, dispersed in Oct. 2002 hundreds of miles to northern Utah, where he was accidentally captured and then returned by truck to the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

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I want to thank Deb Guernsey and Rick McIntyre of Yellowstone Park for much of information that went into this report. Most of the interpretations are my own as well as any errors.
 


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