History and current status of the Greater Yellowstone wolf restoration
By Ralph Maughan
The original wild wolves in Yellowstone were deliberately killed by the federal government during the period when it was government policy to exterminate the wolf everywhere, even inside national parks. The last wild wolves in the Park were killed in 1924 when two pups were killed near the hot spring cone, Soda Butte, in Soda Butte Creek in the NE corner of the Park. A few wolves persisted in Wyoming until 1943 when the last was shot in the Owl Creek Mountains on the Wind River Indian Reservation. Even after this time, occasionally one or two wild wolves did migrate into NW Wyoming, but there is no evidence that they successfully formed packs. From an ecological standpoint, such lone wolves had no influence on the functioning of theGreater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
THE 1995 WOLF REINTRODUCTION
AND THE FATE OF THE WOLVES
After a long and heated debate which lasted almost a decade, in January 1995, fourteen wolves were captured in Rocky Mountains of western Alberta and brought to Yellowstone National Park. Fifteen additional wolves were captured and sent to central Idaho. The Yellowstone-bound wolves were placed in three "acclimation" enclosures. Each was about an acre in size, and they were all located in, or near, the Lamar Valley in the northeast part of the Park. The three enclosures were the Rose Creek, Crystal Creek Bench, and Soda Butte [Cr.] enclosures.
The wolves were released from these enclosures after three months of acclimation. Each pack was named after the enclosure that had been their acclimation pen. So the three packs were named the Rose Creek Pack, Crystal Creek Pack, and Soda Butte Pack. Later, late in 1995 the Leopold Pack formed naturally when two of the 1995 wolves paired.
All of the original wolves were given numbers, R2 through R15. They were checked for many diseases, vaccinated, and then radio-collared. Minor surgery was even done on one wolf to repair a natural injury in Alberta.
The process of holding the wolves together for three months, acquainting them with the local diet, local sounds and smells, and giving them time to mate, was termed "soft release". The soft-release method was in contrast to the method used with the Idaho wolves -- "hard release" -- which was to free the wolves immediately upon reaching their release site. The Idaho wolves (numbered B2 through B16) were, therefore, released and were roaming inside the winter wilds of central Idaho by mid-January 1995. Release of the Yellowstone wolves did not begin until late March. This is very early spring inside Yellowstone National Park.
When the 3 packs were released, at first they didn't move far; then they made wide explorations, which averaged overall, was generally to the north. Only the Crystal Creek Pack settled in the Park, although the other two were physically returned to the Park -- the Rose Creek Pack early and the Soda Butte over a year later. See the individual pack histories below.
The History of the first four Yellowstone wolf packs 1995-1998
The first four packs date from 1995. Three of these packs came from the enclosures, and one pack formed naturally near the end of the year. Below is their history from 1995 through 1998.
THE ROSE CREEK PACK - 1995
It originally consisted of wolves R7F, R9F, and R10M
This was an artificial pack in the sense that the three wolves were not from the same wolf pack in Alberta. The black adult female, no. 9F and her reddish-brown pup, no. 7F were from one pack. The very large, and very bold gray male, no. 10M, was from another. It was hoped 9 and 10 would mate. In fact no. 9 was in estrus when placed in the Rose Creek pen. After a couple hours of growling, 9 and 10 did accept one another and they eventually mated in late winter.
Nine and ten split from number 7
Upon release, 9 and 10 soon separated from no. 7 (or perhaps it was the other way around). Number 7 generally remained in the Park's northern reaches, where she soon became aware of R2M, the most timid of the Crystal Creek Pack. But things would change for both no. 7 and no. 2 in about nine months.
Number 9, pregnant, migrated with no. 10 northward from the Park, over the very rugged and snowbound Beartooth Mountains, to a mountain (Mount Maurice) just above the town of Red Lodge, Montana. This mountain was the last in the Beartooth Range before the plains.
Number 10 is shot while number 9 whelps eight pups
There on Mount Maurice number 9 stayed looking to den while her mate explored the arid, abandoned coal-mining country just below the mountain to the east in Bear Creek. Unfortunately for no. 10, he was gunned down on April 24, 1995 by Chad McKittrick, a local who was out bear hunting and had gotten his rig stuck in the mud.
Her mate did not return and no. 9 gave birth to 8 pups underneath a pine tree on the mountain slope. It was on private land. Although there was some discussion about letting her raise her litter with biologists bringing her supplementary food, her proximity to Red Lodge and presence on private land made raising a litter on Mount Maurice problematic. Consider that the wolves were not expected to have pups the first year. The eight pups were a great unexpected bonus. In fact they were 1/3 of the Yellowstone wolf population. Finally, prospects for another batch of 15 wolves from Canada in 1996 were far from certain. The survival of her pups was vital.
It was decided an attempt would be made to raise them all summer back in the Rose Creek pen. It was a good decision. Her eight pups (four of which were still alive as of July 1998, and still 2 or 3 in Oct. 2000) helped create the Park's largest wolf pack.
Back to the Rose Creek Pen in Yellowstone
No. 9 and her pups thrived in the pen, although there was a near disaster -- an August windstorm blew some large Douglas fir trees down across the pen, allowing the pups to escape. Most of the pups were recaptured and returned to the pen, but the rest remained nearby, were fed, and kept out of trouble even though grizzly bears were beginning to show interest in the den area. The pups also became acquainted with wolf R8M, a sub-adult male from the Crystal Creek Pack, who was ready to disperse from his pack -- to leave his pack.
National Park Service Photo
One of the Rose Creek Pups in the summer of 1995.
Rose Creek gets a new alpha male, wolf R8
Upon the release of no. 9 and her pups in mid-October 1995, no. 8 quickly joined the pack and got a big boost in wolf social status to both create and become the alpha male in the Park's largest pack -- ten wolves. With the exception of one of the pups (no. 22) that ran into a UPS delivery truck during the winter months, the greatly-enlarged Rose Creek Pack prospered throughout the winter and the spring of 1996.
In May 1996, no. 9 gave birth to three more pups at a den site on the lower Lamar River, about a mile upstream from its confluence with the Yellowstone.
1996-1997: Rose Creek dominates the northern part of Yellowstone but now with competition from the aggressive Druid Peak Pack-After late 1995, the Rose Creek Pack was by far the largest pack in the Park. It had eleven members as of Oct. 1996, and despite deaths and dispersals. The Pack had 22 in June 1997!. The pack was visible to Park wolf watchers throughout the spring, early summer, and then the fall and winter of 1996. As the fall of 1998 approached, Rose Creek still had about 20 members.
In June 1996, the Rose Creek Pack had a dramatic territorial battle with the newly introduced (1996) Druid Peak wolf pack. This took place in Slough Creek right in front of many Park wolf watchers. The Druid Peak pack was driven off, but another of the 1995 pups (no. 20M, by then a yearling) was killed as a consequence of the fight between the packs. It seems that number 20, a too-enthusiastic youngster, pursued the fleeing, but very aggressive Druids too far by himself.
Throughout 1996 and late winter and spring of 1997 the huge pack dominated the lower Lamar Valley, Buffalo Plateau and Slough Creek. After June 1997 the pack was not visible to the public, however. It moved up onto the wilderness top of the Buffalo Plateau. In October 1997 they returned to the lower elevations, and occupied Slough Creek, the lower Lamar Valley, the west side of Specimen Ridge, Hellroaring Creek, and the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone. There numbers had dropped from 21 to 15. A number of pups had perished, almost certainly of natural causes. The summer of 1997 had been hard for a pack with many mouths to feed. Ironically, the reason for this was that the previous winter had been so good for wolves due to the abundant prey struggling through the severe winter.
Once again, the pack became were quite visible, but the viewing interest of most Park visitors had by then shifted to the almost always visible Druid Peak Pack which hung out near the confluence of Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar River.
We were fortunate to spend most of one October 1997 day on Specimen Ridge with the Rose Creek pack all around us, howling, chasing elk, and in general providing we humans a great show.
The 1995 pups, grown, begin to disperse, but others Others remain and more pups are born to Rose Creek-
During the winter of 1996-7, some of the pups of 1995, now almost two years old, began to disperse. No. 23M (uncollared) dispersed and has never been tracked. No. 16F dispersed and mated with no. 34M, a wolf brought from British Columbia in early 1996 and who had been part of the new Chief Joseph Pack.. No. 17F also dispersed and mated with no. 34. The two females denned in separate locations and each whelped five pups in April 1997.
Number 19F remained with the pack, and in April 1997, she denned, whelped a litter from an unknown mate, but she was soon killed (probably by the nearby Druid Peak pack) and her tiny pups soon died of malnutrition and exposure. The father of the pups was never determined.
Number 9F, by now the Park's most famous wolf, chose a den in full view of the NE entrance road. In early May, thousands of folks saw her and her seven pups before she moved the den to a less visible location in mid-May. Her daughter no. 18, also mated with no. 8. Number 18's den site was a more isolated site under a rock near the Lamar River. She outdid her mother and whelped eleven pups! Unfortunately for number 9, none of her pups survived, in part because of the location of her den. More on the fate of no. 9F's 1997 litter.
In June the big pack moved back up onto the Buffalo Plateau on the northern boundary of the Park and stayed there, out of sight, until October when they returned again to lower Lamar River/Slough Creek area.
In November 1997, no. 21M, one of 1995 pups, dispersed. He briefly paired with female wolf no. 39F, who had been a member of the rival Druid Peak Pack; but he soon seized the opportunity of actually joining the rival Druid Pack and becoming its alpha male. This was possible because both of the adult males in the Druid Pack had been illegally shot that November when the Druids made a foray to the east of the Park.
Shortly after the dispersal no 21M, one of the 1996 Rose Creek pups, no. 52M, dispersed and joined with another former member of the Druid Peak Pack, no. 41F. They became known as the Sunlight Pair and lived in the Sunlight Basin area east of the Park. By the end of 1997, of the original 1995 pups, only 18F remained with her mother, stepfather, and newer brothers and sisters in the Rose Creek Pack.
Article on the fate of eight pups born to no. 9 and 10 in April 1995. Updated to November 2001.
In 1998 both no. 9 and no. 18 denned together. They jointly produced eleven more pups. It is not possible to say which pups belonged to which mother, but by late May the Rose Creek Pack was back to an incredible 24 wolves! During the summer of 1998, like 1997, they remained out of sight on the Buffalo Plateau. The pack returned to the lower Lamar, Slough Creek country in October 1998.
Almost all of the pups survived 1998, with the size of pack reported at 22 in December 1998. Nos 8 and 9 were still the alpha pair, although 9's formerly black coat had turned to silvery gray except for her ears and tail. In late 1998, their territory was the Yellowstone River between Hellroaring Creek and the confluence of the Lamar River plus the expansive Slough Creek drainage in the Park and to its north. Number 53M of the pack was a distinctive black wolf. He was nicknamed "Chow," for the big ruff of fur around his neck. It made him look very powerful.
THE SODA BUTTE PACK- 1995
Released in Soda Butte Creek, but the pack didn't stay there long-
The Soda Butte pack did not linger near their 1995 release pen in Soda Butte Creek. Like no. 9 and 10 from Rose Creek, they also explored the country north of the Park. But unlike the Rose Creek Pack, which was returned to the Park after the murder of no. 10, the Soda Butte Pack spent most of the summer of 1995 deep in the rugged Beartooth Mountains and along their productive foothills, the Beartooth Front.
Soda Butte alpha female no. 14F had one pup in 1995-
This pack was rarely seen by tourists.
That first spring--April 1995--the alpha female (no. 14F) did whelp one pup. This female pup was numbered no. 24F. This was probably 14's first litter. A physical examination upon her capture in Alberta showed no evidence of prior pregnancies. The 1995 den site was in Flood Creek, a very remote place in the Beartooth Mountains.
Wolves 11F and 12M disperse, but end up shot-
During the winter of 1995-96, large Soda Butte male no. 12M, which had at first been thought to be the alpha male, and later a pack female (no. 11F), dispersed from the pack. Unfortunately, both were shot dead in separate incidents. Number 11 was killed a few miles north of Meeteetse, Wyoming, after being mistaken for a coyote. Number 12 dispersed far to the south of Yellowstone and was shot near Daniel, Wyoming, about 40 miles SE of Jackson. The killer of no. 12 has never been brought to justice. Jay York, who shot no. 11, quickly turned himself in and was assessed a fine of $500.
This well-behaved pack sets up residence on the Beartooth Front-
Influential locals object anyway and the pack is removed back to Yellowstone-
By the spring of 1996, the remainder of the Soda Butte Pack had set up permanent residence on the Beartooth Front. In fact, they denned on private land in the West Rosebud River drainage -- a scenic foothill area near many ranches. Although the pack never killed livestock, politics dictated that the pack with its three new 1996 pups-of-the-year be captured and removed. Successful capture of all but wolf no.15M was made in June 1996. I was extremely critical of this capture because I believe it inadvertently created a stream of events that indirectly resulted in the death, a good while later, of no. 15M, no. 27F, no. 37F, and no. 26F. Of course, hindsight is easy; but my postings show my criticism at the time.
The recaptured pack was put in the empty Crystal Creek acclimation pen for much of the summer. Article on the recapture of the Soda Butte Pack.
