Here is another great Yellowstone northern range wolf report by Kathie Lynch.

Of particular important to me was the observation that the Druids seem to have lost their alpha female (there is now a new one). Also interesting is the aggressiveness of the Agate Creek Pack, which is larger than the Sloughs, Druids, or Hellroaring Pack.

It seems possible the Sloughs lost their alpha male, leaving 7 females (no males) in the pack. If so, Lynch and others might have witnessed the start at least of a seminal event similiar to the 21M/40F unification with the Druids years back . . . Ralph Maughan
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YNP WOLF Field Notes, Dec. 20-29, 2006, by Kathie Lynch

The Druid Peak and Agate Creek packs have been putting on a “howl”-iday show for the wolf watchers willing to brave the frigid Yellowstone winter weather and treacherous, icy roads. As the cold and snow have driven the elk back down to lower elevations, both packs have made numerous kills within easy viewing distance of the road from Tower Junction east through Little America and Lamar Valley, all the way to Round Prairie.

On Dec. 29, we were treated to the sight of all 11 Druids feeding and frolicking in Round Prairie. Alpha male 480M, full belly almost dragging on the ground, snoozed as the pups played ring-around-the-tree-trunk and tug-of-war with pieces of hide. The pups leapt on each other’s backs and jumped for joy. Dear old 302M slept peacefully in the deep snow with only the tips of his black ears showing as the new gray alpha female wandered watchfully along the tree line.

Sadly, the Druid Peak pack’s number appears to have dropped from last summer’s count of 15 (four adults and 11 pups) to only 11 wolves total now (three adults/2 black, 1 gray and eight pups/4 black, 4 gray). One black pup disappeared before Thanksgiving; and, in the last month, the alpha female (529F) and another two black pups have disappeared. Although 529F was collared, her collar had quit working shortly before she disappeared, so there is no way to tell what became of her. A strong leader and skilled hunter, 529F will be greatly missed by the Druids. The alpha female role appears to have been assumed by her sister, an uncollared gray, who was the only other adult female in the pack. It will now be up to her to carry on the legacy of her father, the great Druid <21M.

The Druids have been spending a lot of time in their traditional homeland, the Lamar Valley. One day they fed on a carcass south of the road near the old picnic area. They were quite uneasy and moved off when cars parked too close for comfort in the nearby turnout. They headed east past their old rendezvous and bedded on the old Lamar River bank. Another day found the Druids lounging on a hilltop east of their old traditional den area, and on yet another day, they were in the Dead Puppy Hill area. Watching them in the Lamar from Jackson Hill above Confluence East or from the Footbridge Turnout in the Soda Butte Valley brought back many memories of the good old days. But, the Druids’ ability to regain control of the Lamar Valley may be seriously challenged by the Agate Creek pack.

The Agates have been everywhere! They have ranged west to scatter the Hellroaring pack wolves, north to the Slough Creek meadows in Slough territory, and east to the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek in traditional Druid territory. The Agates are definitely the new powerhouse pack in the Northern Range. Many of their forays have been lead by the uncollared gray male yearling (quite an independent and interesting character!) and the bold and beautiful black female, GPS collared 525F.

The breaking news for the Agates has to do with the uncollared gray male yearling, who has been the subject of suspicion that he would soon disperse in search of a mate. On Dec. 28, we watched from Dorothy’s Hill in Lamar Valley as he howled in all directions, alone on Jasper Bench. All of a sudden, he jumped up, ran straight down the hill, crossed the mostly frozen river, ran toward us and crossed the road, pausing right behind a car which had stopped to watch him. As soon as he was on the north side of the road, he did an RLU (Raised Leg Urination, usually reserved for the alphas) and disappeared uphill in the general direction of where the Slough Creek pack, which has seven females, were thought to be bedded. How we wish we could have seen what happened after that—it might have been akin to when Rose Creek 21M was accepted into the Druids as the new alpha male in 1997!

The Sloughs have been around, but not very visible, lately. Several mysteries surround them, the biggest of which is—where is alpha male 490M? His collar frequency has not been detected for several days, and it is unknown whether it has stopped working or if he is away from his seven females for some reason (which doesn’t seem likely).

The other huge news is that on Dec. 29, the morning after the Agate uncollared gray male yearling crossed the road looking for love, he was spotted on the snowy hills just east of the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in the company of two Slough females, the gray “Sharp Right” and the black yearling, “Slant.” This could mean that he has indeed dispersed from the Agates, and, if he can keep the Slough females, it may be the genesis of a new pack. None of the other Sloughs were detected nearby, so we don’t know if they had run off or had perhaps been reunited with alpha male 490M far away.

