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Yellowstone Wolf Update. Mid-Oct. 2000

A new alpha for Rose Creek?

October 17, 2000, note added on Oct. 18, 2000, and update December 30, 2002

Here is the latest news on the wolves in the Yellowstone Park. Recent tracking flight did not locate Crystal Creek or Druid Peak due to bad weather, but in fact Druid Peak has been seen since back in the Lamar Valley.

Druid Peak Pack- There appear to still be 20 pups. The new male in the pack, is thought by some to be returning disperser 107M. This new, or returning wolf, seems to have assumed the position of beta male. There is one other non-puppy male in the pack beside the alpha. He is the surviving pup from last year, the unnumbered "saddleback" male.

Update 12-30-02 on the fate of the Saddleback and the new beta male.

The Rose Creek Pack may be splitting. Pack member 190M and two other pack members were seen on an elk kill far south of the main body of the pack which was north of the Park in the headwaters of Slough Creek. The most interesting observation was that wolf 150M, a disperser from the Leopold Pack may be Rose Creek's new alpha male. The old alpha no. 8M was found dead this summer of presumed natural causes in Slough Creek. 

The Nez Perce Pack is the Park's second largest pack. The latest visual observation counted 17 wolves! All of them are gray.

The Chief Joseph Pack has stayed mostly in Yellowstone Park boundaries. The most recent flight got a visual count of 13 wolves, a high for the year.

The Soda Butte Pack was not flown for due to their location in the remote Thorofare section of the Park. There is speculation that 126F may be the new alpha female, replacing no. 14F who was killed by a moose last spring. Since the pack unexpectedly had nine pups, 126F or another pack female must have been the mother.

As almost always, the Leopold Pack is on the Blacktail Deer Plateau.

The three remaining members of the Sheep Mountain Pack, which have been on the Turner Ranch for aversive conditioning are expected to be released in their home territory any day now. There may be one or more new wolves presently inhabiting their old  territory.

Here is the USFWS account of the aversive conditioning experiment on the Turner Ranch.

The "training" of wolves to avoid cattle as prey will begin the final round of testing this month [October]. The program is a cooperative one between USDA Wildlife Services (Dr. John Shivik leads the research), the Service (who coordinates overall program), Turner Endangered Species Fund (cares for the wolves, provides logistic support, will assist with post release monitoring), National Park Service (provided the pen and will help with post-release monitoring), Defenders of Wildlife (supports aversive conditioning), and University of Montana (study design and expertise). The 3 wolves from the Sheep Mountain pack will be exposed to cattle (calves) again to see if they continue to avoid them. During twice weekly wolf feedings, members of the press will be allowed to accompany the TESF biologist.

During the first trails none of the wolves were suspected of attacking cattle. A calf was finally left in the pen overnight and was apparently undisturbed by the wolves, even thought they had not been recently fed . During the other trials wolves also did not even approach any of the calves placed in the pen. We are uncertain if this is because these wolves are simply are too shy to attack large prey while in the pen, or because of a single apparent training event by 1 wolf. That wolf had approached a calf hide with triggering transmitter on it, when it jumped back- suggesting its' collar may have been triggered. The other 2 wolves watched it approach the calf hide. None of them approached the hide after that incident. It is possible that this resulted in all 3 wolves avoiding anything smelling like cattle. The standard dog (Pet-Safe brand- no endorsement by the federal Government is to be implied) training collar is suspected of only being triggered on that one instance. Unfortunately the collars did not have a counting device to show how many times they may have been triggered, something that WS is attempting to add to future experiments. The study results so far indicate wolves may be quick social learners and one experience by one wolf may be quickly learned by other wolves who have simply watched. If these early encouraging results continue to indicate these wolves' lack of interest in cattle, the 3 wolves will be radio-collared and released in mid-October back in the original Sheep Mountain pack territory north of Gardiner, MT. If they depredate on livestock again they will be killed.

10-18-2000. Ed Bangs indicated to me today that they have decided the three wolves will be held until the end of the early elk hunt--late November. 


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