Soda Butte Pack Re-released in the SE corner of Yellowstone-
In order to move the pack as far as possible from the Beartooth Front and also to try to populate the wildlife-rich, remote, but still wolfless, SE corner of Yellowstone, in August 1996 the Soda Butte Pack was taken across Yellowstone Lake to a new wolf enclosure near Trail Lake. This is near where the Yellowstone River flows into Yellowstone Lake -- far from any roads or human habitation. The pack was at the Trail Lake pen for about two months. Unfortunately, during this time, one of the 3 pups, a female pup, died of natural causes. The remaining five wolves in the Soda Butte Pack were released to the wilds on Oct. 7, 1996. Released were the alpha pair, 13M and 14F; yearling 24F; and pups 43M and 44F.
The pack moves to Heart Lake and stays there-
After the pack's Oct. 7 release, it moved rather quickly about 15 miles to the NW to near Heart Lake. Although this is a very deep snow area, the pack wintered at Heart Lake. There is a major geyser basin there and elk and moose winter in the basin. However, wintertime elk numbers are far smaller at Heart Lake compared to Lamar Valley. Outside of the geyser basin, there is very little for wolves to eat.
During March 1997, the Soda Butte alpha male, no. 13M, the oldest wolf introduced to Yellowstone, died of natural causes. For a considerable period biologists did not realize he was the alpha because of his age and his retiring nature when humans were around. ("Old Blue" was his nickname due to his curious bluish-gray fur). Story on the death of no. 13.
In May 1997 five new pups were born -- nos. 123-126. These were the last progeny of Old Blue.
In November 1997 after a year near Heart Lake, the pack suddenly began to explore. They ranged SE of Yellowstone into the Washakie Wilderness and then back to Heart Lake. Then they moved south through the Pinyon Peak Highlands in the remote Teton Wilderness to emerge for the first time where people could see them since their time on the Beartooth Front. They were spotted on Mount Randolph just above the Buffalo Valley, where runs the U.S. Highway 26 from Moran Junction to Dubois, Wyoming.
Folks expected them to follow the huge elk migration south into Jackson Hole where 10- to 15,000 elk winter. Instead, they went back to Heart Lake inside Yellowstone where the eight member pack survived on a shrinking supply of elk and moose. During mid-winter the pack returned to the vicinity of Trail Creek, where they had been re-released in Oct. 1996. There they encountered the big alpha male (35M) of the new Thorofare Pack. The Soda Butte Pack tore him apart.
In 1998 the pack had no pups. Number 14F had no mate, and seems to have been the sole leader of the pack.
They remained in southern Yellowstone through the summer and fall of 1998. Late in 1998, no. 14's lone pup from 1995, no. 24F dispersed from the pack, pairing with a yearling (133M) from the hard luck Washakie Pack. This pair, soon dubbed the "Teton Duo" established the area near Moran Junction on the eastern edge of Grand Teton National Park as their winter 1998-99 range.
Soon, however, the rest of the pack descended into Jackson Hole and were seen on the National Elk Refuge for several weeks chasing and killing elk. Big excitement! In late winter they surprised everyone and returned to Yellowstone! Speculation was that 14F was seeking a mate and there were no possibilities on the Elk Refuge.
THE CRYSTAL CREEK PACK -1995
From tourist fame to obscurity-
The Crystal Creek pack thrilled thousands of Yellowstone tourists with its unexpectedly high visibility in the Lamar Valley throughout the summer of 1995. They played, preyed on elk, chased and killed coyotes, and interacted with grizzly bears in front of thousands of tourists, but they bore no pups, despite digging a number of dens. Unfortunately for the pack, although not for wolves in general in Yellowstone, three of its younger members dispersed during the fall and winter of 1995 -- nos. 2M, 3M, and 8M.
The pack's alpha female (no. 5F) did den in 1996; but it is likely that the new and aggressive Druid Peak Pack killed her pups. The new Druid Peak pack did attack and kill her mate, wolf no. 4M, and it appears that the Druids may have also injured her. This, and its battle with the Rose Creek Pack, described above, gave the new Druids a well deserved reputation for aggression.
By the middle of 1996, this once proud pack was down to just the pair of no. 5F and 6M, who was captured with the rest of the pack in Alberta and was thought to be her son. Years later genetic analysis showed that he was not her son.
The Crystal Creek Pack gets a new lease on life with pups in 1997-
By the fall of 1996 the surviving pair had moved out of the Lamar Valley and upstream into the Lamar River's remote headwater canyon. During the winter they moved into the eastern center of Park, to the Pelican Valley just to the north of Yellowstone Lake. In late February through early April they had drifted a bit northward and were located near White Lake on the Mirror Plateau. In the spring they moved back to the Pelican Valley and in April the Crystal Creek pair became the first Park wolves to make a confirmed kill of a bison. However, after a day, a hungry grizzly just out of hibernation claimed their kill. In May, no.5 whelped her first confirmed pups since she was brought to Yellowstone. She had a litter of six, and so the pack was reborn. They spent the summer of 1997 in the Pelican, but by fall they began to explore the country to the east. In early 1998 they moved out of the Park just east into the rugged North Absaroka Wilderness. However, they soon moved back to the Pelican Valley where they had a second litter of 8 pups in 1998.
Radio collaring operations in February 1998 revealed that the alpha male, no. 6M had grown from the 75 pounds of January 1995 to 141 pounds! He had just eaten. however. One of Crystal Creek's pups of 1997, then just ten months old, weighed 115 pounds, and he had not eaten.
Despite the pack's rejuvenation, to tourists it remained in obscurity. The Pelican Valley is a broad and wildlife rich valley, but no road runs through it; and visitors on foot or horseback must follow strict rules due to the high density of grizzly bears in the area. The wolves and the grizzlies have gotten along fairly well, however, and in a 1998 tracking flight Park wolf team leader, Doug Smith, actually saw a grizzly sow and her cubs asleep in the valley's grass amidst the sleeping Crystal Creek Pack.
Many more pups in 1998, but big no. 6 suffers a natural mortality.
By the summer 1998 the pack had not just been reborn. It had grown large. No. 5's litter of eight pups in the spring of 1998, brought the pack's size to 16 wolves. In late August 1998 the Pack's wolf team got a mortality signal on the alpha male. He was found dead near an elk he had killed in the upper reaches of Pelican Valley. It appears he too was killed in the struggle with the elk.
Finally, a new alpha male -- from the Druids!
Once the mortal enemy of the Crystal Pack, the Druid Peak Pack suddenly made a swing southward in late September 1998, and one of the Druid pups born in 1997, now just 1 1/2 years old, left his pack to join Crystal Creek. Not only did this bold yearling, no. 104M join, he became the alpha male. The time of enmity was long ago in wolf time. Only the alpha female 5F could have had memories of the Druids and the loss of her mate and pups back in 1996 in the Lamar Valley. . . and the then-alpha male of the Druids, no. 38M, was long dead, victim of another coward's bullet.
THE BLACKTAIL DEER (LEOPOLD) PACK (the first naturally formed pack in Yellowstone)
At first there was just "Rosie"-
The original Rose Creek Pack consisted of only three wolves -- R9F, R10M, and R7F (R9's pup from the previous year in Alberta). Little no. 7, who weighed only 77 pounds when released, stayed with her mother, no. 9, and wolf no. 10, for just a short time. The adult pair soon traveled over the Beartooth Mountains to their fate (described above) near the town of Red Lodge, Montana.
No. 7F, often described as a "beautiful reddish/gray wolf" and often called "Rosie", was able to fend for herself all summer and fall. She remained in the Park, keeping to its northern portion, especially the expansive Blacktail Deer Plateau, which is a bit west of the territory that was claimed by the Crystal Creek Pack; and, after October, west of the territory of the newly invigorated Rose Creek Pack. She visited Gardiners Hole, the Mammoth Hot Springs area, and even Electric Peak in the Gallatin mountain range.
During the fall and winter, three of the second year males of the Crystal Creek pack dispersed, searching for mates. As we have seen, no. 8M from the Crystal Creek pack became the new alpha male in the Rose Creek Pack, replacing dead no. 10M..
Crystal Creek's wolf 3M unfortunately dispersed into Paradise Valley, a settled area north of the Park, and killed several sheep. He was trapped and released near Fishing Bridge in the center of the Park, but he was soon back at the sheep ranch. As a result he was dispatched by a helicopter gunship from the federal agency Animal Damage Control. This was in violation of the rules of the wolf reintroduction that gave wolves three chances, but local politics dictated that the rules should be bent.
Some believe no. 3 was really looking for a mate. There is a compound near the sheep ranch that houses a large number of captive "buffalo wolves", said by the owner, to be the "last of their kind". No. 3 may have been attracted to the area by their howling. In fact Ferguson indicates that Jack Sharp, the owner of wolves, has a photograph of no. 3 standing at the wolf compound.
Rosie (no. 7) and number 2 pair and form the first natural wolf pack in Yellowstone in seventy years-
Wolf no. 2M of Crystal Creek did find a mate -- "Rosie", no. 7. While number two had been part of the Crystal Creek Pack, like no. 7F, he had always been more of a loner than a pack member. In December 1995 he left his pack for good, joining no. 7. They were soon observed double scent-marking (a sign of bonding affection), and they have been together since. They keep almost entirely to the Blacktail Deer Plateau, where they are seldom seen. In April 1996, no. 7 gave birth to three pups. This new pack, the first naturally-formed pack in Yellowstone in about 70 years, was renamed the "Leopold" Pack in honor of the great wildlife biologist and conservationist, Aldo Leopold.
The rarely-seen pack prospered in 1996 and 1997.
Since spring 1996, the Leopold Pack has continued to range over the Blacktail Deer Plateau. The three pups of 1996 were soon the size of their parents. One male was in fact larger, but one of the three, no. 54M an uncollared wolf, dispersed in the autumn of 1997.
In April 1997 Rosie had a second litter. This time is was five pups. So in two years this pair became a pack of 10 wolves.
The Leopold Pack is almost never seen by Park visitors because it has almost exclusively favored an area closed to visitation due to the density of grizzly bears. Occasionally, however, the pack will move west or north and has been seen near the road at Blacktail Ponds and to the west of the Blacktail Deer Plateau on Swan Lake Flat.
Five more pups in the spring of 1998-
In the spring of 1998, Rosie gave birth to her third litter. Once again she had five new pups, and the pack had grown to14 members. Even so, the pack was rarely seen by Yellowstone tourists. By late 1998, visual observation was eleven wolves, so some pack members may have died and/or dispersed. Even as of late in the year 2000. This pack is rarely seen despite its proximity to the northern Yellowstone loop road.
Summary of the fate of the 1995 wolves (the last was killed Dec. 31, 2002)
THE 1996 WOLF REINTRODUCTION
AND THE FATE OF THE WOLVES
By mid-summer 1995, it appeared that the wolf reintroduction program was in great jeopardy. U.S. Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, notorious for his hatred of wolves and most other wild animals, was able to get the reintroduction budget cut by 40%. On top of this, by December 1995, all U.S. government agencies were running on partial budgets, or were totally shut down due to budgetary conflict been the new Republican Congress and President Clinton.
Nevertheless, another reintroduction was still planned. This time wolves from British Columbia rather than Alberta were to be captured, but it seemed doubtful that money could be raised. Fortunately, donations and personnel from a number of private groups such as Defenders of Wildlife, the Wolf Education and Research Center, private individuals, plus significant cooperation from the Province of British Columbia, did enable another round of wolf trapping and their transport to Yellowstone and central Idaho for the second year of reintroductions.
In 1995 the plan had been to trap 30 wolves -- 15 for Yellowstone and 15 for Idaho. In fact, only 29 were trapped. In 1996, 38 were trapped, essentially as many as could be trapped given the resources at hand. I believe this was because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believed this would be the last opportunity they would have, given the furious anti-environmental views being expressed in the new Republican Congress, even though the program was supposed to include wolf reintroductions for three more years after 1996.
The 38 wolves were trapped in a very remote part of NE British Columbia. Twenty of these wolves went to central Idaho, and seventeen went to Yellowstone. One wolf was dispatched after it bit a biologist who was handling the cage. This provoked a minor controversy.
In preparation for the new wolves, the Park Service dismantled the Soda Butte Creek enclosure and erected two new ones; one on the Blacktail Deer Plateau in the northern part of the Park and one at Nez Perce Creek. Nez Perce Creek is on the western side of the Park, a place where none of the 1995 wolves had visited. It is also near Lower Geyser basin, whereas there is little thermal activity in the northern, especially the northeastern part of Yellowstone, where the 1995 wolves were released.
-List of the 1996 wolves and their acclimation pens-
Here is a list of the 17, 1996 wolves, their characteristics, the enclosures in which they were placed, and their current status (all are dead now)
Blacktail Pen (released as the "Lone Star" pair)
R35M, a black adult male from the Chief Pack in British Columbia. He weighed 120 pounds on arrival.
Current status: Deceased.
Fathered pups in 1997 and became the alpha male of the Thorofare Pack and the biggest wolf in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem at the time (135 pounds). He was eventually killed by the Soda Butte Pack in the winter of 1997-8.
R36F, a black adult female from the British Columbia Bessa Creek Pack. 103 pounds on arrival.
Current status: Deceased. She fell into a hot spring shortly after her release.
Crystal Creek Bench Pen (released as the "Chief Joseph Pack")
R34M, a young gray adult male from the B.C. Musquaw Pack. 106 pounds on arrival.
Current status: deceased.
He was the alpha male of the Chief Joseph Pack when he was found dead Nov. 28, 2001. During his time in Yellowstone he mated with both wolves 16F and 17F, both originally born to the Rose Creek Pack. After the natural death of 17F in the summer of 1997, he took 17's five pups and joined with his old pack mate, no. 33F. After that 34 and 33 had three litters of pups.
