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Druids have eleven pups!

July 1, 2006

By Kathie Lynch.

I've been in central Idaho the last week. While I was gone Kathie Lynch sent this great report. RM

YNP WOLF Field Notes, June 2006:
   For Druid Peak pack lovers, June 27 offered an entire evening of the best wolf watching you could ever imagine! After all of the tears and disappointments of recent years (with the unraveling of the pack after the losses of the great long-time alphas 21M and 42F), imagine the utter joy we felt as 21M's last two daughters, Druid alpha 529F and the uncollared gray female, proudly paraded the length of Round Prairie with 11 (eleven!!!) pups strung out behind! The seven black and four tawny-colored gray pups, about 10 weeks old, treated us to a 3 1/2 hour show beyond our wildest dreams. We could hardly believe our eyes as they gamboled through the grass, played keep away with little treasures, piled on top of each other, pounced on pretend prey, balanced on logs, tugged on an old carcass in the creek, and sometimes just bounced straight up and down in the air with sheer delight!

We had a little drama when one gray pup was so busy bouncing around, it got separated from the rest and ended up having to howl for 529F to come to the rescue. We even got to hear a group howl with the pups joining in! Hopefully the two Druid males, alpha 480M and 302M, were out hunting and heard the plea for something to feed all of those hungry pups.

   One more bit of good news is that if all of these pups survive (and they all appeared to be healthy) the Druids would number 15 wolves. Hopefully that would be a big enough pack to defend against the now homeless and pupless 10 member each Slough Creek pack and the Unknown group. Those two lost all of their pups and some of their adults in the siege of the Slough Creek den site by the Unknown group in April. Without pups to tie them to a den and the responsibilities of raising pups, they have become fragmented and have only been seen occasionally and in small groups since.    

   The other current major site for wolf watching is up on Dunraven Pass, where the Agate Creek pack has been reliably visible, but at a great distance. The seven adult Agates, led by nine year old patriarch 113M and yet another Druid 21M daughter, 472F, have six pups, four black and two gray. The viewing is good when the pups are playing or the adults go out on a hunt. One evening was especially memorable as the uncollared gray male yearling stalked and challenged a black bear sow who sent her two small black cubs of the year scurrying up a tree three times. An hour later, that same wolf (obviously a teenager looking for thrills!) surfaced again about four miles away, this time being chased by a bull moose!  

   One thing I've noticed is how fluid the wolf watching scene is. In February, all eyes were on the Leopold pack females and their many unidentified suitors; in April we watched with shock as the intruding Unknown group held the Sloughs under siege; now we're focused on our dear old Druids and the Agates once again. Yellowstone's wolves have so much to teach us about the ebb and flow of nature. When one pack loses its status, another rises to the fore. Perhaps the Druids can even reclaim their traditional Lamar Valley territory. Who could have predicted that the Druids could rebound in such a spectacular fashion? Thanks to 21M's legacy and his last two daughters, it feels great to say, "The Druids are back!" 

Note from Maughan. The Park Service reports that so far this summer pup mortality is at normal level. The debilitating disease that took 80% of the northern range pups early last summer has not appeared.

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