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Famous Druid Pack splinters

Jan. 23, 2002


Few thought over 30 wolves could stay together in one pack indefinitely, and now it is clear the Druid Peak Pack has  splintered. The large pack enabled by the fratricide of 2000 will not reassemble.

Presently the pack has split into three groups, each of which may have pups this spring. There is still the main group, led by 21M and 42F, with about 15 wolves. A second group is led by 106F and an uncollared mate. A third group, all  uncollared wolves, also roams the area. A number of Druid wolves have also dispersed. Details must await the next Gray Wolf Progress Report from the USFWS.

The result of the 2-year-long Druid expansion was that the Rose Creek Pack, introduced in 1995 and once the Park's largest pack with 24 wolves, has been pushed further and further down the Yellowstone River.  This pack of now only seven wolves, occupies the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone (in the winter) from Cottonwood Creek downstream to Gardiner, Montana.

Bill Kaiser of Helena told me this weekend that Rick McIntyre and a group from the Yellowstone Institute observed 4 gray wolves chasing a larger black wolf on Hellroaring slopes. "It appeared the black wolf was running for his life."

Doug Smith, leader of the Yellowstone wolf team, told me that he didn't know the details, but all of the wolves on the northern range are in mating season and jostling for position and range.

Significantly, the expansion of the Druid Pack has not increased the number of wolves on the Yellowstone northern range significantly. The northern range count was 72 wolves at the end of 2000 and 77 at the end of 2001.

Once again this is evidence that the wolf population may soon stop growing as wolves are pushed out of the Park by existing or new packs, and then they occupy the niches of habitat around the park, and there is some news here. The Taylor Peaks pack, which lost its alpha female this year due to dispersal (probably expulsion), has a new alpha female, 198F. She is leading her pack back-and-forth between the Taylor Peaks (of the Madison Range) and the Gravelly Range, crossing the highway and the Madison River in the process, upstream from Ennis, Montana. The old Taylor Peaks pack had a territory nearly perpendicular to this, ranging from West Yellowstone to the SE to near Ennis on the NW.  Observation of the Taylor Peaks pack indicates they are still living almost entirely on the remains of the elk hunt. They are killing few elk or deer.  This provides further evidence for the hypothesis that the deer and elk hunts generally benefit the wolves by providing partial carcasses, gut piles, and wounded prey.

A new group of wolves was sighted near the south end of the Madison Range (Earthquake Lake/Beaver Creek).

The Freezeout Pack, new last spring, still occupies the southern end of the Gravelly Range and a group of wolves is on Ted Turners Snowcrest Ranch and the Blacktail Game Range at the southern end of the Snowcrest Range. The Snowcrests are the next Montana mountain range west of the Gravellys. These wolves are likely the remains of the Gravelly Pack, which was "controlled" last spring, plus new wolves -- a radio collared member of the Chief Joseph Pack is among them.


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  Copyright 2002 Ralph Maughan

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