R33F, a black female yearling from the B. C. Kravac Pack. 96 pounds on arrival.
Current status: deceased. She the alpha female of the pack when killed by semi-truck on U.S. 191 summer of 2001.
R32F, a young gray adult female from Kravac Pack. 90 pounds on arrival. No. 32 was the pack's original alpha female.
Current status: deceased -- hit by a semi-truck on U.S. 191.
R31M, a gray yearling thought to have been from the B.C. Kravac Pack. 82 pounds on arrival. There was a white saddle on his shoulders. It turned out he was from the same pack as 38M (see Druid Peak Pack below).
Current status: deceased. He joined the Druid Peak Pack in late summer 1996 where he became the beta male with his old pack mate 38M, the alpha. Number 31 had grown to be a very large wolf when he was illegally shot late in Nov. 1997.
Rose Creek pen (released as the "Druid Peak Pack")
R38M, a gray adult male. British Columbia pack name unrecorded. 115 pounds on arrival. No. 38 was the pack's alpha male.
Current status: deceased. He was the powerful alpha male of the Druid Peak Pack. He mated with all three of the pack's females during late winter of 1997. He was illegally shot in late Nov. 1997 when the pack made a foray outside Yellowstone Park.
R39F, a light silver adult female from the Bessa Creek Pack. 93 pounds on arrival. No. 39 was,originally the Druid Peak Pack's alpha female, although she was soon displaced by her daughter 40F.
Current status: deceased. Shot near Crandall east of the Park. The killer claimed he thought she was a coyote.
R40F, a gray and black female yearling from the Bessa Creek Pack. 94 pounds on arrival.
Current status: deceased. She was long the alpha female of the Druid Peak pack. She was notable for her aggressive defense of the pack and her status in it, but she was killed by her sister 42F and her daughter(s) in May 2000.
R41F, a black female yearling from the Bessa Creek Pack, 80 pounds on arrival.
Current status: deceased.
She helped form the Sunlight Basin Pack, after her sister 40F drove her from the Druid Peak Pack. She paired with number 52M, formerly of the Rose Creek Pack. No. 41F and 52M had their first litter in 1999 and second litter in 2000.
R42F, a black female yearling from the Bessa Creek Pack, 92 pounds on arrival.
Current status: deceased.
She became the alpha female of the Druid Peak Pack after she helped kill her sister, then alpha 40F. 42F was killed by another wolf pack in the winter of 2004-5.
Nez Perce Creek pen (released as the "Nez Perce Pack.")
R28M, a gray adult male from the B. C. Half-way Pack. At 130 pounds no. 28 was the largest wolf introduced to Yellowstone.
Current status: deceased. He was shot by an unknown person or persons and thrown into the Madison River west of Bozeman, MT. No. 28 weighed 140 pounds! at the time of his death.
R27F, a silver gray adult female from the Half-way Pack, 115 pounds on arrival. She was the mate of no. 28M. Current status: deceased.
Upon release she became a lone wolf, but she gave birth to five pups. She was recaptured after many attempts in the winter of 1996-7 and was released in June 1997. She was killed by the Wildlife Services near Dillon, MT on 10-8-97 for killing livestock a second time.
Note: Nos. 26, 29, 30, and 37 below were born to 27F and 28M in British Columbia.
R26F, a gray female yearling from the Half-way pack. Not weighed.
Current status: deceased.
She became the alpha female of the Washakie Pack, but was shot by Wildlife Services in June 1998 for killing livestock.
R29M, a gray male yearling from the Half-way pack. 100 pounds on arrival.
Current status: deceased. He was the alpha male of the Nez Perce Pack, but he left, or was driven from the pack in the summer of 1998. He then helped form and became alpha male of the Gros Ventre Pack which inhabited the mountains east of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He sired two litters of pups as alpha male of the Gros Ventre Pack and two as alpha of the Nez Perce Pack. He was a famous wolf pen escape artist. No wolf pen could hold him.
R30F, a gray female yearling from the British Columbia Half-way pack. 100 pounds on arrival.
Current status: deceased. She paired with no. 35M, the male originally from the Lone Star pair. She was the alpha female of the Thorofare Pack, but was killed in an avalanche in the winter of 1997-8.
R37F, a gray female yearling from the Half-way pack. 90 pounds on arrival.
Current status: deceased. She was shot by ADC/Wildlife Services after her second escape from the Nez Perce enclosure in the fall of 1997. She gave birth to four pups in 1997 while awaiting release. The pups were fathered by 29M, her brother.
Release of the 1996 wolves and their history through 1998-
Wolf history 1999, 2000 follows this section-
THE DRUID PEAK PACK
Named after a prominent peak near the Rose Creek pen-
In early April 1996, the National Park Service began to open the doors on the pens and the delivery of food was halted. On April 2, the door to the Rose Creek pen was opened. It took 12 days before the pack came out! To avoid confusion with the Rose Creek Pack of 1995 which had been released from the same enclosure, the new pack released from the Rose Creek pen in 1996 was named the Druid Peak Pack. Druid Peak is a prominent peak just east of Rose Creek.
The Druids change from caution to bold aggressiveness-
Even after leaving the pen, the Druid Peak pack did not quickly explore the surrounding area. Nevertheless, it turned out to be a very aggressive pack. They soon killed the alpha male of the Crystal Creek Bench pack and a yearling from the Rose Creek Pack. They probably also injured the alpha female of the Crystal Creek Pack and killed her 1996 litter of pups. The Crystal Creek female (no. 5F) denned, but no pups were ever observed, Number 5F abandoned her den shortly after the Druids killed her mate, and she was seen limping with her tail held low for a while. Range Rick McIntyre has written a fascinating eye-witness account of the fight between the Rose Creek and Druid Peak packs which took place on June 18, 1996 in Slough Creek. The Druids may have also killed wolf 19F in April of 1997 with the result that her 4 pups perished too. The pack retained its reputation of ferocity. I learned a year after the fact that in the fall of 1996 they almost got wolf Chief Joseph wolf, 34M, although surprisingly, they allowed his pack mate no 31M to join the Druid pack. The difference may have been that 34 was seeking to pair with a female and 31M was seeking to join the pack as the beta male. The pack's aggressiveness continued in later years, and many people have attributed its aggressiveness to no. 40F who eventually emerged as the alpha female and was viewed by some as a tyrant over her own pack as well.
The beautiful, white alpha female leaves the pack for six months-
In late July 1996, no. 39F, the "white wolf", thought to be alpha female of the pack, suddenly left Yellowstone National Park and took a long "tour" along the north edge of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. She traveled north of Red Lodge, Montana, and then west to the vicinity of the larger town of Livingston. In October she was located in the depths of the Absaroka Mtns. about 20 SE of Livingston. In November, she had moved about 50 miles to NE, crossed the Yellowstone River and part of the plains of Montana, to take up residence on the east slope of the Crazy Mountains, a rugged outlier of the Rockies. During the winter, she returned to the Park, but did not rejoin the Druid Peak pack immediately. However, she did spend from April through October 1997 with the Pack. It had been assumed that no. 41F became the alpha female in Druid Peak with no. 39 absent, but things clearly changed in the fall of 1997 and number 41 was driven from the pack. No. 39 left again too. Wolf number 40F, the sister of 41F and another pack member, 42F, was clearly in charge. In retrospect the departure of both 39F and 41F were likely the result of 40's drive for dominance.
Number 31M from the Chief Joseph Pack joins the Druids-
Although the Druids lost no. 39F, as I mentioned above, no. 31M, released with the Chief Joseph Pack (see its history below), joined the Druid Peak Pack in the fall of 1996. He remained a subordinate member of the pack, the pack's only other adult male, for the rest of his life which ended when he and the alpha male 38M were illegally shot east of the Park in November 1997.
Five pups for 1997-
Number 38M seemed also to typify the aggressive and unusual character of the original Druid pack. During the winter of 1997 he was observed mating will all three females in the pack. At the time it was thought that only the alpha pair mates in a wolf pack. 38's busy sexual activity led to expectations of a very large number of pups. However, when all the pups were accounted for, there were but five -- the average number for a pack. It is not known which female's the pups were. The pack's den site was in deep timber on Druid Peak and could not be observed.
During 1997, the Druids, eleven-strong, dominated Soda Butte Creek and the upper Lamar Valley; and, for the year, and the next four years (even through 2000), they became the Park's most visible pack. All five pups survived the summer and autumn of 1997. They were almost as large as the four adults in the pack. Two of the pups were captured and radio collared in Jan. 1998. One pup (no. 104M) weighed 105 pounds!
The pack's two males, number 38 and 31, are illegally shot dead-
In late November 1997 the pack suddenly moved eastward out of Yellowstone Park, over the crest of the Absaroka Range into the rarely-traveled North Absaroka Wilderness. Despite the paucity of people in this mountain fortress, someone shot both 38 and 31 in Crandall Creek. Number 31 died quickly but the alpha male, no. 38, lingered for eleven days, dying finally in Hoodoo Creek. Doug Smith, head of the Yellowstone Wolf Team dropped food to no. 38 a number of times. Big 38 did climb out of gorge of Hoodoo Creek, but he died near the ridgeline.
One of the original Rose Creek pups joins and leads the Druids-
No. 21M was one of the last of famous number 9's original Rose Creek pups to disperse from her pack, but when the Druids returned from their lethal encounter in Crandall Creek, no. 21, now in his second year, approached the Druid pack and was accepted. The acceptance ritual lasted six hours and was filmed by cinematographer Bob Landis. It is believed to be the only such filmed ritual on record. He immediately became the pack's alpha male, replacing slain 38M (in fact he was its only adult male). He had been traveling with the "white wolf," no. 39F, but most have seen a better opportunity in joining the Druids. Interestingly, no. 21's brother, no. 20M, was as a yearling killed by the Druids in the interpack fight in June 1996.
The replacement of 38M and 31M with 21M seemed lessen the hostility between the Druid Peak pack and the Rose Creek Pack. After no. 21 came to lead the Druids, hostile encounters with the Rose Creek Pack ended until fall of 1998 when the Druids caught a Rose Creek female alone in Druid territory. The Druid alpha female, no. 40F led the attack, and pack tore the intruder apart.
Just two pups in 1998-
As in 1997, it was believed that both adult females (40F and 42F) had pups. Once again they denned in the dense timber on Druid Peak, where the pups remained unobservable. Numerous pups were expected. However, much to the surprise of everyone, just two pups came down from the mountain when they were finally observed. Only one (163M) survived into the winter of 1998-9. However, upon capture for radio collaring, he has big (110 pounds) and healthy.
Throughout 1998 the Druids remained very visible, causing "wolf [traffic] jams" along the roadway as people watched, or hoped to watch them roam the Lamar Valley. They were clearly the most observed wild wolf pack in the world.
THE 1996 NEZ PERCE WOLVES (a complicated story)
These were brawny wolves-
Next the doors to the Nez Perce Creek pen were opened. There was great hope for this pack. All the wolves were from the Half Way pack in British Columbia. The pack consisted of no. 28, a very large alpha male (130 pounds), no. 27F, the large alpha female, and their big yearling off-spring. Not only were they big, the wolves had been captured while feeding on a British Columbia bison which they probably had killed.
Number 27F was so fearless that she jumped and snapped at the helicopter.
There was hope that the pack would begin to prey on the Park's bison, whose numbers stood at 4000 animals as winter of 1996-7 began. Although I do not agree with this view (though I once did), criticism was mounting at the time of the large size of the Yellowstone bison population.
Note: The number of bison inside Yellowstone declined rapidly during the winter of 1996-7 due deep snow and severe ice conditions. This was coupled with a deliberate program of bison slaughter under the now infamous "interim bison plan." The question of whether wolves will exert additive control on bison numbers could become moot. See my bison slaughter page. I hope folks will keep up on the bison story, which could represent the undoing of one of the great conservation success stories of the early 20 the century. I think even a casual investigation of the matter indicates that the motives of Montana state government have nothing to do with the disease called brucellosis which infects some of Park bison. The bison slaughter is a way of punishing the Park and environmentalists for their disagreement with the brown Montana government.
Upon release the Nez Perce pack unexpectedly splintered and left Yellowstone National Park-
Things did not go as planned. The pack's female wolves left the pen almost immediately and moved rapidly to the northeast. They were soon outside of Yellowstone Park. There they split from one another, and the alpha female no. 27 (pregnant, but not known to be so by biologists) traveled completely out of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem onto the Montana plains near Reeds Point before she turned around and eventually denned on the Beartooth Front in the Stillwater River drainage near the small crossroads of Nye, Montana. Her daughters -- 26, 30, and 37 wandered widely about the Yellowstone Country, sometimes alone, sometimes paired. No. 37F finally joined her brother number 29M in the Paradise Valley north of the Park.
Number 27F whelped a litter of five and raised them by herself-
In early May 1996 five pups were observed at her den site, the largest litter of 1996 of the entire Yellowstone Country wolf population. There was great concern that no. 27 could not care for the five pups by herself. Biologists began leaving road-killed deer and elk in the vicinity of the den site, and they laid plans to capture her to return her and the pups to a pen in Yellowstone. It had worked great with number 9F, the year before. Maybe it would again.
It turned out that capturing her was no easy task. She moved her den several times, and her distant wanderings led some biologists to wrongly believe that all her pups had all died or perhaps been killed by a mountain lion or a bear.
