Kathie Lynch has a detailed new update of the activities of Yellowstone wolves on the northern range of the Park. Thanks Kathy!

By Kathie Lynch ©

Nine days of wolf watching in Yellowstone (Feb. 17-25, 2007) brought the reward of seeing wolves from six packs (Druid Peak, Slough Creek, Agate Creek, Oxbow Creek, Hellroaring, and Leopold). I had one three pack day, one three dog day (wolves, coyotes and fox) and saw wolves on eight of the nine days. Unfortunately, I arrived one day too late to witness the spectacle of seeing five (!) cougars, including a mother and three spotted kittens, which were visible from Hellroaring overlook.

The day I arrived was the day that Druid 302M crossed the road with his badly injured rear leg. His health and whereabouts were the focus of much interest throughout the rest of the week. When he was seen again five days later, he was able to move at a run, although the extent of his injuries could not be observed. He stayed near a carcass in the vicinity of the rest of the Druid Peak pack for several days, but we weren’t sure whether or not he actually rejoined the pack.

The Druids now number 11, including alpha 480M, alpha 569F, 302M and eight pups (four black and four gray, soon to be yearlings). Anyone who has followed 302M’s exploits over the years knows that he’s a lover, not a fighter, and can probably guess that he may have been out looking for females when he was injured. His mate from last year, 569F, is now the mate of 480M. She moved up in rank to alpha following the disappearance of last year’s alpha, 529F. Hopefully 569F will produce another litter of grandpuppies of legendary Druid 21M to carry on his legacy!

The Sloughs continue to be elusive. I saw them in Little America and at Slough Creek, but they often disappear for two to three days when pressured by the Druids from the east or the Agates from the west. The Sloughs usually have a count of eight (six black and two gray, all adults), including the seven Slough females and their new alpha male, the uncollared gray Agate yearling (soon to be two years old). He undoubtedly had a big job keeping suitors away from his seven females during the breeding season!

The beautiful uncollared dark gray male unidentified interloper who had waltzed right in and temporarily joined the Sloughs in January, has disappeared again. He may have been from the Hellroaring pack and returned to them now that breeding season is over.

The Sloughs have been living up to their distinction as one of the few packs in Yellowstone which knows how to kill bison. We had a really good look at them one day when they tried to return to a bison carcass at Slough Creek but were scared off by two snowshoers. Almost effortlessly, they ran right up to the very tip top of the steep and rocky hillside just east of the campground road. One after another they stood silhouetted against the sky on the very highest rock, playing king of the mountain!

The new Slough alpha male’s little Agate brother, the black pup 590M, who had also joined the Sloughs briefly, has also returned from whence he came. On Feb. 24, he was back with the Agates and getting a royal sniff over inspection from his natal pack on the north side of the Yellowstone River across from Wrecker pullout.
We had a magical close encounter that afternoon at Wrecker when a beautifully colored light black with dark black points Agate pup appeared on our side of the river only 40 yards away! He/she was probably on the way to a month old bison carcass nearby (which was still being protectively guarded by a group of six bison—amazing animals!). We first noticed the wolf when a very scared coyote saw it first and shot past us like a rocket. The wolf pup wasted no time in retreating as soon as it saw humans and melted away into the trees before we could even get a photo. Other than wolves I’ve seen along the road, this was the closest I’ve ever been to a wolf in the wild!

Agate 113M is still suffering from his now almost two month old injuries. His left rear leg looks skinned and dark red inside from top to bottom, a mysterious new dark spot has recently appeared on his forehead between his ears, and he shakes his head a lot. Most of the time he seems to be managing alright, but he is definitely not fully recovered. If we knew the true extent of his injuries, we would probably be even more amazed at what an old trooper he is. As one of the two oldest wolves in the Park (and perhaps now the oldest if the Mollie’s alpha male, 193M, has not survived his bout with mange), everyone is pulling for 113M. He will be 10 years old in April, and I think that Doug Smith once told me that the oldest wolf he knows of in Yellowstone lived to be ten-and-a-half.

