Here is a fairly comprehensive update on the various Yellowstone wolf packs. It looks like the disease that struck down the pups last year did not emerge for a second year.
The 4 member pack is probably on its way to a comeback. As Kathie Lynch has reported, there are eleven pups, and the pack even came back to pick up the missing 11th pup when it did not follow the pack to their rendezvous site. The pack has wisely chosen a fairly remote rendezvous site near the Park boundary in upper Cache Creek. Dan Stahler of the Yellowstone team said this area is loaded with elk and not used by other wolf packs.
The Slough Creek Pack-
The Sloughs have regrouped, but they have stayed out of any Park area except Slough Creek, and then mostly near the Park's north boundary or even further upstream. As a result, they are invisible except to the backcountry visitor.
This pack that came to Yellowstone and so stirred things up has not been clearly seen for about a month. Of course, they are uncollared, making them hard to distinguish from other wolves, but Stahler said it was likely they have either split up into small groups or returned to wherever they came from.
The Agate Creek pack-
This is the lone Yellowstone Pack other than Hayden Valley that is visible. They are seen frequently in Antelope Creek from the road that climbs over the shoulder of Mt. Washburn. The pack has 7 adults and 6 big and healthy-looking pups.
The Leopold Pack has split, and both groups have a lot of pups. The main group, still led by alpha female 209F seems to have had a double litter and 15 pups were counted! although this number might have dropped to 13 pups. The two mothers appear to be 209F herself and 469F, who was seen mating with one of the various "mystery" wolves that appeared on the northern range last winter (I have photo of one of these "guys" up). 469F denned apart from the pack, but seems to have brought her pups into the pack. The Leopolds have 6 adults.
This group of 4 wolves moved off of the Blacktail Deer Plateau and is on the north side of the Mammoth to Tower Jct road between Oxbow and Geode Creek. They have 10 pups with the mother wolves most likely 536F and 470F. This group may soon receive its own official pack name.
This pack was a split from the Leopolds dating from late spring of 2005. In 2005 it had no pups, but 4 were counted this year. The Hellroaring wolves have been fairly scattered recently and the pups not seen for some time. It may be that they are moving northward up Hellroaring Creek and out of the Park, or perhaps something happened and the pack is dispersing.
Swan Lake Pack-
This reborn pack is two adults and six healthy looking pups in the old pack's traditional range.
Hayden Valley Pack-
This highly visible pack has never been large producer of pups and this year they have 2 pups. Last year's litter of 3 survived, however. So the pack consists of the alpha pair, 3 yearlings and 2 pups.
Genetic analysis has determined where the alpha pair came from. The white alpha female, 540F, was born to the old Nez Perce Pack and the big light gray alpha male, 541M, was a Agate with his ancestry going further back to the Druids. There had been a lot of human disturbance around their den site, and I believe they have moved to a nearby rendezvous area. This pack, like the Agates, is commonly seen.
The long-standing Mollies Pack has a new alpha female this year (she came in from Nez Perce in the spring of 2005), so not surprising they did not use one of the pack's traditional den sites. Two pups have been seen from the air, but there are probably more in their remote Pelican Valley home. The pups are small, indicating that they were born 2 or 3 weeks later than the pups on the northern range. Although the alpha female used a new den site, it is interesting that their rendezvous site is one favored by founder wolf 5F, back in the early days of the pack (when it was named "Crystal Creek"). As usual, Mollies Pack has to continually contend with grizzly bears who steal their kills.
The Yellowstone Delta Pack-
The Delta pack, reduced in number from splitting, has 7 pups. There are 4 adults in their remote SE Yellowstone home.
The Bechler Pack-
Unlike most interior packs who whelped pups late, the SW Yellowstone Bechler Pack has at least 4 pups, and they are big pups, thus born early in the year. Currently there are 5 adults, although 7 were counted last winter. The alpha male is still the big beautiful white male, 192M, that originated with the Rose Creek Pack. He is now one of the oldest wolves in the Park.
The Gibbon Pack-
Like the old Nez Perce Pack which it replaced, the Gibbon Pack is hard to see. It's current numbers are not known, and although a den site was discovered, the number of pups is not known (they denned within a half male of where the Nez Perce Pack used to den on the Central Plateau).
Cougar Creek I Pack-
This pack too is hard to see due to the dense lodgepole pine regrowth in their territory. It is assumed they have pups, but there are no observations.
Cougar Creek II Pack-
This somewhat larger split from Cougar Creek took up residence in the NW corner of the Park and beyond last year, replacing the old Chief Joseph Pack. Their current numbers are not known, but a trip to the Daly Creek and surrounding drainages is planned to determine the status of this pack.
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Copyright © 2006 Ralph Maughan
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