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Yellowstone Delta Pack gets radio collars.

 Winter Study pack number and prey data

Dec. 22, 2001

This is a completely updated and rewritten version of a story I originally posted on Dec. 12.

On Dec. 11, the Yellowstone wolf team, lead by Dr. Doug Smith successfully darted and radio collared five members of the remote (Thorofare area) Yellowstone Delta Pack which has become the Park's third largest pack (behind Druid and Nez Perce). All the captured wolves turned out to be males.

Despite normally deep snow and what some might suspect a paucity of wintering prey, the pack has grown and the wolves are big. Two adult males were captured. Each weighed 125 pounds. Three pups were captured. Their weight at 9 months age varied between about 100 and 110 pounds!

Here are the data for the wolves that were collared and assigned numbers:

243M- black- adult -125 pounds
244M - gray- adult - 125 pounds
245M - black - pup - 100 pounds +
246M - gray - pup - 100 pounds +
247M - gray - pup - 100 pounds +

One other member of the pack has a working collar from previous years.

While the severe 2 1/2 year drought seems to be ending in Idaho and part of Montana, (water content at one Idaho site is presently 200 % of normal), the snow pack in Yellowstone varies from near normal to below normal, and the wolf team found only 10 inches of snow in the Thorofare. Dr. Smith said the pack was trapped on an elk kill. Sixteen wolves were spotted. Moose were nearby.

The present linage of this pack is unknown. It used to be the Soda Butte Pack, but the pack was renamed Yellowstone Delta after all the 1995 reintroduced members, the first generation, and most of the second generation had died or left the pack. Blood samples were taken of the five captured wolves, and their origin may be established using DNA analysis.

The winter study-

The first phase of the annual winter study has ended. Much data was collected. Here are the data released to the public (I copied it from the gray wolf progress weekly report that I posted yesterday).

"The Park monitored 10 packs during Nov. 15 - Dec. 5. The counts were: Swan Lake -7 wolves, Leopold -14, Rose [Creek no. 2] -9, Druid Peak- 23 in main and 7-8 in sub-group, Mollies- 10, Delta- 16, Cougar Creek -6, Chief Joseph -11, Tower- 2. In addition Sheep Mtn. [10 miles north of the Park] had 7 wolves. Data is tabulated only for packs monitored by both ground and air -- Leopold, Rose, Druid. Observed kills were: Leopold- 7 kills in 30 days- 5 bulls, 1 cow, 1 unknown [age, sex] elk. Rose II- 9 kills in 30 days- 5 cows, 2 calves, 2 unknown elk. Druid Peak- 19 kills in 30 days- 11 calves, 1 bull, 3 cows, 4 unknown elk (also 2 coyotes). Northern Range elk winter counts are being attempted but poor flying weather has prevented their completion."

Note that the Nez Perce Pack was not included in the figures, although they have remained in Yellowstone since that adventure near Ashton, Idaho.

Note also that the Druids are in two groups. The main group with all or most of the adult wolves numbered 23, and the sub-group of younger wolves 7 or 8 (with a somewhat fluid membership).

The second phase of the winter study will begin in late winter. Among many other things, new collars will be put on the northern range wolf packs.

The Tower Pack (which separated from the Rose Creek Pack last year, prompting the change of name to Rose Creek no. 2) dispersed this summer and had no pups. However, one radio-collared member of that short-lived pack has returned to the area (208M) and he has a female companion.

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  Copyright © 2001 Ralph Maughan

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