Number 27 killed some domestic sheep and got her first "strike," but biologists learned that she had five live pups-
In June, she began to kill a few domestic sheep on a ranch near Fishtail, Montana (a bit to the east of Nye on the Beartooth Front). Traps were set for her, but instead of number 27, they caught one of her pups, confirming that at least one pup was still alive. Shortly thereafter, it was thought three pups remained alive. Later it was discovered that all five were alive. Unfortunately, the leg-hold trap so damaged the first pup's leg (no. 46M), that it had to be amputated. The pup was sent to a facility in Minnesota. It was never be returned to the wild.
Number 27 killed eight sheep on July 17, 1996. At that time a sheepherder took a shot at her. The rancher, whose sheep she killed, was compensated for their value by Defenders of Wildlife. After that time, she killed no more sheep; but this second of "three strikes" would lead to her death a year later in October 1997. What was not known at the time was that no. 27, and almost all of the rest of pack had damaged their teeth on chain link of the Nez Perce pen in their fierce struggle to be free.
Another pup (no. 47M) was captured, but the other three eluded biologists-
In early August 1996 one of 27's four remaining pups was finally captured. This pup (designated no. 47M) was about 7 pounds underweight for his age, but he was otherwise healthy. He was placed in the Nez Perce enclosure with recaptured Soda Butte wolf no. 15M, originally from the Soda Butte Pack, and with whom the pup was already familiar. Note: No. 15 had briefly joined no. 27 and her pups after the rest of his pack had been recaptured (see the story above of the recapture of the Soda Butte Pack).
27's pup, no 47, and adult wolf 15 were released in September 1996-
Both wolves were released from the pen on Sept. 18, 1996, with the expectation that they would form a pack with No. 26F (one of no. 27F's yearlings born in British Columbia). No. 26F had been frequenting the enclosure, and she was obviously waiting nearby. When the wolves were released, however, it turned out her intentions were entirely on the adult wolf, number 15, not the pup.
Number 27 and her three remaining pups prospered on the Beartooth Front-
Meanwhile, attempts to capture no. 27 and her remaining pups were put on hold in August 1996. A large forest fire forced the four wolves back toward Yellowstone Park. The fire threatened the area around Fishtail, Roscoe, and Dean, Montana on the Front.
When the fire ended, no. 27 and her three now nearly-grown pups returned to the Front. In January 1997, attempts to capture no. 27 and her 3 remaining pups resumed even though she had attacked no livestock since early the previous summer. As with the Soda Butte pack earlier in 1996, there was considerable political pressure to remove these wolves from the area.
Twenty-seven and no. 48F are captured at last-
Finally that January  she was darted by a helicopter and removed to an enclosure inside Yellowstone Park, but none of her three pups were captured at that time (or even seen). However, after several months one of them (no. 48F) was finally captured. Number 49 and 50 were never captured. Being uncollared, their location and status was never known. In December 1996 they might have been observed on the Yellowstone River near Springdale, Montana, in the company of wolf 39F (the former alpha female of the Druids). That was the last time they were located. There is no reason to think they did not grow to adult wolves, indistinguishable from other uncollared wolves in Montana.
Number 48F was put in the Nez Perce Pen with her mother, and her older brother(29M) and her older sister (37F). No. 29M and 37F had been recaptured in the Paradise Valley because it was thought there were too far from Yellowstone and too close to livestock. Also put in the pen were ten Sawtooth pups. The story on this unusual twist follows farther below.
Like so many of the Nez Perce clan, 48F eventually escaped the pen. After escape, she was tracked just once -- deep in the wilderness in Thorofare region of the Park. However, after the passage of many events, she did return voluntarily to Nez Perce Creek in the winter of 1997-8 to become the alpha female of a rejuvenated Nez Perce Pack, a position she held for the entire life of the pack.
She was killed near Old Faithful by the new Gibbon Meadows Pack in the winter of 2005-6!! The two remaining pack members fled south. At the time 48F was the oldest wolf in Yellowstone Park.
Twenty-seven's pup, no. 47 is killed by a vehicle, but no. 15 and 26 paired, and this was the beginning of the Washakie Pack.
Turning back to the release of no. 15 and 47, it appears that that the adults no. 15M and 26F, soon left the pup behind. Just a couple days later the pup was found dead near the Firehole River, another victim of a motor vehicle. The day the pup's body was recovered, no. 15 and 26 were observed together about 20 miles to the east in the Pelican Valley.
THE WASHAKIE PACK-
For about a month no. 15 and 26 roamed about the central part of the Park, but then they moved south. Over a month later they were spotted well south of Yellowstone Park near Togwotee Pass on the Continental Divide. I thought they would drop into Jackson Hole and spend the winter feasting on the gigantic Jackson Hole elk herd that winters on the National Elk Refuge just north of the small city of Jackson. Instead they dropped down the east side of the Continental Divide to near Dubois, Wyoming. They spent fall and winter in the foothills of the Absaroka mountain range about 20 miles NE of Dubois. Eventually they moved a bit west, and number 26 whelped a litter of five pups in an area beneath landmark Ramshorn Peak, about 20 miles due north of Dubois. This area is known as "the Dunoir," a haven for grizzly bears and elk. The den was also near the Diamond G Ranch, whose owner came to dislike this pack.
Because the pair had established a territory on the edge of the huge Washakie Wilderness, in the summer of 1997 they were officially named the "Washakie Pack." After an uneventful summer, in which they were rarely seen (except by folks at the adjacent Diamond G Ranch, who saw them plenty), the alpha male got into trouble.
In September 1997, number 15M began attacking cattle on the Diamond G. As a result, he was destroyed by ADC in October. Although it was not made public at the time, no 15 had damaged teeth (another victim of the Nez Perce pen?).
After 15 was dispatched that the pack still frequented the area, although at times they moved eastward, and once they took a brief "tour" miles to the southeast, all the way to Crowheart, not far from Riverton, Wyoming.
In an odd twist, Diamond G ranch owner reported that four new wolves showed up in the Dunoir, one of which was said to look exactly like slain number 15. No one unaffiliated with ranch saw these "new" wolves, however. Most government biologists doubted their existence, although I believe now that some new wolves did move into the territory briefly.
Finally in the spring of 1998 Washakie Pack's attacks on livestock continued, and the alpha female was also killed by the government. One pup was also shot by mistake. It looked like number 26F. The rationale was to break up the pack or cause it to move, and they did in fact disperse, and the whereabouts of only two of the pups (actually yearlings by this time) was known. 133M paired with no. 24F, formerly of the Soda Butte Pack to form what was at the end of 1998 called the Teton Duo and later the Teton Pack. In early 1999, his brother 132M was radio tracked far to the west of Yellowstone near Dillon, Montana. The fate of the two other yearlings (134 and 138, both uncollared) was never known, but wolves have continued to show up in the Dunoir--sometimes just one wolf and sometimes more.
The two Nez Perce males also ranged widely until number 29M was recaptured and number 28M was illegally shot-
Wolf no. R28M
Turning back to the release date of the Nez Perce Pack in April 1996, the two male wolves in the Nez Perce enclosure stayed behind for two days, but then they headed northward. There, they too split.
Big wolf 28M wandered widely -- from north of the Park to about 35 miles south of the Park near the headwaters of the Gros Ventre River (30 miles east of the town of Jackson, Wyoming). Later he moved back to the Park. Then he moved west and northwest. In late October 1996 he was west of Earthquake Lake.
By the end of 1996, however, he had set up in the northern end of the Madison mountain range, but on Jan. 28, 1997 his radio collar gave a mortality signal near Three Forks, Montana, about 20 miles north of the northern end of the Madison Range. He had been illegally shot and thrown into the Madison River. Upon recovery his carcass weighed 140 pounds! He had never killed livestock. He had been a "well-behaved" wolf that was living on the wintering elk and deer in the area.
The unexpected arrival of the "Sawtooth pups"-
In mid-summer 1996, the sole son of no. 27F and 28M, yearling no. 29M, and his sister no. 37F, were recaptured in the Paradise Valley, far north of the Park. It was believed that they were located in an area with too many farms and people. The pair were placed in the empty Rose Creek enclosure with hopes of reuniting them with the rest of the former pack members. At that time, there was still hope that the original Nez Perce Pack could be reunited. Instead, however, ten pups-of-year from the Sawtooth Pack in NW Montana were placed in the pen along with No. 29 and No. 37. These orphaned pups came from a major indigenous pack that had ranged along the Rocky Mountain Front near Augusta, Montana. Perhaps because of the large crop of 1996 pups, and maybe because a number of the adults had suffered injuries, the Sawtooth pack had taken to killing livestock. All but two of the adults were, as a result, dispatched, and ten of the pack's 14 pups were transported to Yellowstone and penned with nos. 29 and 37, much to irritation of the Farm Bureau, which filed a unsuccessful lawsuit trying to prohibit the pups' release (although an earlier suit of theirs was successful when the decision came from Judge William Downes in Dec. 1997, spelling peril to all the Yellowstone and Idaho wolves).
The Sawtooth pups, by then yearlings, were finally released in two batches in March and June 1997. Just two of them survived to become successful adult wolves, and many got into trouble and were shot, control killed, or hit by vehicles.
What about the other two female yearlings from the Nez Perce Pen?
After splitting with their mother, no. 27F, females nos. 26F and 30F explored most of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and by mid-summer they were exploring the area just south of the Park -- the Teton Wilderness. I was writing a hikers' guide to the area with my co-author Lee Mercer. We believe we saw their scat in Whetstone Creek and Gravel Creek in July 1996. In late August a friend reported wolves howling just south of Yellowstone Meadows. It may have been 26F and 30F. It might also have also been 30F and 35M, who eventually paired and moved to the remote Thorofare region of southeast Yellowstone to form the Thorofare Pack. When the latter two settled in the Thorofare and had pups, they were officially named the Thorofare Pack in the spring of 1997.
Of course, as chronicled above, no. 26F eventually discovered no.15M in the Nez Perce pen. She waited for his release, and they became founders of the Washakie Pack.
Why the unexpected behavior of the Nez Perce wolves?
Gary Ferguson gives some possible explanations for the unexpected performance of this pack. In his book The Yellowstone Wolves: the first year, he suggested that (1) They were put in the new Nez Perce Creek enclosure which may have been too small. (2) The wolves repeatedly chewed and bit at the enclosure fence, perhaps losing many of their teeth. Number 27 in particular lost a lot of teeth. They also may have injured themselves in their repeated attempts to jump out. (3) Unlike the other enclosures, Nez Perce Creek is near a busy Park snowmobile route. The smell and noise of these machines may have disturbed the pack because snowmobiles reminded them of Canadian trappers and wolf hunters, prompting them to flight when first released.
In retrospect Ferguson was absolutely correct about the teeth. Every one of the Nez Perce pack was found to have tooth damage when they were killed or recaptured. Presently just one remains alive, no. 29M; and according to Doug Smith, head of the Yellowstone team, 29's tooth damage is severe.
THE CHIEF JOSEPH PACK
This pack was held in the Crystal Creek pen, but released from the Nez Perce Pen. It was never a very cohesive pack until mid-1997.
During the winter of 1996 the Rose Creek Pack frequently appeared at the Crystal Creek Bench enclosure where four new wolves were being held for release. By March 1996, the wolf team felt it be not be wise to release this new pack on top of the Rose Creek Pack and the Crystal Creek packs from 1995 (plus the also soon-to-be-released Druid Peak Pack). So the 4 wolves were taken miles away to the vacant Nez Perce Creek pen. There at Nez Perce Creek, they were soon released.
The "Nez Perce pack", which had been held in this pen, had been released a few days earlier but they were already far north of Yellowstone by that time. No other wolves were in the vicinity. It was hoped what was to be called the "Chief Joseph Pack" might inhabit the nearly geyser basin areas.
These four wolves, three from one B.C. pack and one from another, were thus released and named the Chief Joseph Pack. Native American Chief Joseph had fled down this creek with his Nez Perce tribe during their famous bid for freedom many years previous, hence the name -- Nez Perce Creek.
Upon release, the pack wandered the west and northwest sides of the Park (country that had not explored by the other wolves). They did not frequent the geyser basins area, however. The pack even went considerably west out of the Park and explored the Earthquake Lake area in the lower Madison River canyon.
The alpha female, number 32, is killed by a semi-truck on U.S. Highway 191-
Wolves 31, 32 and 33, came from the same B.C. pack. They generally stayed together, while wolf 34 from a different B.C. pack usually remained by himself. Wolf no. 32 was the alpha female of the pack. Unfortunately she was hit and killed by a semi-truck in late June 1996 on U.S. 191 inside Yellowstone National Park. Her death marked the second Yellowstone wolf to be killed at night in the Park by a truck.
Near Dissipation of the Pack in late 1996-
After 32's death, these wolves generally remained on the west side of the Park, often with 33 and 34 together, and no. 31 by himself. However, in the autumn of 1996, no. 31 and 34 explored the already occupied Blacktail Deer Plateau. They even visited the den of the Leopold Pack when the Leopolds were elsewhere. Number 34 was chased by both Rose Creek and the Druids. Rose Creek injured him. After that, he had a near escape from the Druid Peak Pack in the NE corner of Yellowstone, but oddly the Druids allowed number 31M to join their pack.