The Agate/Slough trio is suspected of killing an elk just south of the road at Hubbard Hill in Lamar Valley that morning. As we watched the three high on the hill north of the road, someone yelled, “There are lots of wolves behind you!” We turned our scopes to the south and saw all the rest of the Agates chasing elk! They soon gave that up, picked up a scent trail, and charged to the elk carcass, with the silver bullet alpha female, 472F, leading the charge. As they ran full tilt, every one of those 12 tails pointed straight to the sky! It was the most awesome display of power and domination I have seen since the Sloughs vanquished the Druids two years ago. The seven adult Agates have done an amazing job of raising all six of this year’s pups, and the pack is now a force with which to be reckoned.

When they reached the carcass, an unfortunate coyote stayed a moment too long, and within 10 yards, the Agates caught and killed it. They never paid any more attention to the dead coyote, but returned to the elk carcass. We had great viewing from about 200 yards away as they fed, and a couple of incidents cracked me up. As venerable alpha male 113M chewed on the rib cage, alpha female 472F flirted with him and then grabbed the rib cage while he was distracted! (By the way, 113M, now 9 ½ and one of the two oldest wolves in Yellowstone, is looking fit and fantastic, with no signs of infirmity–although he does usually bring up the rear on outings!) Another funny scene involved a pup who was determined to carry away the entire hide with one leg attached. No matter how he tried, he just could not drag that big, floppy, furry thing very far!

The Agates later made a second charge in the direction of the road, and we wondered if they might cross to the north in pursuit of their wayward son and his two Slough female companions. If they had caught them, who knows what would have happened. But, they turned back, and we will have to wait to see what the outcome is. One thing is for sure, every day watching the Yellowstone wolves opens an amazing window into wilderness and the wild world!

agates-running_mg_5156.jpg
Mark Miller got this great shot of seven very confident Agates patrolling the Lamar Valley on Dec. 29

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Update Jan. 1. Slough alpha male 490M has apparently been found dead in an upper Slough Creek meadow. That leaves a pack composed entirely of female wolves. That won’t endure, and the pack will soon have a new alpha male, or more likely there will be a fairly general dispersal because breeding season is just arriving. . . . Ralph Maughan

 
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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

24 Responses to Yellowstone National Park wolf field notes Dec. 20-29, 2006 (with update Jan. 1)

  1. avatar sandra says:

    thankyou enjoyed reading the above so much. it was like being there again.

  2. avatar Dana says:

    Thank you Kathie, even if we can’t be there in person, we can keep up with the happenings, spring is just around the corner and I’ll be back.

  3. avatar Jimmy from LA says:

    Good report Kathie, very visual reading. Dave and I are looking forward to returning next weekend.

  4. avatar Dave says:

    I count 8 wolf tails, not 7. Only seven are carried high in this shot though ; so maybe it is indeed “seven very confident Agates” and one not-so-confident Agate.

  5. avatar Dave says:

    By the way, this is a fantastic wolf photo! A nice accompaniment to an equally fantastic wolf report. Keep ’em coming, Kathie!

    Mark Miller has contributed a number of fine photos to this and my old web site. I want to publicly thank him. Ralph Maughan

  6. avatar Mike says:

    Awesome shot. Thanks for the information.

  7. avatar Carolyn Zeuthen says:

    Thank you for your informative report about how the wolves are doing. I look forward to the news about them. Hope to visit this coming spring and, thanks to you, I will know their recent stories. The photo is also great.

  8. avatar Douglass Swanson says:

    Awesome reporting, Kathie. Puts me right there at some of those sites I remember from three other previous trips. Going back end of Jan. ’07. Keep up your amazing work!

  9. avatar Lori says:

    I believe it was Agate 525F we saw as a pup in Sept. 2005 in the Anelope Creek area on the Mount Washburn road. She was very bold, even trying to chase a buffalo in the valley. We heard her howl in the early morning across the length of the valley to another grey Agate wolf. What a beautiful and haunting birthday present to me! It’s great to hear the Agates are doing so well.

  10. avatar Jan says:

    Thanks for another great update! 302M is my “sweetie”, and I love to get word that he’s doing OK. Thanks.

    Jan

  11. avatar Dan says:

    Thanks for The Jan update.

  12. avatar Rick says:

    Your update was like being there in person..Great photo

  13. avatar Mark says:

    Any possible way to protest the Wyoming wolf management “plan”?

