Yellowstone Park wolf update

Where is the Delta Pack? Geode Pack disintegrating?

5-19-2005, update June 6

Here is the latest news about the Yellowstone Park wolves.

There are two wolf packs missing -- Yellowstone Delta and Mollies. It is likely Mollies was simply in an area which the flight missed (due to bad weather). However, they were not at their traditional denning areas.

The Delta Pack, on the other hand, has been missing for a month.  It is the Park's most remote pack, and it is a large pack too, with several radio collars, although it is a pack adept at chewing them off.

The most likely explanation for their whereabouts was that they simply moved south into the Teton Wilderness. However, flights by Mike Jimenez, USFWS wolf manager for Wyoming over this vast Wilderness south of YNP did not find them either. One collared female has been located, but she is alone. There is no sign of activity at any of their past den sites.

On the northern range, a group of Leopold wolves, including 468M, and 287M, plus more uncollared Leopolds seen to have left their big pack and joined on Hellroaring slopes with Geode female 483F and others, but not including the Geode alpha female 106F or 371F. Geode wolf 488M, who wears the Park's only GPS collar has split and is wandering all over the place by himself.  This realignment might have been precipitated when this March the entire Leopold Pack chased the Geodes and killed the Geode alpha male 227M, who was the other Park wolf wearing a GPS collar. GPS collars are costly but they give much more data (the wolf's location every half hour), and the collars drop off automatically, reducing the handling of the wolf.

The main group of Leopolds has denned. 209F is the alpha female. One pup has been seen, but there are undoubtedly more.

Just like last year when it was thought they had not denned (but had), the main group of the Swan Lake Pack has been traveling. The Swan Lake Pack split this winter when an Agate Creek pack wolf 295M joined them as did a black male who probably was also an Agate (the Swan Lake Pack had been an all gray wolf pack). About the same time as new wolves arrived the Swan Lake alpha male left and was soon killed, probably by the nearby Leopolds.

The Swan Lake pack also split and the other part of the pack seems to have left for good and is wandering north of the Park where there is a territory vacancy left when the Sheep Mountain Pack finally disintegrated.

As has been reported several times earlier the Slough Creek pack has 15 pups and they are being watched by many people due to the direct view of their distant-from-the-road dens.

The Druids are very likely denned in Cache Creek. 255F spends the most time near the probable den, although it is believed that both she and 286F have litters. Recently the Druids have become bolder (probably because Slough Creek has mostly kept out of the Lamar Valley), and they are crossing over Mt. Norris and frequenting the old territory near lower Soda Butte Creek.  The Druids killed a bison calf a couple days ago in this area, but it was soon stolen by a grizzly bear. The next day they killed a bull elk next to Soda Butte Cone. Dan Stahler told me that there seem to be a lot of weak bison around this year (perhaps because of their record high numbers). In April on the northern range, I saw two yearling bison with very bad limps). He said an unusual number of bison seem to be getting stuck in mud holes and are too weak to extricate themselves.

The Agate Creek pack has a new den this year, but it is in the same Antelope Creek Basin general area. It is possible a second Agate female has a den somewhere in Little America.

The Specimen Ridge Pack, led by the U-Black female, probably has a den again this year on Specimen Ridge. They mostly travel along the ridge between Amethyst Creek on the east and Crystal Creek on the west.

The Nez Perce Pack is denned as usual in Nez Perce Creek in a hard-to-see timbered area. They are always one of the last packs to get a pup count due to poor visibility. However, wolves have been seen recently near Old Faithful. They probably are hunting members of the Nez Perce Pack because the Biscuit Basin Pack never returned to Yellowstone. There is no activity near their old den near Lone Star Geyser.

The Gibbon Meadows Pack is denned at their usual location and are often seen on Gibbon Meadows. Stahler got a visual a week ago of six of this pack sharing a kill with 2 grizzly bears, unusual, but Stahler said the grizzlies were interested in amorous activity than feeding.

The Cougar Creek pack is denned again in Cougar Creek. The pups count is unknown. He said this pack is a good solid 13 wolves.

The Chief Joseph Pack seems to be becoming more and more a non-park Pack. They are probably denned in Tom Miner Basin, north of the Park. Tom Miner has many more elk than Daly Creek in the Park (their usual den site). Only one member of the pack is now collared. The pack is now managed by the State of Montana.

The Bechler Pack seems to be denned in their usual location in Bechler Meadows (absolutely inaccessible this time of year because the vast meadows are under about a foot of water. I went looking this pack last August. Apparently I pretty close during my backcountry trek, but I didn't quite go to the right spot.

Update June 6. There is not a lot of new news, in part because daily storms have prevented a tracking flight for the last ten days.

The Yellowstone Delta pack has still not been found.

Visual counts and photos of wolf pups have been taken for the Agate and the Leopold packs. Four Agate pups were seen. Doug Smith saw Leopold alpha female 209F nursing 7 pups -- 5 black and 2 gray.

The Druids have moved their Cache Creek den a way, but it is still in very thick timber (the drainage is a real jungle of fire-killed and regenerating lodgepole pine). Pups would be very hard to see at a den.

The Slough Creek Pack's pups are still at their den sites. It will be interesting to see where they set up a rendezvous site -- in full view of the public?

This marks the third and final year of the elk calf mortality study. Forty-four (44) elk calves have been collared for the study's last year.

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Copyright 2005 Ralph Maughan
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