Number 34 mates with two of the Rose Creek pack-
One reason no 34 hung around Rose Creek was because two female Rose Creek pups had become sexually mature. He met and mated with both nos. 16F and 17F. Both 16 and 17 denned at locations that were not revealed to the public for sometime. The den of 17 was very close to Gardiner, Montana. No. 16, however, denned on the other side of the Gallatin mountain range in the extreme northwestern corner of the Park at Daly [Dailey] Creek.
Ten pups together for no. 16 and 17, but death and injury strike-
Both 16 and 17 whelped five pups each. In July, however, number 17, the sister with whom number 34 remained, was killed when she impaled herself on a sharp branch while chasing prey in the Gallatin mountains (in Fawn Creek).
Number 34 was caring for 17's five pups when his old packmate, no. 33F showed up. They and the pups spent an apparently successful summer, although they were not seen often; and the Chief Joseph Pack was reborn.
Number 16 did not get the attention from no. 34 that he gave her sister, and then in the summer of 1997 it was discovered that no. 16 was injured. She was seen dragging her hindquarters. Her pups were not being cared for and number 33F had reappeared and was traveling with 34 and 17's five pups. Most people think that no. 16 was yet another victim of the U.S. 191 speedway that sends non-Park traffic rocketing through a long sliver of the northwest corner of Yellowstone.
The fate of no. 16 and her five pups-
By late September 1997, no. 16 appeared to be recovering. She had migrated over the Gallatin Range and was tracked and seen in Tom Miner Basin, north of the Park, killing deer and in the company of at least two of her pups. Two or three more of her pups were remained back in Daly Creek, however, and were down on U.S. 191. They were attracting tourists, but they were starving. One of the pups was hit and killed on the highway. Suddenly number 16 just disappeared. Her radio collar did not give off a mortality signal. She simply could not be located. However, in October she suddenly reappeared in Daly Creek with two pups, nos. 109 and 111F. By late November, however, it appeared that only no.111F had survived. Number 16 and her pup 111F, however, were not usually in each other's company, but both were often very close to Gardiner, Montana, just north of Yellowstone Park.
Number 16 had yet another litter of pups in 1998-
As a lone wolf, it was not thought no. 16 was a candidate for pups in 1998. However, in March it was noted that she had localized in the headwaters of Cedar Creek, about eight miles north of the Park. In June it was determined that she had bred with an unknown male (thought to be number 34 again), and she was thought to have whelped six pups. Although not seen often, she and her pups appeared to survive 1998 very well, unusual for a lone female with so many mouths to feed. They frequented the area from Dome Mountain on the north to the boundary of Yellowstone on the south. Her 1997 pups meanwhile all were dead, however. In mid-summer 1998 an uncollared black female yearling was killed by a cyanide "coyote-gitter" gun NW of Yellowstone (this was probably her yearling pup no. 109). In July, no. 111F was found dead near the base of Mt. Washburn in the Park. She died of unknown causes. She weighed just 70 pounds, but the cause of death was not judged to have been starvation.
THE LONE STAR PAIR (and the subsequent Thorofare Pack).
When the new Blacktail Deer wolf enclosure was built for the 1996 wolf release, biologists did not anticipate the formation of the Leopold Pack on the Blacktail Deer Plateau near the new enclosure. Therefore, the two new wolves from British Columbia, a male/female pair (wolves 35M and 36F) were taken from this pen and released in the southwest central part of Yellowstone near Lone Star Geyser. This pair soon ended in tragedy. The female, who proved to be carrying six pups, died of burns from a hot spring or geyser. Her big mate, now called the "Lone Star" male, headed south and disappeared from tracking flights.
One day an Animal Damage Control officer saw a large black wolf run right in front of his truck as he neared Pine Creek Pass in the Snake River Mountains of eastern Idaho. He got out, measured the tracks and photographed them. Story on the sighting. There were other reports of a wolf near Teton Pass, just west of Jackson, Wyoming; and others along the western slope of the Tetons. Finally , wolf 35M showed up on a tracking flight south of Island Park, Idaho, a popular recreation area in the Targhee National Forest about 15 miles west of Yellowstone Park. Finally, in June 1996 the Lone Star Male was back near Old Faithful where the story began. After that time, he generally kept to a triangular area with Big Sky resort in Montana on its northern apex, Old Faithful on its SE and Island Park, Idaho on its SW.
By fall 1996, however, number 35 had met and paired with a lone yearling female from the Nez Perce group -- gray wolf number 30F. Together they moved far to the SE , wintering in the remote valley of the upper Yellowstone River -- called the Thorofare area. There they denned, had pups and were officially renamed the Thorofare Pack. Their six pups survived the summer, and the pack remained in the same wilderness stronghold -- the upper Yellowstone River, Thorofare Creek, and the Two Ocean Plateau. The alpha male no. 35 grew to become the biggest wolf in the Yellowstone country.
Winter was probably hard for the Thorofare Pack. The huge summertime elk population migrated out the Thorofare to reach its winter range in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, miles to the south. For some reason, the pack did not follow the elk. Winter left the them to live off the few elk that stay in the area plus the resident moose population, which is fairly large. However, moose are hard for just two wolves to kill, and pups of seven to ten months age are of little help cornering moose. Nevertheless, the Thorofare Pack relied more on moose than any other Greater Yellowstone ecosystem wolf pack prior to that time.
In February 1998 it was suddenly discovered that both of the alphas in the pack were dead in separate natural mortalities. Although it took some time for the story to be understood, number 30F and her pup 127 were killed in an avalanche near Eagle Pass. Were they hunting bighorn sheep, or trying to escape from the area? It turned out that just before this accident, big number 35M had encountered the well established Soda Butte Pack, which was also under some wintertime stress. The Soda Butte Pack tore him apart. On-site investigation revealed has scant remains.
Now on their own, prospects for the five remaining Thorofare pups looked bleak, but they managed to cross the rugged crest of the Absaroka Range SE of Yellowstone into elk and deer winter range in the North and South Forks of the Shoshone River. This is to the west and southwest of Cody, Wyoming, and east of the Park. There they survived to become yearlings. In the summer of 1998, they migrated back into the Thorofare, but from there they went their separate ways.
Only one had a radio collar (129F). In late November she turned up in the company of former Nez Perce alpha male wolf 29M along with her uncollared sister (137F) in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the middle of Grand Teton National Park. These three were the first known wolves to move into that famous place. They were named the Jackson Trio, and the next spring with pups (borne by 137F), they became the Gros Ventre Pack.
Rather than follow the original packs, beginning in 1999 my Yellowstone wolf history will follow the packs by events and/or the wolves by events. A list of each pack by size at the end of 1999 is at the end of this section.
Chief Joseph Pack no. I-
This pack, led by 33F and 34M, led a quiet winter as far as folks know. The did explore the area near Hebgen Lake and also the Taylor Fork of the Gallatin River. In April no. 33F denned at her traditional den site near Daly Creek in the Northwest corner of the Park. They had a litter of six new pups. In the course of the fall, two radio-collared members of the pack dispersed (and, so apparently did some uncollared members of the pack). Late in 1999, they returned to a sheep ranch north of Yellowstone, but in their normal range. Previously they had killed two sheep dogs on the ranch and several sheep. The Northern Rockies wolf team had two of the pack shot as the reapproached the sheep. The two wolves shot were pups-of-the-year, grown large enough so that they could not be distinguished from adult wolves from the air. After this control action, the pack finished the year with no further problems. However, mortality and dispersal had reduced the size of the pack to six.
Chief Joseph Pack no. II (renamed the Sheep Mountain pack)-
In the winter of each year, collaring and recollaring of the wolves takes place. During the January collaring, a big uncollared wolf was found with no. 16F. The 125 pound black guy was not thought to have been one of her 1998 pups, but he was suspected to be an disperser from another pack. He was designated 165M and alpha male of the pack. Suspicion lingered, however, that he was one of her pups, or alternatively even the unseen father of her 1998 liter (rather than 34M). Later in the winter radio-collared wolf 118M from the Crystal Creek Pack also joined with her, her pups, and 165M. In early spring three new gray wolves showed up in the pack. They were of unknown identity. This rapidly growing pack was given the name Sheep Mountain Pack in April 1999, and the pack had become a major wildlife feature just to the north of the Park. Sheep Mountain is a prominent peak just north of the town of Gardiner.
Number 16F denned early in April. Gradually more and more of her pups were seen. Estimates were from six to nine.
The pack had moved a bit further north and the rendezvous site they chose was full of deer and elk, but cattle were turned out in late June on a private grazing pasture only 1 1/2 miles from their rendezvous site. Great lengths were taken to keep the wolves from the cattle, and it is believed they did not kill any of the cattle. At sometime, however, during the summer, the pack got a taste of beef somewhere, although apparently not from the cattle near its rendezvous site, and they eventually began to kill cattle. It is unknown how many calves they killed -- estimates are from 2 to 10. Because the pack began to frequent the populated bottom of Paradise Valley, over the course of a month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ordered six members of the pack killed, including the alpha male, no. 165M. After the control killings, the pack moved back up into the mountains north of Yellowstone, especially the Dome Mountain area, and it finished the year intact, but with no obvious alpha male. Therefore, for the purposes of counting as an "official" pack, the reduced Sheep Mountain Pack was not a pack at the end of 1999.
Soda Butte Pack-
After two winters in the deep snow wilderness of south Yellowstone, the Soda Butte Pack finally moved south to the National Elk Refuge at Jackson, Wyoming. It's six members (no. 24F and 123M had dispersed) were seen by many visitors at the Refuge. Oddly, after about a month's residence among the abundant elk, the pack abruptly returned to Yellowstone where they ranged widely. It was thought that no. 14F, the leader of the pack for two years by herself, was looking for a mate. She did not find one. In the meantime, one of her two surviving pups from 1996, no. 43M was killed by the Crystal Creek Pack. Soda Butte was tracked close to the Crystal Creek Pack (regarded as a favorable sign at the time), but 43's frozen wolf-killed carcass was found near Turbid Lake in the Pelican Valley in March. Her lone surviving pup from 1996 is 44F, now almost four years old.
In early March 1999, the pack returned to the Elk Refuge only to go back to Yellowstone again (briefly). In April they had returned yet again to the Elk Refuge area. As if to replace slain no. 43M, disperser 123M returned to the pack. A number of people noted that there is one wolf in the pack that uses three legs. This is no. 125. It was injured sometime ago (1998?) in Yellowstone before the pack ever came to Jackson Hole.
Soda Butte was the only Yellowstone area wolf pack not to den in 1999. Apparently they did not encounter the male they sought in their return trips to Yellowstone.
In Sept. 1999, wolf 104M, the former alpha male of the Crystal Creek Pack, was been in close proximity of the Soda Butte pack; but he did not remain with the pack. However 104's presence probably prompted the dispersal of two of pack's males -- 123M dispersed again, and this time, so did no. 124M. After about a month, 123's body was found. He too had been killed by the Crystal Creek Pack. 124's location was not known.
At the end of the 1999, the dwindling Soda Butte Pack consisted of just 14F, 126F, limping wolf 127, and perhaps 120M from the Crystal Creek Pack (finally a mate for 14F?).
At the end of 1999, the Soda Butte Pack had not descended to Jackson Hole, but remained in the high country in the southern part of Yellowstone and the Teton Wilderness of national forest just to the south of the Park.
Druid Peak Pack-
Number 40F denned in mid-April, but this was after her sister, no. 42F the beta female, dug a den of her own. Reports are that 40F came by with the pack and drove 42 from her den. An examination of the den revealed no evidence of wolf pups, although some observers still think 40F might have killed 42's pups.
When the pups finally came down from Druid Peak den in June, there were six. This was the largest litter so far for the famous and well-observed pack. During October the Druids were been frequently observed in their traditional range in the Lamar Valley. However, during the summer they had lost they lost 3 of their pups. By the end of the summer the pack had nine members. Members were the alpha pair -- 40F and 21M, plus 42F, 103F, 105F, 106F, 163M, and three pups.
Late in 1999, big yearling 163M dispersed from the pack. He did not survive, however; and was later found high in the Absaroka east of the Park, probably killed by one or more cougars.
During the winter the rejuvenated and now larger Crystal Creek pack made an incursion into the Druid's territory. In a battle on Specimen Ridge, the Crystal Creek Pack exacted revenge on the Druids, sending them running with one more pup killed. At the end of 1999, the pack consisted of 21M and 40F, the alpha pair; 42F, 103F, 105F, 106F, and two pups. This much observed and very aggressive pack remained one composed overwhelming of females.
Rose Creek Pack-
Throughout the winter of 1998-9, from time-to-time, a pair of wolves hung out near Tower Junction (the Yancey Pair). Whether they were uncollared members of the Rose Creek pack, or new wolves, was not known.
In April 1999, both 9F and her daughter 18F, denned again -- the 5 th year for no. 9 and the 3rd year for no. 18). In 1999 they denned separately (as they had done in 1997), but later they joined their litters and moved up with most of the rest of the pack to their traditional summer range on the roadless Buffalo Plateau. Meanwhile, it was discovered that a third female in the pack had a litter -- at least three pups. This mother, no. 78F, did not join the rest of the pack with her pups.
No. 78F and mate -- a new pack
In late summer it was observed that a gray adult wolf (no radio collar) had joined the pack. In fact, he may have been there all along and fathered the pups. He was probably a disperser from the nearby Leopold Pack. Moreover, the number of pups was raised to at least five.
In early January 2000, however, 78F was found dead about 30 miles north of the Park. There is a criminal investigation underway (details not being given). The whereabouts of her pack is not known since she had the only radio collar in the pack.
