In my last update for Yellowstone wolves, I mentioned that a member of the Chief Joseph Pack had just been killed on US 191. The sad story is that it was 33F, the long-time alpha female of the pack. She had a litter of 7 pups this spring.
According to Doug Smith, Yellowstone wolf team leader, she was apparently hit by a semi-truck during the night. She, and other members of the pack, had been feeding on a moose that had also been hit by a semi-truck. Smith said her body was so extensively damaged that it could not be added to collection of deceased Park wolves.
Her death brings to 5 (or maybe 6) wolves lost to highway 191. Smith said her death was a "big blow" because she was the alpha female, and radio collared. He reiterated what many of us know, that the alpha female is perhaps the most important wolf in s pack to have a collar. The alpha male 34M does have a new radio collar, however.
33F was an original wolf from British Columbia, released along with 31M, 32F, and 34M in March 1996 from the Nez Perce enclosure. 32F was the original leader of the pack, but she was killed by a semi-truck at night on US 191. 31M eventually joined the Druid Peak Pack, and was shot dead illegally late in 1997 east of Yellowstone along with 38M, the original alpha male of the Druid Peak Pack. The killers were never caught.
34M and 33F ran together for a while, but in 1997, 34 found time to impregnate both 16F and 17F of the Rose Creek Pack, and in 1997 he and 17F were caring for a litter when 17F was killed while hunting elk. 33F moved in with 34M and they raised 17's litter. 33F had her own litters in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001.
The Chief Joseph Pack ranges from West Yellowstone north to Tom Miner Basin (north of the Park), but the core of their range has been the NW corner of the Park through which runs US 191.
Regarding this highway, reform of its use it vital. It stretches from West Yellowstone northward through a long sliver of the Park and then down the Gallatin Canyon. Hundreds of wild animals are killed every year on this highway, and the number of crosses (from human deaths) in Gallatin Canyon is very unnerving while you drive.
Semi-trucks and other vehicles regularly exceed the speed of 55 mph in the Park. The speed should be lowered to 45 mph and through semi-trucks banned from the area. The present situation will continue to result in many human fatalities, and wildlife slaughter, including wolves. The noise of the highway also devalues the esthetics and property of the residents of Gallatin Canyon.
I know from experience that this highway is a blot on the Park. If you drive at 30 mph to enjoy the Park and its wildlife, you are putting you life at risk. As the speeding cars, semis, trucks, and SUVs speed by you, anger glares in their eyes.
Update 8-21-01: The alpha female was killed on US 191 in the Park near Specimen Creek.
Because her pups were weaned, it appears the pack will be able, and is, carrying for them.
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