Park wolf pack kills mother cougar

April 12, 2003

A cougar with two new kittens was killed near Mt. Everts in Yellowstone National Park the last week of March by the Swan Lake or the Leopold wolf pack. Evidence at the scene indicated that 7 to 11 wolves participated in the attack. Mt. Everts is the steep, cliff-sided mountain just northeast of Mammoth Hot Springs.

The dead cougar was found by researchers from the Yellowstone Cougar Project. The cougar had 2 kittens about 4 months old. They will almost certainly perish. Two years ago Yellowstone wolves killed 4 cougar kittens. The mother cougar survived.

Wolves killing cougar and vice versa is not uncommon. Wolf 163M, a beautiful gray from the Druid Peak pack was found dead in February 2000 just outside the Park, high in the Absaroka Mountains. His body showed that cougar were present at about the time of his death, and might have killed him.

This January, 297F, a pup from the Mill Creek Pack, north of the Park, was killed by a cougar. Biologist Val Asher found the dead pup, partially consumed and buried. Tracks indicate 297F was ambushed while traveling with another wolf. Asher said prints in the snow indicated the wolf might have caught between two fence lines. Tracks showed the dead wolf's companion rapidly fled the area.

Wolf B4F, one of the first wolves reintroduced to Idaho, was killed by a cougar near Drummond, Montana early in 1996.

At the recent Interagency Wolf Conference at Chico, Montana, researchers Jim and Holly Akenson from the Hornocker Wildlife Institution gave a presentation about the interactions of predators and ungulates before and after the huge fires of 2000 in the Big Creek area of the Franck Church Wilderness of Idaho. Among many other findings, they found that wolves consistently displaced cougars from the cats' kills both before and after the fires.

Research by Diane Boyd and others in the North Fork of the Flathead in the early 1990s (NW Montana) found that wolves consistently killed cougar in the area.

There are estimated to be 15-20 cougar on Yellowstone's northern range. Prior to the current denning, there were about 80 wolves on the Park's northern range.

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