Beginning, In September 1999, matriarch no. 9 was seen less and less frequently together with her vast pack, now numbering perhaps 30 members. It turned out that she had left, or had been driven from the pack, although she was relocated in late November in Slough Creek with other wolves, but was clearly subordinate. After that she drifted northeastward out of the Park past Cooke City where she would encounter a possible new mate.
No. 9's Canadian born daughter, no. 7F, whelped her 4th litter of pups in 1999. Four pups were been counted in this rarely seen pack which, ironically, inhabits the Blacktail Deer Plateau just north of the busy Mammoth to Tower Jct. road. As the case in the past, there was little news about this apparently content pack which has a very small territory densely populated by elk.
Crystal Creek Pack-
After large litters the last several years, in 1999 only one pup was observed in this large pack. The pack was generally in a remote part of Yellowstone (Pelican Valley). No. 5F, originally from Alberta and part of the 1995 reintroduction, was still the alpha female. It appears there was no alpha male. 104M, who dispersed from the Druid Peak Pack, had been the alpha male for about a year.
By the end of 1999, however, venerable number 5 had left or been driven from the pack.
This pack inhabited the deep snow Pelican Valley area just north of Yellowstone Lake. They were the one pack that had become adept at killing bison and moose (which enabled them to live the winter in the deep snow. In 1999 they were responsible for the death of two members of the Soda Butte Pack (in separate incidents) , and a pup from the Druid Peak Pack. The death of the Druid pup came in Crystal Creek battle with their old nemesis, the Druids, on top of Specimen Ridge.
Nez Perce Pack-
This rarely seen pack consisted of 4 adult wolves, 3 sub-adult wolves, and five pups from 1999. The pack was unique in that all of the wolves were gray, no black wolves. The pack lived in the vicinity of Nez Perce Creek and was occasionally seen patrolling the mists of the Lower Geyser Basin -- quite a sight. Mostly it inhabited the timber and small meadows away from the road. It also came to dominate the Central Plateau area of the Park -- the very center of Yellowstone. The alpha female was still 48F, born to the late 27F in the spring of 1996. The alpha male was no. 70 or 72M, both two of the surviving three of the original ten Sawtooth Pups brought to the Park back in the summer of 1996 when their Montana pack was killed because of their livestock depredations. It was thought the pack had just one pup in 1999, but finally in September five pups were observed.
In late summer one of the sub-adults (92M) had dispersed, and in late September the pack was observed by many visitors in a new place -- near Gibbon Falls.
In late November, this Pack suddenly left the Park and was located near the Henry's Fork of the Snake River in Island Park, Idaho. This is the first Yellowstone wolf pack to visit Idaho. After about a week, however, they returned to their usual Yellowstone Park territory.
Sunlight Basin Pack-
After no. 52M (formerly of the Rose Creek Pack) and 41F (thought to have once been the alpha female of the Druid Peak Pack) paired near Sunlight Basin east of Yellowstone in the spring of 1998, they produced their first pups in the spring of 1999. They and their "five" pups became the Sunlight Basin Pack. The pack's range included scenic Sunlight Basin and the Absaroka Mountains just to its east, including the headwaters of the Lamar River inside Yellowstone National Park. At the end of the summer, it was determined that they probably had seven pups. Only the alpha pair had radio-collars.
Wolf 24F, was a long-time member of the rarely-seen Soda Butte Pack. She was born to the pack in 1995, their sole pup. She finally left her pack in 1998. She found and paired with wolf 133M, of the disrupted Washakie Pack. The two soon settled down to a comfortable life near Moran Junction on the northeastern boundary of Grand Teton National Park. Their chosen range was in an area of high elk and deer density. Unfortunately, it was also adjacent to a summertime cattle allotment inside the national park.
As expected, in the spring of 1999 the pair produced the first known wolf pups in Jackson Hole in over a half century. The pair and the pups were given the name "the Teton Pack." The five pups were observed romping with their father in the early summer, but tranquility would not continue. Soon afterward no. 133M was hit and killed on U.S. Highway 26 just east of the Park, and 24F was left to feed the pups herself just as the 900 pair of cows and calves of the Mead-Hansen family were turned out to pasture close to her rendezvous site. Superficially it seemed that no. 24 would do well because she and her former pack had no history of livestock depredation, while her late mate's pack was disrupted by "Wildlife Services" for killing cattle on the Diamond G in the Dunoir area on the other side of the Continental Divide.
In August 1999, 24F turned up in a snare meant for trapping and radio-collaring grizzly bears. She was released unharmed, but a check of her condition revealed she weighed only 70 pounds and had many damaged teeth. She had invaded the grizzly's lair in a desperate attempt at finding food.
As a result of her condition, Grand Teton National Park then provided the pack with road-killed elk, deer, moose, and one bison, throughout the summer. This continued until October 16, when the fall elk hunt left plenty for her to scavenge. Unfortunately, in mid-September she found a dead cow calf was observed eating it. Now she had tasted beef, and she might add it to her diet. It's the said fact that many ranchers fail to clean up their dead livestock. They let cow carcasses lay, and wonder why wolves, bears, and coyotes begin to attack their cattle. In late September the cows were returned to the southern end of Jackson Hole on private land. As a sidelight, folks should ask why cattle are permitted to be grazed in Grand Teton National Park?
All of the pups survived the summer and appeared (from a distance) to have grown to a healthy size. This may have been the only Yellowstone area pack not to suffer pup mortality in 1999. In late October, the pack briefly crossed eastward over the Continental Divide to the area near Dubois and the Dunoir Valley. In mid-November the pack returned to Grand Teton National Park, and at the end of the year and early January 2000, they were east of the Pack in the Gros Ventre River drainage where many elk winter in three Wyoming Game and Fish elk feedgrounds.
Gros Ventre Pack-
This is the second Jackson Hole area pack, although it spent the summer in the ridges and creeks of the Gros Ventre Mountains, primarily in the Gros Ventre Wilderness, to the east of Jackson Hole. They summered among many cattle, and there was fear they would depredate. When several predatory kills of cattle were discovered, the worst was feared for the wolves, but it now appears that it was grizzly bears that killed the cattle.
Grizzly bears seem to be expanding their range southward. Once a rarity in the Gros Ventre Range, grizzlies are now common.
Due to the pack's wilderness location, visual sightings of the pack were not common during the summer. The pack remained up in the mountains until December 1999, when they came down to the Gros Ventre River. Then they took an unusual journey far north into Yellowstone where they dwelt for several days with the Soda Butte Pack. Then they returned to the Gros Ventre River area, and they have were briefly seen on the Elk Refuge in late 1999/early 2000.
The pack consisted of nearly toothless alpha male 29M, older brother to the alpha female of the Nez Perce Pack; and alpha female 137F and her sister 129F. 29M lost his teeth in his many escapes from the Nez Perce Pen. He would leap to the top of the pen, and grab the chain link by his teeth until he could work his way out of a corner of the enclosure. Finally, the Park biologists stopped trying to recapture him, and he was alpha male of the Nez Perce Pack for some time after they were finally re-released in the summer of 1998.
129F and 137F were survivors of the disaster that took out the Thorofare Pack in the winter of 1997-8.
The Gros Ventre pack had its first litter in April 1999, 4-5 pups. It appears that two pups survived the summer.
Washakie Pack (no II?)-
The Washakie Pack, consisting of only 4 yearling wolves, presumably dispersed in the late spring of 1998, after their mother, father, and a brother had been shot by Wildlife Services for depredations on the Diamond G's livestock. Indeed, Washakie Pack yearling 133M soon joined with no. 24F from the Soda Butte Pack to form the new "Teton Duo" (which later became the Teton Pack described above).
His brother 132M, wandered far, finally ending up in central Idaho. From there, he was captured and flown to north central Idaho, and he became the alpha male of the Snow Peak Pack, then the most northerly pack in Idaho.
But what of uncollared siblings 134 and 138? And whatever happened to the uncollared Thorofare Pack yearlings 130 and 131? There are also other uncollared wolves that have dispersed from various packs in the last couple years that are unaccounted. One or more of these was thought to be in the Dunoir area.
It was clear that at least one wolf was using the old home range of the Washakie Pack, the Dunoir Area NW of Dubois, Wyoming. A wolf or wolves killed a colt on the Diamond G in 1999, several calves, and perhaps more. Several dogs were also lost to a wolf in the area.
During the summer and fall of 1999, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service repeatedly tried to trap some of these elusive wolves in the Dunoir, but with no success. The current thinking was that probably 2 adult wolves inhabited the area, and they might have some pups born in 1999. Whether they should be called the "Washakie Pack" or the "Washakie II" was unknown because their origin was unknown. Top estimate of the size of this pack was seven wolves.
In the fall of 1999, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued the Diamond G ranch a permit to kill any two wolves that showed up on its property (as long as they were not radio-collared wolves, because this would mean they were not of this depredating pack). The year and the permit expired with no wolves shot. In early 2000 the permit was reissued, but it too expired with no wolves shot.
Extensive research, including leaving deer or elk carcasses in the area supposed to be frequented by the pack, showed but one wolf to be present. So as we entered the spring of 2000, it appeared there was no Washakie II Pack, and perhaps there was never more than one wolf, whose presence gave rise to all the speculation.
Pups in 1999- Estimates were that 1999 produced 63-64 new pups in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. This would put the total wolf population in the vicinity of 170 wolves. However, by the end of 1999 it was obvious that the 1999 pup crop had suffered very high mortality for largely unknown reasons -- just 38 survived. That is only 59%. As a result of this, plus an average level of mortality of adult and sub-adult wolves, the total Yellowstone wolf population at the end of 1999 was just slightly larger than at the end of 1998 -- an unexpected end to what had been an almost linear expansion of the wolf population since reintroduction. This did not mean that the population had reached its peak. Because the year 2000 saw a resumption of growth. Nevertheless, parvo, may have infected some packs; and it is hard to eliminate. In some years this may mean little, but in others like 1999, the pup crop may be greatly reduced.
Pack Size and pairs at the beginning of 2000- (Note blue means it counted as breeding pair for purposes of delisting in 1999).
Druid Peak. 6 adults, 2 pups.
Rose Creek. 10 adults, 6 pups.
Leopold. 10 adults, 1 pup.
Crystal Creek. 12 adults, 1 pup.
Chief Joseph. 5 adults, 3 pups.
Nez Perce. 8 adults, 5 pups.
Soda Butte. 3 adults, no pups (but note in Feb. 2000; 4 adults and 4 "other" wolves -- 8 adults?)
Sheep Mountain. 6 adults, 3 pups.
Teton. 1 adult, 5 pups (but in Feb. 2000, 2 adults -- no. 24F has a mate).
Gros Ventre. 3 adults, 2 pups.
Sunlight Basin. 2 adults, 7 pups.
New Taylor Fork (of the Gallatin) pair, no. 115F + other wolf. 2 adults.
New North Fork Shoshone pair. 2 adults
Remnants of 178F's pack. 1 adult, 3 pups? (they were uncollared and may have been somewhere north of Yellowstone NP).
Washakie II. 1 or more adults.
Lone wolves. 5-7 adults.
-The year 2000 +
Chief Joseph Pack-
In 2000 this pack, still led by 33F and 34M, chose a new den site, and not a good one. They denned within a few hundred yards of a horse corral north of Yellowstone Park in Cinnabar Basin. There 33F whelped 6 pups.
The pack began to have trouble with the nearby livestock. They chased the horses a couple times, and finally killed a cow calf. They also killed two sheep guard dogs (they had killed other guard dogs in Tom Miner Basin previous years). Biologists decided to move the pack back to its traditional den site inside Yellowstone Park. They began by trapping alpha male 34M and a sub-adult female, 198F. They released them far to the south. They both quickly came back to the den area. No. 34 traveled 55 miles in two days. Unsuccessful efforts to capture them continued, but in a month they moved back on their own to their traditional den area near Daly Creek in the Park.
The rest of the year was uneventful for the pack. The largest visual count of the pack's size came in October when 13 wolves were spotted. The pack continued to inhabit the NW corner of Yellowstone and the country just to west and north to Tom Miner Basin, the place where it has had many encounters with sheep, cattle, and sheep dogs. The pack visited the West Yellowstone vicinity a few times during the year.
It was assumed that at the beginning of 2001 the pack was composed of 7 adults and 6 pups. The pack was counted as a breeding pair for recovery purposes.
In April 2001 the pack began to dig in Cinnabar Basin. To forestall the pack from denning again in this unsuitable location, biologists went to great effort sealing up diggings and putting mothballs in the vicinity, and thankfully the pack did den inside the Park at their traditional den site. There they produced 7 pups, perhaps in two litters.
During the summer, the long time alpha female 33F became the sixth wolf from the pack to be hit and killed on US Highway 191. During the early winter, the long-time alpha male 34M was injured by an elk and then finished off by the new Cougar Creek Pack in whose territory he had been hunting. These losses changed the inter-pack relationships, but the details were not known because all of the radio collars but one, that of a pup, had been lost with the death of 33F and 34M coupled with the dispersal of radio-collared 198F and 203M.
At the end of 2001, the estimated size of the Chief Joseph Pack was 11 wolves.
Sheep Mountain Pack-
About 15 miles north of Yellowstone Park, the Sheep Mountain Pack ended 1999 in bad shape from six control killings. The year 2000 would spell the end of the pack for a year, but also its rejuvenation.
