YNP Park wolves get radio collars, including the Hayden Valley Pack's alphas. Hayden Valley wolves to be "spanked."

Jan 31, 2005

A number of Yellowstone Park wolves received radio collars, and one wolf was recollared in recent work by the Yellowstone Park wolf team.

Of the new collars, the alpha pair of the formerly collarless Hayden Valley Pack was collared and given the numbers 540F and 541M. The very light collared female, 540F, weighed 85 pounds and the male 118 pounds.

There has been some controversy over giving this pack collars because they are easy wolves to see, and favorites of photographers. Of course photographers and others prefer to see wolves without collars, but the pack is due for some discipline because of bad behavior by some of the  people who watch them.

Dr. Doug Smith, head of the wolf team said they had withheld collaring these wolves in deference to photographers. However, these wolves have been illegally fed by people, including being fed this winter. As a result the wolves have become bolder and bolder and could be a threat to people.

The wolves have been approaching snowcoaches this winter, circling them, and even peering in the windows. Furthermore, the wolves made an unprovoked attack on dogs in a doorway at Grant Village during a trip the pack made to the south. They usually they hang out in the Canyon/upper Hayden Valley area.  People have been getting too near the wolves and some have been feeding them.

The recent attack and killing of a man in northern Canada was by a pack of food conditioned wolves. So was an earlier unprovoked attack of a miner in northern Canada. In years past, hikers on Vancouver Island were attacked by food conditioned wolves.

Dr. Smith told me this is the worst case of human conditioning of wolves so far in the Park's wolf restoration.  Several winters ago some members of the Druid Pack had to be crackershelled after starting to haunt the roadside in the Lamar Valley. It was reported they had been feed at least once by passing snowmobilers. The crackershells taught the wolves to stay away from people.

Smith said he thought crackershelling would solve the problem as it did with the Druids, although Northern Rockies wolf recovery coordinator, Ed Bangs in Helena, recently suggested a darker future for the pack if they keep approaching people.

With the alpha pair now radio-collared they can be tracked, and it will be known when they are on the road so that aversive conditioning can be administered.  This may trouble some people, but the wolves are not likely to be permanently injured. The fault lies with people, not the wolves.

Photographer Phil Takatsuno emailed me indicating that the Hayden Valley Pack has been spotted feeding on bison carcasses. Good! —but he opined that given all the human activity in the Canyon area, it may be hard to prevent them from remaining habituated.

A complete update on wolves will be given when the collaring is complete. Three members of the newly powerful Gibbon Pack were collared. The alpha male of the Cougar Creek Pack was recollared. Three Leopolds were collared and three members of the new Hellroaring Pack (a split from the Leopolds) were collared. More collars are yet to be deployed.

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