Mill Creek Wolves are Numerous
Major effort made to stop Chief Joe from another bad den site.

4-10-2001, update 4-20.

Last week I wrote a lengthy story about the growing number of wolves well north of Yellowstone Park. Among other things, I mentioned that there seemed to be at least three wolves in or north of Mill Creek on the east side of Paradise Valley to the north of Chico Hot Springs. It turns out there are more wolves than that.

From the latest US Fish and Wildlife Service Wolf Update: 

On the morning of the 31st of March, a rancher in the Paradise Valley called about 6-8 wolves laying near his cattle. Bangs and Turner ESF biologists happened to be in the area. TESF biologists Temple and a visiting Mexican wolf biologist investigated and found wolf #196 (2-yr- old Sheep Mtn. male held for aversive conditioning and then released) trying to join a group of wolves (7 were counted) near Mill Creek (near Chico Hot Springs). This group likely represents a uncounted breeding pair, making a total of 13 for the Yellowstone area in 2000. This group does not contain any radioed members. No depredations occurred but the wolves had visited the calving shed, causing the cattle to bunch up. The biologists approached to within about 150 m and then fired cracker shells at the wolves and drove them into the mountains. It was interesting that #196 was bedded 100 m away from the group and as they all started moving away a large wolf from the pack took out after #196 who fled. The chase went on for some time but #196 got away unharmed. The rancher also reported that #196 had been attempting to join the group but had been driven away previously. Bad weather on the 6th, did not allow a helicopter capture attempt in WY or this area.

"TESF" is Turner Endangered Species Fund. 

I recently spent about 4 hours investigating the area these "Mill Creek" wolves inhabit. The Absaroka Range here has a long steep foothill area leading up to where an apparent fault scarp makes the range rise steeply to sharp glaciated peaks. The foothills were loaded with plenty of deer in April. At the base of the foothills, however, there are many homes being built and lots of livestock in small pastures.

These wolves may have originated from Rose Creek wolf 78F, her uncollared mate and pups from 1999. She migrated from Yellowstone northward to Mill Creek, where she was illegally killed. Then biologists lost track of her pack.

Update 4-20. I have noticed that in the annual 2000 Northern Rockies Wolf Report, the USFWS has decided to call this recently discovered pack a "breeding pair" in 2000 for delisting purposes.

Wolf 196M seems to have abandoned Rose Creek dispersed 155F. I wonder if she is alright? She had been seen sniffing a new born cow calf in Tom Miner Basin. The rancher frightened her away at last report.

Chief Joseph Pack denning-

Biologists have made a really big effort to stop the Chief Joseph Pack from denning in a bad place like Cinnabar Basin (last year's den) or nearby Tom Miner Basin. It appears they might have returned to their well located Yellowstone Park den site that they used prior to 2000.  

The Fish and Wildlife Service Reports:

On the 31st, Bangs and TESF biologist Bradley hiked into the [year] 2000 Chief Joe den and filled it with moth balls, sticks and rocks. There was a fresh wolf track on top of the den but no wolf had been in it recently. They also visited the [year] 2000 rendezvous sites and left moth balls and covered any potential dens. This was done in an attempt to prevent the Chief Joe pack from denning in the Cinnabar basin (and near all those livestock) in 2001. But the end of this week Chief Joe had left the area and was suspected to be back in the Park near the 1997-99 den site. A receiver was left with the local rancher on whose property the wolf denned in 2000, so he could monitor the Chief Joe pack's radio signals and alert us if the pack appeared to be trying to den there this year. The female is expected to den within the next 2 weeks.

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Copyright 2001 Ralph Maughan
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Ralph Maughan PO Box 8264, Pocatello, ID 83209