Because there was no alpha male, the pack had no pups in 2000. In mid-May the pack killed a cow, and a decision was made to capture the pack for an experiment on aversive conditioning to livestock. The experiment would be carried out on Ted Turner's Flying D Ranch west of Bozeman. The wolves would be placed in an enclosure, fitted with shock collars, and shocked when they approached livestock. The livestock would be introduced to the pen with the wolves so the aversive conditioning could proceed.
While critics judged the experiment as torture or abuse, in fact, almost all of the trauma came in capturing the pack. The alpha female 16F and three of her male pups were captured. In the process one member of the pack was accidentally killed and one that couldn't be captured was deliberately shot in order to terminate the pack. In the enclosure no. 16F soon died due to overhandling. She had lived a rough, but successful life, but her condition was fragile after the trauma of capture.
With only three pups for conditioning, the future of experiment looked shaky because of the small number of wolves with no leader and the likelihood that during the long period of conditioning new wolves would disperse northward from Yellowstone and occupy the Sheep Mountain Pack's territory.
Amazingly, during the summer only one shock delivery was observed. There may have been several not observed. It hardly seemed like the wolves were abused. The pups (189M, 195M,196M) grew well and were released in the traditional territory of the Sheep Mountain Pack in December, They remained in the area and stayed out of sight during the last few weeks of 2000. the USFWS stated that no livestock depredations from these 3 would be tolerated -- one strike and you're dead.
In the late winter, in 2001, 189M broke through the ice as the wolves were crossing Tom Miner Creek, and was swept under the ice to his death.
196M tried to join the new Mill Creek Park on the NE side of Paradise Valley, and was involved in a livestock kill, so he was shot by the government. 195M found a mate and founded a new Sheep Mountain Pack in the Pack's traditional territory near Dome Mountain about 12 miles north of Yellowstone Park.
In 2001, 195M and his mate gave the pack a strong new beginning by producing 6 pups. However, the pack was involved in a calf depredation in September. While most of the pack participated, 195M was shot by the government. As a result the pack did not have a breeding pair for recovery purposes again in 2001. The seven remaining wolves did survive into 2002. During the winter the pack picked up new wolves, reaching a high of 11 in March 2002 before the government shot 4 of them for minor harassment of horses and perhaps a calf depredation in Paradise Valley.
The Soda Butte Pack suddenly prospers and is Renamed the "Yellowstone Delta Pack"-
At the end of 1999, the Soda Butte Pack was clearly dwindling. The alpha female 14F had not whelped pups since 1997, the spring when her mate no. 13M died of old age. A number of pack members had dispersed, but a few new ones appeared to have joined or perhaps were in the process of joining.
What might have been a final blow appeared in April when spotters from a tracking flight saw number 14F's decomposed body near a dead moose. Other members of the pack were nearby. It appeared the pack would be pupless again and now without their sole leader for three years.
Story. April 28, 2000. Alpha female of Soda Butte Pack, no. 14F, killed by moose.
Things changed when a lone pup was spotted from the air on May 29. For certain, a pair in the pack had mated. So with a new alpha male and female and a pup, the pack had a future. The picture changed further. As summer progressed, more and more pups were spotted. Seven in total were finally counted in addition to an expanded adult population of six. Wolf 126F, one of 14's litter in 1997 became the alpha female. The alpha male was uncollared and unknown, although some thought it might be 104M, the famous former pup from Druid Peak Pack.
In 2000 the pack stayed in its remote SE corner of Yellowstone territory, and so it was rarely seen by anyone. During that period it gained many members and numbered 22 wolves at the end of 2000. Because of death of the last of the original pack's wolves, the pack was renamed the "Yellowstone Delta Pack" to reflect their territory. The pack was never well named. The Soda Butte Pack had been released in 1995 near Soda Butte in the Lamar Valley, but they remained there less than a month and it never returned. The pack was forcibly relocated to SE Yellowstone in the fall of 1997. It was a relocation that worked.
April 2001 brought five more pups to the pack. However, a number of wolves dispersed during the year, so at the end of 2001 the pack's size had dropped to 16. The pack denned near Yellowstone Lake, and throughout the summer of 2001, this remote pack was seen little, but heard much, as it tended to howl much more than other Park packs.
Despite its remote location, the Yellowstone wolf team had made a big effort to radio collar this pack. Between 2000 and 2001, eight pack members were collared, but it was to no avail. This was a pack that regularly chewed off collars. By the end of 2001, just 126F the alpha female wore a collar and her older sister 44F. One explanation is that lower ranking wolves do not chew on the necks of higher ranking wolves. At the end of 2002, a visual count of the pack was 14 wolves.
Lack of radio collars hindered tracking in 2003, but it is known that at least 4 wolf pups were born and there were 17 Delta wolves at the end of the year.
Over the years the pack has regularly ranged from the SE shores of Yellowstone Lake southward into the Teton Wilderness, outside Yellowstone Park. Outfitters seem to hate them, and in the past they have regularly rode their horses over one of pack's two den sites. It's too bad outfitters can't appreciate the wild splendor of this, the furthest place from a road in the lower 48 states.
Druid Peak Pack-
Perhaps the biggest story of 2000 was the Druid Peak Pack, which grew from 8 wolves to 27, following a rebellion in the pack against the pack's very dominant alpha female no. 40F, who was slain, probably by her sister 42F, and one or more of her daughters.
Every year the alpha male, first 38M, and later 21M, was seen mating with two or more members of the pack, and every year multiple litters were expected. In the end, however, no. 40 only led a few pups down to the Lamar Valley from the forest-obscured den on Druid Peak. The largest number of pups was 6 in 1999, but only 3 of which survived the summer, and just 2 the winter.
Number 40 was very aggressive, severely disciplining her sister, 42F, and her daughters and leading the charge to kill members of other packs. In 1999, she was observed to drive 42F off a separate den. In years previous she had probably driven her mother, 39F and second sister 41F out of the pack.
In 2000, 42F, accompanied by 103F, dug a new den at the base of Specimen Ridge and both whelped pups. 106F dug yet another den to the east of the traditional den on Druid Peak. 40F denned on Druid Peak. After 40's demise, the three female wolves moved their pups one by one to the traditional den site to join perhaps ten of 40F's pups, for a total of 21 pups and a pack of 29! 42 and 103's pups were all carried across the swollen Lamar River.
Biologists were skeptical about the survival of the majority of so many pups, but only one pup was lost that summer and one yearling was killed by a vehicle in May. At the end of 2000 the pack was 27-strong. By April 2001, the Druids were still at 26 members. While some think of animals like wolves as interchangeable, the events of 2000 show how much difference the presence or absence of one wolf can make.
As the pups grew, the Druids pushed further west, slowly displacing their traditional rival, the Rose Creek Pack, which had split into two groups by the end of 2000..
At the end of the year 2000, 42F was now the alpha female and it was uncertain if there was a beta female in this huge pack. 21M was still the alpha male and was observed mating with almost all of the female members of the pack early in 2001. By April 2001, no. 42F, and 103F were visibly pregnant, and 105F and 106F dug dens, but abandoned them. 42F and 103F both had pups in separate dens. No. 42 had 8 pups and 103 had 3 pups. 103F whelped her second litter and raised them with scant help from the rest of the pack. Nevertheless, her pups survived the year. In August 2001 the Druid Peak pack numbered 37 wolves, making it the largest wolf pack ever recorded. This was the high point, however, and by the end of 2001 various sub-groups of the pack were acting more and more like separate wolf packs.
By 2002, two new packs had emerged out of Druid splinters, the Geode Creek Pack, led by 106F, and the Agate Creek Pack, of which 103F and other Druids were the bulk of the members. 105F also had her group, but no pups. The main Druid Pack persisted too, although now at a much smaller size.
In 2003 the Druid Pack continued to thrive with about 10 yearling or adult wolves. Two and maybe three litters of pups were born, and at least one was probably fathered by dispersing Leopold wolf 302M to whom the young Druid females seemed to have a particular affection, although the alpha male 21M would never let 302M join the pack. Nine pups survived to the end of 2003 and the pack size at the end of the year was 17.
Story on 302M and his successful wooing of Druid females.
In early 2004, the long time alpha female met her fate when she was killed by a rival wolf pack, probably Mollies Pack. After a brief period of what some would characterize as mourning or searching, 21M and pack member 286F paired. 286F was probably not his daughter, being fathered by a passing Nez Perce Pack male. As of late June 286F seemed to have at least 7 pups, however, 21M disappeared on June 11 was not seen again.
A second Druid female 376F, denned apart from the pack's traditional den and whelped 2 pups near the pack's traditional rendezvous site. A number of Druids were seen visiting her and probably bringing food for her pups.
Story on the Druid coup and resulting success
by Kari Grady Grossman. September 20, 2000
Druids winter of 2000. From left to right 21M, the "Saddleback"
and 42F in the lead. Photo courtesy Doug Dance.
Rose Creek Pack-
The Rose Creek Pack was once the Park's largest (14 wolves in 1998), but in 2000 it seemed to be a dwindling pack. It had split into two groups. The "Tower group" tended to inhabit the north-facing slope of the lower Yellowstone River in the Park, and main group the south-facing. In July the long-time alpha male of the Rose Creek Pack (8M) was found dead in Slough Creek, of unknown natural causes. However, Wolf 18F continued as the alpha female.
In December 2000, the growing Druid Peak Pack staged another attack on the Rose Creek Pack in Slough Creek (recall a similar attack in 1996 which Rose Creek won). This time the Druids won, and Rose Creek was driven out of Slough Creek and increasing westward, down the Yellowstone River toward Gardiner, MT.
Nevertheless, Rose Creek had eleven pups in 2000, and 5-8 survived to put the pack at 15-18 wolves at the end of 2000, if the 2 groups of Rose Creek were counted together, yet by early 2001 it was clear the split was permanent.
In 2001, the Park Service renamed the pack led by no. 18F, the Rose Creek II Pack. The other group never received an official name, but they migrated well north of the Park and might have been the origin of non-Park Mill Creek pack which inhabited the mountains and eastern fringe of the Paradise Valley.
In 2001 number 18F and alpha male 207M had 5 pups, and at the end of the year the pack numbered 9 wolves.
Throughout 2001, as in 2000, the Rose Creek II Pack was pushed further down the Yellowstone River toward Gardiner by the massive Druid Peak Pack. A number of "encounters" between the two packs were recorded.
Eventually, with the formation of the Geode Pack in 2002 as a splinter from the Druids, Rose Creek II moved entirely out of Yellowstone Park in 2003 and dwelt in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness to the north. Three pups were observed before all of the radio collars were thought to have died or their wearers disappeared, and the pack became lost to wolf managers.
In the summer of 2004, the pack was surprisingly rediscovered. It turned out that its 2 collars (on the alpha pair) were working fine, but the frequency of the collar of mountain lion had been masking their signal. The number of new pups in 2004 was not know as the pack stayed deep in the Wilderness in the upper Hellroaring Creek area. The alpha pair were wolves 150M and 190F.
Crystal Creek (Mollie's Pack)-
The Crystal Creek Pack was driven from the Lamar Valley in 1996 by the new Druid Peak Pack. The 2 surviving members of the pack mated and soon a rejuvenated Crystal Creek Pack was thriving to the south of the Lamar in Pelican Valley. The pack grew to 14 wolves, many of them large (perhaps because they were a pack that had learned to kill bison). In 1999, the pack had 3 new pups, but dispersals and possible expulsion of the venerable alpha female 5F led to no pups in 2000. At the end of 2000 the pack consisted of only 4 adult wolves, and because all of the original members were dead and the pack no longer lived anywhere near Crystal Creek, it was renamed Mollie's Pack in honor of the late USFWS director Molly Beattie, who oversaw the wolf reintroduction but died of cancer at a young age, several years later. They were not counted as a breeding pair pack in 2000.
Mollie's/Crystal Creek was interesting in that it inhabited a deep snow area, killed bison as well as elk, and had many interactions with the numerous grizzly bears that live in the Pelican. During late winter the pack would often leave the pack and prey on elk that wintered in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Shoshone River just east of Yellowstone Park. In March they would return to the Pelican and prey on the now winter-weakened bison.
In 2001, Mollie's Pack finally had pups, and 6 survived the year, raising the pack's size from 4 to 10 wolves. During 2000 and 2001 until the pups were big enough to help defend the pack, Mollie's Pack, which inhabits a very dense grizzly bear area, was very susceptible to losing its prey to the grizzly bears. As the pack grew in size, carcass sharing between the wolf pack and the bears became more common. In July 2001 in the Pelican Valley, Darren Ireland, a YNP bear manager, observed the 4 Mollie's Pack adult wolves and 10 grizzly bears feeding on a dead bull elk!
In 2002, Mollie's Pack had just 2 pups, but at the end of the year the pack visited the northern range, chased the smaller sized Druids. However, they lost several members to dispersion at that time. These members joined with a dispersing Druid female (217F) to form the Slough Creek Pack, which became a major northern range pack in 2003.
In 2003, the alpha female 174F had 4 pups, but only 2 survived to year's end. Mollies Pack continued to struggle in the winter because elk leave the area and only bison are left as prey. Moreover, they have to constantly fight grizzly bears to keep their kills. By the end of 2003 the pack's size had declined from 12 to 7.
In late 2003 big pack member 194M (130 pounds) dispersed to the northern range and paired with the well known uncollared Druid female called the "U-Black". They had 5 pups in April 2004.