  14. If you live in Wyoming, you can use your right as a citizen to complain; and vote them out of office next time.

    They say there are also going to have a public comment period, but that’s probably just because it is required. All of the statements by the officials indicate that their plan is not flexible.

    What will be needed is a lawsuit, and I think that a lawsuit will win if it is presented correctly.

    There may also be help from the congressional level, but it hurts that Freudenthal is a Democrat, not a Republican.

  15. avatar Dave Collins says:

    Very nice reporting Kathie! Thanks again Ralph for your wonderful web site!

  16. avatar Jo Middleton says:

    Thank You Kathie – enjoyed the report very much!! It’s always such a treat to get followups on all the wolves.. We met you last year when our family took a winter vacation to Yellowstone – ever since we have been Hooked on WOLVES….I even got my own spotting scope this year for Christmas – look forward to using next week next when we take another winter trip…
    Thanks so much fo such an exciting adventure…

  17. avatar Andre says:

    Great field notes and a great snap shot but I think to help support the wolf and help people understand this majestic animal more, there should be more biographies of the wolf packs on film. I know it’s difficult because of the weather and wolves’ awareness but such efforts to give a visual aspect of these animals’ lives would reach a wider audience. Are there any thing in the works such as a series, diary, or documentary of the yellowstone wolves. The “Wolf Pack” movie was a great sequel to “The Return of The Wolf”, is there going to be a sequel to the “Wolf Pack”? Kathie Lynch has great field notes, but people like myself who live in states such as Georgia would love to get some of this caught on tape to view ourselves. Thank you for the notes and postings since 1995, it has been very informing.

  18. Andre,

    There are more documentaries than that about wolf packs.

    Maybe some readers could give some help and name some of them.

  19. avatar Andre says:

    Ralph,

    I know there are more documentaries, such as the “Predators of the Wild: Wolf”, “The Artic Wolf”, “Wolves at my Door”, “The Cirlcle of Life” and etc.; but I am referring to yellowstone wolves documentaries. I was inquiring to stories that brings you the legacy of 21M, or something that brings you into the life of the yellowstone wolves and introduces us to some of it’s packs like the documentaries “The Return of Yellowstone Wolves” and the sequel “Wolf Pack” did. The stories that are presented on this website and the old one is more of what I am referring too, Ex. “Fight between Druid’s new Black and a Mollie’s Pack wolf that was caught on tape back in October 2004”.

  20. avatar Denise says:

    Ralph, Kathie, Fellow Wolf enthusiasts,
    We are so blessed to see the Wolfs of Yellowstone for over a decade now.
    W I L D and F R E E Politically their struggle appears to be no different than their life in the wild. What a inspiration this magnificant creature is! Love Kathie and Marks Field Notes they’re a great alpha pair. Things can change so drastically in such a short frame of time in the life of the wolf pack. Sounds like this mating season will have the makings of a very hot daytime soap. I have to say I will be staying tuned! After all I have to know if 113M will return to 472F or if the lonesome howls will remain unanswered. Or;
    who will be the new alpha male in the Slough Creek Pack? Will there be a new pack formed? Who will rule the Lamar Valley?
    Inquiring minds have to know. And this is the best place to go for that kind of information. Thank You Ralph!!!!

  21. avatar Peter says:

    Does anyone know how Mollies’ pack is doing or if they are in their usual pack teritory

  22. avatar Andrea says:

    So I’m hoping a fellow wolf lover can help me here, especially with the talk regarding past documentaries about Yellowstone wolves. There was a film I saw years ago wherein one of the packs killed a coyote much as Kathie described the Agates doing above. Does anyone know which show this was. It was probably the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen caught on tape. I was blown away.

  23. avatar Cindy Knight says:

    As a very disappointed Wyoming Democrat and avid wolf watcher, I would encourage everyone from out of state to write the Governor directly and tell him what you think of his position on wolves. Tourism is Wyoming’s #2 industry.

  24. avatar Steve Swenson says:

    My middle school science classes recently watched the Conoco Biodiversity Dvd which featured the Yellowstone wolf study. One bright student remembered watching the National Geographic Yellowstone wolf reintroduction video (circa 2000) which she shared with our classes. What a wonderful intoduction to environmental concerns these resources have been. I have had the pleasure of working as a field technician and environmental educator at the Savannah River Ecology Lab Aiken, SC, in recent summers and value the role of good science/environmental materials. Please direct us to the latest sites and especially any good FREE material – such as the Conoco Dvd – which I can use to further our studies.
    Thanks Again.
    Steve Swenson

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

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