The Agates continue to range far and wide. I had a surprise one morning when I set up my scope on Dave’s Hill and started counting wolves near a carcass out on the Slough Creek flats below. The day before, the Sloughs had been on that carcass. But, when my count got to four grays (and knowing that the Sloughs usually only have two), I started wondering, “Who are those guys?” It finally dawned on me that I wasn’t looking at the Sloughs at all, but at the Agates making themselves right at home at Slough Creek!

Many are hoping that the Sloughs will den again in plain sight at Slough Creek. But, after the disasterous siege last April by the Unknown group and the way the Sloughs keep getting run out of their own territory by the visiting Agates, I actually hope they won’t den there. However, with eight adult wolves and no playful pups to slow them down, the Sloughs just may turn out to be the mighty force they used to be.

Led by pack founder alpha 536F, the Oxbow Creek pack of 11 wolves (four adults and seven pups) is often visible from Hellroaring (or, for those of you who know how cold that spot is, I call it “Hellfreezingover”!) The Oxbows are sometimes directly below Hellroaring overlook and sometimes range east or west. I enjoyed a little bit of satisfaction one day when I followed bird activity through my scope and discovered a carcass upon which they were feeding. On another day, we heard howling and looked down from Hellroaring to discover two grays chasing each other. They soon ran out of sight, but it may have been the uncollared gray Oxbow alpha male chasing an intruder, perhaps the uncollared dark gray Hellroaring male.

Seeing two of the four or five Hellroaring pack wolves lying on a very distant rock and six bedded Leopold wolf specks literally miles away completed my week’s wolf watching. The Leopolds are always so far away on the Blacktail Plateau, I have to be pretty desperate to even look for them! With perhaps as many as 17 to 19 wolves in the Leopold pack, though, there’s always a chance they’ll save the wolf watching day. They did just that recently to keep intact the record of someone in Yellowstone having seen a wolf every day for over six years, since Feb. 8, 2001!

We must all thank our lucky stars that, 12 years after their reintroduction, the Yellowstone wolves have been such great ambassadors for wolves the world over. Seen by literally hundreds of thousands of park visitors, they have shared their lives with us and made an incredible contribution to knowledge about and tolerance for wolves in the wild. As the gray wolf now faces the challenges of delisting, it is up to us to continue to spread their message and work to protect wolves everywhere so that they may live wild and free for all time.

 
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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.

20 Responses to Agates romp and more. Yellowstone wolf update by Kathie Lynch.

  1. avatar Jan says:

    Thanks for another fantastic update!! Any ideas on just how old wolf 302M is these days? I loved your “lover not a fighter” statement!
    Thanks again,
    Jan

  2. avatar Monty says:

    Kathie, you mentioned 5 cougars, a female with 3 cubs; they must have been last years cubs. Was the 5th cougar, seperate from the other 4? In terms of the bison kill, did someone see the kill? Was the bison a mature animal? Thanks for the great update!

  3. avatar Dave Collins says:

    Thanks for the great report! Very well written. I felt as if I were watching along with you.

  4. avatar Travis says:

    Thanks for your report! Is the Agate alpha female as beautiful as ever? I think I fell in love with her last summer. I have a chance to go back soon. Are dawn and dusk still the best times to see wolves in the winter? I know they usually bed during the hot summer days.

  5. avatar debbie in key largo says:

    i returned from wolf watching in yellowstone a little over a month ago. reading your report, i felt like i was back there again.

  6. Thanks again, Kathie. Another in the moment experience. Makes me want to abandon all responsibility in this fast paced world and become nothing but a wolf watcher.