In late winter 2004, Mollies Pack came north and probably* killed the famous Druid alpha female 42F on the backside (south side) of Specimen Ridge.
*There is a slight chance 42F was killed by the Agate Pack.
More packs yet to write up.
The pack number counts at the end of 2000-
Pack Yellowstone Park wolf pack? Number of adults & yearlings Number of pups born Pups at end of 2000 Pack size at end of 2000 Absaroka NE of Park 2 5 3 5 Beartooth NE of Park 3 prob. none ? 3 Chief Joseph About 50/50, NW corner of Park 7 8 6 13 Druid Peak Yes. NE corner 7 21 20 27 Gravelly No. West of Park. Gravelly Range ? (no radio collars) ? ? 5? Gros Ventre Pack No. East of Jackson Hole 3 3 3 6 Leopold Yes. Blacktail Deer Plateau 6-8 10 5-7 13 Mill Creek No. North of Park 3+ (no collars) ? 2+ 7 Mollie's Yes. East central, Pelican Valley 4 0 0 4 Nez Perce Yes. Central 15 7 7 22 Rose Creek (split into 2 groups) Yes. North boundary of Park 10-13 11 5-8 18 Sheep Mountain No. North of Park 7 0 0 3 Sunlight Basin No. NE of Park 6 4 4 10 Swan Lake Yes. NW center 2 5 5 7 Taylor Peaks No. West of Park 3 4 2 5 Teton No. East of Jackson Hole 4 0 0 4 Washakie No. SE of Park 4-5 ? 2-3 6-8 Yellowstone Delta Yes. SE corner of Park 15 7 7 22 TOTAL
The Pack Counts at the end of 2002-
Pack Yellowstone Park wolf pack?
Pups counted at the end of the year
Maximum estimated pack size 2002 Absaroka No. East of Park 3 6 Agate Creek (new in 2002) Yes. Tower Jct, Elk Creek, Antelope Cr. 4 10 Beartooth No. NE of Park 3 7 Bechler (new in 2002) Yes. SW corner of Park 2 2 Chief Joseph About 50/50, NW corner 8 10 Cougar Creek Yes. NW Yellowstone 5 10 Druid Peak Yes. NE corner, Lamar Valley. 3 11 Freezeout No. West of Park. Snowcrest and Gravelly Range 3 9 Geode Creek (new in 2002) Yes. Hellroaring area of Yellowstone River 3 9 Gravelly Range No. NW of Park Probably none. Control killed Green River No. Upper Green River, WY 0 2 Greybull River No. Greybull River in Washakie Wilderness. 3 7 Gros Ventre Pack No. East of Jackson Hole ? no radio collars 3 Leopold Yes. Blacktail Deer Plateau 8 16 Lone Bear (discovered in 2002, but not new) No. NW side of Paradise Valley, Gallatin Range 2 8 Mill Creek No. Paradise Valley, Mill Creek pups (number unknown) 8 Mollie's Yes. East central, Pelican Valley 2 10 Nez Perce Yes. Central at least 3 20 Red Lodge (discovered in 2002) No. Near Red Lodge, MT ? 4-6 Rose Creek II (old name of Rose Creek changed) Yes. North boundary of Park. Crevice Cr. to Hellroaring Cr. 3 10 Sentinel (new in 2002) No. Taylor Fork Gallatin. NW of Park 4 6 Sheep Mountain No. North of Park. Absaroka Range ? 9 Slough Cr. Group (New. Former Druid 105F's group) Yes. Slough Creek 0 4 Sunlight Basin No. East of Park 4 12 Swan Lake Yes. NW center. Gardner's Hole 11 16 Taylor Peaks No. NW of Park. Madison Range 2 4 Teton No. East of Jackson Hole 3 14 Tower Pair Yes. Tower Junction area 0 2 Washakie (pack split near end of 2002) No. SE of Park. Dunoir Valley. Wiggins Fork 5 15 Yellowstone Delta Yes. SE corner of Park. Thorofare. 4 14 TOTAL 272
The Pack Counts at the end of 2003-
Pack or Group Yellowstone Park wolf pack? Pups at the end of 2003
Pack size end of 2003 302M/251F's group (these were not mates. 302M picked up with 251F's pups and another pack member after 251 was killed by a grizzly. Yes. Tower Junction. Elk Creek 0 (2 pups were born, killed by Agate Pack) 2 Absaroka No. East of Park 2 4 Agate Creek Yes. Tower Jct, Elk Creek, Antelope Cr. 4 10 Beartooth No. NE of Park 3 7 Beartrap (new in 2003) No. NW of Park. Turner Ranch to Beartrap Canyon 1 5 Bechler Yes. SW corner of Park 4 8 Buffalo Fork (New in 2003. I think they joined the Slough Creek Pack) Yes. Northern boundary of Park 0 3 Chief Joseph Mostly no, 25/75 % NW corner 5 12 Cougar Creek Yes. West of West Yellowstone 4 10 Daniel Pack (probably new in 2003) No. West of Daniel, WY 11 16 Dubois (new, split from Washakie Pack in 2003) No. NW of Dubois, WY 0 4 Druid Peak Yes. NE corner, Lamar Valley. 9 17 Freezeout No. West of Park. Snowcrest and Gravelly Range 4 8 Green River (New in 2003) No. Upper Green River/Wind River Mts 1 2 Geode Creek Yes. Hellroaring area of Yellowstone River 2 7 Gibbon group (wolves reported in this area for several years, perhaps originally part of the Nez Perce Pack) Yes. Gibbon River area 0 5 Greybull River No. Greybull River in Washakie Wilderness. 4 7 Leopold Yes. Blacktail Deer Plateau 8 19 Lone Bear No. NW side of Paradise Valley, Gallatin Range 3 8 Mill Creek No. Paradise Valley, Mill Creek 0 3 Mission Creek No. East of Livingston, MT 1 3 Mollie's Yes. East central, Pelican Valley 2 7 Nez Perce Yes. Central Yellowstone 2 13 Owl Creek (new in 2003) No. Owl Creek, NE of Dubois, WY 0 3 Pinedale/Cora (New in 2003) No. Near Pinedale, WY 0 0 Red Lodge No. Near Red Lodge, MT 0 3 Rose Creek II Partly. North boundary of Park. Upper Hellroaring Creek. 3 5 Sentinel No. Madison Valley, Madison Range, MT 3 5 Sheep Mountain No. North of Park. Absaroka Range 3 8 Slough Cr. Pack Yes. Slough Creek 6 15 Sunlight Basin No. East of Park 3 6 Swan Lake Yes. NW center. Gardner's Hole 6 20 Taylor Peaks No. NW of Park. Madison Range 1 4 Tensleep (New in 2003) No. East of Bighorn Basin 0 2 Teton No. East of Jackson Hole 6 6 Washakie No. SE of Park. Dunoir Valley. Wiggins Fork. NW of Dubois, WY 4 8 Whitehall No. Northern end Tobacco Root Range 0 2 Yellowstone Delta Partly. SE corner of Park. Thorofare in Teton Wilderness 4 17 Lone wolves 0 2 TOTAL 301
The Future of the Yellowstone Country wolf population-
Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt announced in July 1996 that there would be no more wolves from Canada in 1997. He did rule not out the possibility in the future should the reintroduced populations run into trouble. . . and it now appears Babbitt was right. The wolves have thrived. The number of wolves in the Yellowstone Country (the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem -- GYE) peaked at close to 100 in May 1997. Mortality pushed this down to an estimate of 97 by the end of 1997. However, it grew some more in 1998. The population peaked at an estimated 121 wolves (official estimate) after the 42 new pups whelped in the spring of 1998.
At of the end of 1998, an estimated 111 wolves roamed the GYE. About 60 new pups were born in 1999, but at the end of 1999, the population was only 115-120 wolves, not much of an increase of 1998. It was suspected that parvovirus killed many of the pups in 1999. In 2000 the survival rate of pups improved greatly and the year end estimate was about 175 - 180 wolves. At the end of 2001, 218 wolves was the estimate. 2002 was a good year for the wolves. 270 were estimated at year's end with 148 of them living primarily inside of Yellowstone National Park, but the rest outside of it. At the end of 2003, the estimate of Greater Yellowstone wolves was 301. Living mostly in the Park were 174 wolves and 127 outside the Park in Wyoming and Montana. So please note that the number of GYE wolves outside of Yellowstone Park was essentially stable―122 wolves in 2002 and 127 in 2003.
In the meantime, enemies of wolf recovery, extrapolating from the high growth rate of the first three years without bothering to check recent events, have been frightening people with figures of 750 wolves roaming NW Wyoming. In my view, the Yellowstone Recovery area will probably never have many more than 300 - 350 wolves, a figure I reason will then oscillate according the conditions of their prey.
Wyoming tried to get responsibility for managing wolves in 2004. So did Montana and Idaho. The latter 2 states wrote wolf management plans acceptable to the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Wyoming's plan, which was pretty kill wolves anywhere you want outside of Grand Teton and Yellowstone Park, was rejected.
As a result, none of the three states could gain full management responsibility because all three are leally linked together in the recovery of wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. However, Idaho and Montana are now jointly managing the wolves with the USFWS. Wyoming, on the other hand, chose to sue. In the meanwhile, local and state leaders in Wyoming have conducted a campaign of disinformation about wolves and have harassed federal wolf managers.
Growth of the Greater Yellowstone Wolf Population (includes wolves in Park and nearby in in Montana and Wyoming).
End of 1995- 21
End of 1996- 57
End of 1997- 97
End of 1998- 111
Spring 1999- 170
End of 1999- 115-120
Spring 2000 (mid-May estimate)- 190-200
Fall 2000- 165-185
End of 2000- 177
End of 2001- 218
End of 2002- 272
End of 2003- 301
Once we go beyond the end of 1996, these figures become increasingly approximate. The Yellowstone pup crop of 1999 suffered very high mortality. Only 45 % of the pups survived. Parvovirus is the suspected culprit. In 2000, however, 77% of the pups survived.
At the end of 2000 the population had resumed growing, but a bit below the rate of the first three years. The population grew by 33% in 2000, 23% in 2001, and 19% in 2002. It grew by 10% in 2003 to 301 wolves. All of the growth was in YNP and Wyoming. Montana portion of the GYE declined. Preliminary estimates for 2004 indicate the population might have stopped growing.
Link to the History of the Idaho Wolf Recovery.
The Farm Bureau's Effort to Remove the Wolves Failed After Two Years of Legal Limbo-
This is another story about the wolf reintroduction history that needs to be told.
The Farm Bureau and the reintroduction lawsuit . . . The doom of Idaho and Yellowstone wolf restoration? No is wasn't!
In an effort to suppress the wolf reintroduction, the arch-enemy of wolves, the American Farm Bureau Federation, through its affiliates, the Idaho, the Montana, and the Wyoming Farm Bureau, has tried almost every argument possible to stop or to reverse the wolf restoration. They tried to argue that the wolf was extinct in the Northern Rockies -- the supposed sub-species Canis lupus irremotus, had disappeared and that any new wolves would be from a different sub-species and, therefore, not required under the Endangered Species Act. After losing in court on that argument, they tried the reverse―they argued that there were indeed "native" wolves of that sub-species, and that their genetics would be hybridized out of existence by wolves brought from Canada.
Coming from a different direction, the EarthJustice Legal Defense Fund, the Audubon Society, Predator Project, the Sierra Club and Sinapu, also filed suit asking that any "native" wolves already existing in the area not be declared part of the "experimental, non-essential" reintroduced population, but instead they should retain the full "endangered" status that the native wolves in NW Montana enjoyed, at least on paper. These two separate suits were filed in Idaho and Wyoming before the first wolves came from Canada. The case was assigned to federal district judge for the Wyoming federal district court, William Downes.
The lawsuits are "joined."
The court turned down the Farm Bureau's request for an injunction on the wolf release, and the wolves were set free. Most people forgot about the lawsuit. After about a year, however, the judge legally "joined" the cases of these two otherwise adversaries, who ironically were now legally the same plaintiff. I found this ominous, and I had argued strenuously to the Sierra Club that they should withdraw. Whether it was my argument or not, the Club withdrew. Then two years passed.
Judge William Downes of the Wyoming Federal District Court Stuned America.
On December 11, 1997 Judge Downes stunned America when he issued a 50-page opinion, which concluded that in order to protect native wolves, all the reintroduced wolves and their offspring in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming must be removed. He said the way the "experimental population rule" had been established violated the Endangered Species Act."
Finally, the moves of Judge Downes and the Farm Bureau are undone.
Fortunately, the judge "stayed" his removal order until the Tenth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals could rule on the inevitable appeals. Anti-wolf politicians were overjoyed. So was the Farm Bureau. Those environmental groups who had sued defended their original arguments, but said the judge had drawn the wrong conclusion.
The oral arguments before the 10th Circuit Court were held 1 1/2 years after Downes' decision, on July 29, 1999. A three judge panel heard the case. Meanwhile the wolf population grew and spread, especially in Idaho.
In December 1999, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down all of Downes' arguments, and completely upheld the side of the federal government.
The Greater Yellowstone wolves now seem to be secure, but nothing wild can really be safe when a brown administration like that of George W. Bush is in power.
Summary of the mortality of the wolves of Yellowstone.
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Copyright 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005Ralph Maughan
Since Sept. 25, 1998
Not to be reprinted, archived, redistributed, etc., without permission.
Yellowstone wolf history and running overview/. Some updating done on Oct. 20, 2004