Lots of wolf activity on the northern range
Molly's Pack makes incursion in Lamar.
Is Leopold Pack splitting?
Dec. 17, 2002
Late in the fall of 2001, the Nez Perce pack made an incursion onto the Park's northern range and had a fight with the Druid Peak Pack. Again this fall the Nez Perce Pack briefly showed up near Tower Junction, where at 20 strong, the killed 2 bull elk. They are now the Park's largest pack.
Perhaps more significant was the visit by Molly's Pack, 12 big bison eaters.
According to Park wolf interpreter, Rick McIntyre, Molly's Pack, whose home range is the Pelican Valley, recently came north to the Lamar instead of taking their usual late fall path of moving eastward out of the Pack into the North Fork of the Shoshone.
In the Lamar Valley, they encountered the Druid Pack, which now has eight members. The Druids were loosely together and Molly's Pack was in a compact group of 12 wolves. Druid alpha female 42F was the first to retreat and her pack quickly followed her back toward the north side of the Valley. Oddly, Molly's Pack did not immediately chase them, but waited about 5 minutes before following and chasing the physically and numerically smaller Druid Pack. Molly's Pack eventually stopped, and did not cross the Lamar River.
The Druid wolves are slim with the only big wolf -- no. 21M, the alpha male. The pack is all female except for alpha 21M and one slender male. Molly's Pack, the Park's premier bison eaters (out of necessity due to an absence of wintertime elk in the Pelican) are almost all big, brawny wolves.
Molly's Pack remained in the area and two days later, near dark, they were observed moving west near the lower Lamar Canyon, while probably unbeknownst to them, the 10 member Agate Creek Pack (mostly former Druids) was moving eastward. The next morning, Molly's Pack was scattered. Most of them soon returned to the Pelican. A likely explanation was a nighttime meeting that surprised Molly's Pack, which might have thought the Druids were the only pack in the prey rich area.
Meanwhile the Leopold Pack, farther to the west, has been at a record population of 18-19 wolves. Late last spring, however, the pack lost its founding alpha female wolf 7F, perhaps to the new Geode Pack to the northeast. In recent months, the pack's other founder, 2M has often been seen apart from the pack on his own or with some of the Leopold wolves. Given the time of year, a strong possibility is he is searching for an unrelated female as a new mate.
On Friday the 13th, 2M and a number of Leopold wolves were in the territory of the Geode Pack near Hellroaring slopes. The groups of wolves were howling at each other and 2M's group ran back to the south, eventually crossing the Tower to Mammoth road. The Geode Pack followed their scent trail to just beyond the road and then turned back. There is some evidence that an adult Geode female might be in the company of 2M's group. She has been seen with them several times. Her raised leg urinations indicate they she might be dominant, and the beta female of the Geode Pack has not been seen lately. Perhaps 2M found a mate.
Recently when 2M approached the group of Leopolds he had not been traveling with, a large grey wolf came out and 2M left with his tail tucked between his legs, . . . submissive posture. This might have little significance. On the other hand, a dominance contest with permanent consequences can sometimes be settled in a few seconds.
Notes: The Geode Pack is led by former Druid 106F and an uncollared alpha male. 105F's group, which did not den last spring, is being called the "Slough Creek Group" after their general location. Three Druid wolves, including radio-collared 217F, have now split from the main pack, leaving the once mighty Druids at eight. Doug Smith said that 21M and 42F no longer hunt, but show to feed on what the younger wolves kill. The Rose Creek II nowadays is confined in the winter to the lower part of the Yellowstone River between Gardiner and Crevice Creek. They now use Decker Flats (outside YNP) at Gardiner, but not during the late elk hunting season.
From Oct. 2002. The Druid Peak Pack and its offshoots
This information came from Rick McIntyre and Doug Smith.
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