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Yellowstone Grizzlies and Wolves in Late Summer Tussles

9-17-2002


From the beginning in 1995, the new Yellowstone wolves and the bears have been observed to cautiously co-exist. As time has passed, more and more wolf/bear interactions have been observed.

Dr. Doug Smith, head of the Yellowstone Park wolf team, reports a new peak this late summer in wolf-grizzly bear conflict. Nothing lethal has been seen, but in recent flights he has seen many wolf - grizzly interactions.

Recently, a large, about 400 pound grizzly was at the Swan Lake Pack's rendezvous site near Gardiner's Hole. He saw 14 members of the pack trying to move the bear out of the area. He said, "the wolves were successful in moving the grizzly around, but they couldn't evict the bear from their rendezvous site." He said the pups appeared to be familiar with bears and 4 or 5 of them were about 10 feet from the bear, watching their pack mates harass it.

In his most recent flight over the Pelican Valley he saw a very large grizzly, 500 pounds plus, feeding on a bull elk kill that had probably been stolen from Molly's Pack. Ten members of the pack were standing within feet of the grizzly and the kill. In addition 3 more grizzly bears were within feet of the kill. At the moment of the overflight it appeared that all of the animals were waiting for someone to make a move.

The same day he saw 6 other grizzlies in the Pelican and 5 or them were in close association with wolves.

The Leopold Pack has left its rendezvous area, and is now traveling widely with this year's pups. About 8 miles from their now-abandoned rendezvous site, Smith saw 16 members of the pack chasing a grizzly bear.

In his observations this summer, Smith said that wolves are too fast for the grizzlies to catch, but the wolves rarely displace the bears from a kill, which is usually one made by the wolves and taken by the grizzly. "If the bear does get the wolves behind its rear end, however, the wolves usually give the bear a quick bite or two."

The whitebark pine nut crop, a very important late summer food source for grizzlies, failed this year, so the bears are not in sub-alpine areas where these trees grow, but down lower, aggressively looking for food to put on fat for the winter. Smith said the grizzlies are increasingly looking to elk, killing some elk on their own, but resorting to wolf kills wherever possible.

Some wolf packs are moving now; others still at rendezvous sites-

In other wolf news, about half of the packs are now moving with their pups. The Nez Perce Pack, Geode Pack and Leopold Pack are on the move. Rose Creek II, Druid Peak, Yellowstone Delta, and Swan Lake are still using their rendezvous sites. Smith said he has never seen the Molly's Pack pups at a kill yet, even when it is nearby. A hypothesis is that due to the incredible density of grizzly bears in the area, the pack is very careful exposing their 2 pups to jostling between them and multiple grizzlies at a kill.


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  Copyright 2002 Ralph Maughan

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