Government kills 4 wolves in Paradise Valley
Most folks saw the news report yesterday (3-27) in the Billings Gazette that 4 wolves from the Sheep Mountain Pack were shot just south of Chico Hot Springs in the foothills of the Paradise Valley.
Here are some clarifying details. There have been two packs in the general area the last year or so, the rejuvenated Sheep Mountain Pack, refounded by the one of the "aversively conditioned" pups from the old Sheep Mountain Pack and a female disperser from Yellowstone. The other pack has been the Mill Creek Pack, a shadowy pack in the sense there were no radio collars.
The Sheep Mountain Pack generally ranged from Dome Mountain (above Yankee Jim Canyon) northward to Mill Creek. The Mill Creek Pack ranged southward a bit into Sheep Mountain territory, up the broad Mill Creek drainage and its tributaries and then north almost to Livingston, Montana. Speculation was that the Mill Creek Pack was mostly the uncollared survivors of Rose Creek 78F's Pack, born in 1999, and which moved out of Yellowstone into Mill Creek. Radio-collared 78F was illegally killed in Mill Creek late in 1999 and the pack was "lost" until visually sighted in 2001.
Previous stories on Mill Creek (and other Paradise Valley area) wolves:
4-01. Growing Reports of wolves well north of Yellowstone
4-01. Mill Creek Wolves are Numerous
The founder of the rejuvenated Sheep Mountain Pack (195M) was killed last fall for participating in the killing of a cow calf, but by then the new pups were growing well and soon Al Giddings reported that the pack had 2 adult wolves plus the pups. So a new disperser must have joined the Sheep Mountain Pack.
10-01 Story on the shooting of 195M.
When the pack was spotted last Tuesday south of Chico Hot Springs, it had 11 members, so it had picked up additional adult wolves. One of these was Druid 224M. I reported in my last news that he and his brother 219M were in Paradise Valley. Both wolves were known in the Park by observers to be wolves unafraid of humans. Just prior to the control action, however, 3 wolves were spotted northward in the Pine Creek/Deep Creek area were they had frightened some horses. That area has lots non-agricultural rural acreages with pastured horses.
The wolves that were shot at Chico Tuesday, included the three that matched the description of the three near the horses further north near Pine Creek a few days earlier. That's why they were shot, and a 4th wolf was shot because of infestation with mange. Druid 224M was among the 3 "suspects" which were shot. The other three wolves that were uncollared were assigned numbers at their death (today's numbering procedure). They were 263M (adult with a mangy tail), 264F (pup), and 265M (adult).
It is possible that the current Sheep Mountain pack includes additional Yellowstone dispersers as well as possible dispersers from the Mill Creek Pack.
Several things are now absolutely clear to me after 3 years of following wolves between the north boundary of Yellowstone and Livingston. 1. Wolves will continue to follow the Yellowstone River valley northward out of the Park because the Park northern range is now saturated with wolves, and there are plenty of wintertime elk north of the Park and deer year round. 2. These wolves will form new packs and/or join existing packs. 3. These north-of-the-Park packs will get into minor troubles and will be "controlled" repeatedly. 4. This pattern of dispersal and control will keep the number of wolves on the Yellowstone northern range within a population boundary not far from their present numbers. Despite the ill-informed hysteria from groups like Friends of the Northern Range elk and their biology-ignorant and ahistorical view of Yellowstone elk, the wolves will not decimate the northern range elk because the number of wolves will no longer grow, but only fluctuate. The number of elk is depressed a bit right now, but the population will rebound a bit when the drought ends, providing good forage for the elk for a 12-month period.
If folks would like to see Paradise Valley more wildlife friendly, acquisition of private lands in fee or by easement, is necessary. Otherwise, it's future is endless sub-divisions.
This is the second story this month about wolves with an infestation of mange. Ed Bangs told me today that we seem to be in a high point in the sporadic occurrence of mange. He said they were many reports of infested coyotes in the northern portion of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.
Denning of the Chief Joseph Pack-
As mentioned in my last Yellowstone update, Chief Joe is back in Tom Miner Basin, northwest of the Pack. They have also visited Cinnabar Basin. Both are places they have denned in the past, and are not good places to den from the human standpoint. Last year the pack was harassed back into the Park where the denned at its original and most commonly used den sitie. A TESF biologist is presently in Tom Miner and vicinity, plugging up potential den sites. It is not known which wolves are the new alpha pair for the pack, but the pack is showing activity that indicates denning is near.
For photos of the places mentioned in this story, see my wolf place names photos page.
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