    Douglass in NC

  7. avatar Kathie Lynch says:

    Thank you all for the kind words! I truly enjoy sharing stories of the Yellowstone wolves with you. Here are answers to some of your questions:
    To Jan: My best guess is that Druid 302M will soon be six or seven years old (born in 2001 or 2000). I don’t think they know anything for sure except that he was originally a Leopold. You may remember that he traveled 25 miles round trip twice a week for a year and a half to visit the Druid females and the Druid pups he sired behind 21M’s back!
    To Monty: The cougar story as I heard it (remember, I missed it!) is that there were four (mother and three kittens) on Feb. 15. And then, on Feb. 16 there was also another cougar present (not a kitten). As far as the kittens being born last year, I’m not sure that’s necessarily true. I don’t know much about cougars, but I think I heard that cougars don’t have a particular breeding season (as opposed to wolves) and that cougar young can be born anytime of the year.
    As far as the bison carcass, I don’t think anyone actually saw the kill happen, and I’m not sure about the age/sex. I do know that bison are generally darn hard for wolves to bring down. And, I have seen a bison bucking three wolves off his rear end like a bronco!
    To Travis: Yes, the Agate alpha female, 472F, is as beautiful as ever! Although we don’t know her natal pack for sure, looking at her face is just like looking at 21M and 255F, so many wolf watchers are convinced that she was originally a Druid.
    Regarding wolf activity in the winter, dawn (mercifully later than in summer!) and dusk (mercifully earlier!) are still probably the best times. The wolves do often bed mid-day, but, at least they are a lot easier to see against the snow ithan they are with just ear tips showing in the summer sage!
    To Douglass; Sounds great to me!

  8. For those interested, there´s a really nice photo coverage of 302Ms (before he became 302 of course) adventures with the Druid girl in the book “Once Around the Sun in Yellowstone”. It´s available through the Institutes online webshop and I trust that all the shots come from an 800mm lens with converter. We are going to YNP again this May and your reports keep me alive in between. If we don´t see a wolf it won´t matter much – just to know “they are out there somewhere”…..

  9. avatar Jan says:

    To Kathie: Thanks, I keep hoping the rascal will live forever….
    To Peter: Yes, I have “Once Around the Sun In Yellowstone”– that’s where I first fell in love with 302M! In fact, the author, Dong Dance, has been kind enough to email me some shots he took of him this past January, before the injury.

  10. avatar Jan says:

    Whoops– that DOUG Dance, and a very nice gentleman he is!

  11. avatar JEFF E says:

    A little faux-pau Jan-;*}

  12. avatar Jan says:

    Actually, it’s faux pas, or “false step” in French, so right back atcha, Jeff!

  13. avatar Jan says:

    Anyway, getting back to the wolves– I keep forgetting to ask if anyone knows when wolf 302M’s radio collar malfunctioned? How long has it not been working? I’m assuming that this is probably a pretty common occurance, correct? I’m also assuming that the only way to “fix it” is to re-collar him. Thanks in advance for any info at all!

  14. avatar Jan says:

    Sorry, false alarm, just found it– he was re-collared in 2005. (We need to keep tabs on this wandering “romeo”!)

  15. avatar JEFF E says:

    touche

  16. avatar Shane says:

    Has anyone seen wolverines or lynx in yellowstone recently?

  17. A wolverine was found to have killed an elk calf during the 2-year elk calf mortality study that ended a year ago.

  18. avatar Kevin Bartels says:

    I am dying to get to Yellowstone! I am very interested in the re-introduction of the wolves and their success, however, just as I was planning my trip (would have been staying in the Lamar Valley), my wife became pregnant and now my trip appears to be put off until ?? Although this information from Kathy has been awesome, can anyone give me other sites that provide updated info. as well. I try to find as much info. as I can, but it appears to be limited, unless I just don’t know where and how to find it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  19. avatar Carolyn Zeuthen says:

    Thanks for all the information you have provided, Kathy. We were staying at the Buffalo Ranch this past weekend with a class from the Institute and were with the group watching a couple of wolves from the Agate pack early Memorial Day morning, May 28th. I think you joined us there. One of the wolves had a moose calf in its mouth and carried it off, maybe to feed the pups. Earlier, we were watching a moose with her calf and I wondered if it was the same one caught by the wolves. They were heading in the same direction. The wolves were beautiful and we enjoy watching them. Rick said one of them was the old one. Do you have any stories from last weekend, if you were there?

  20. I don’t want to speak for Kathie, but she may or may not write a report for her last trip.

    She is busy wrapping things up for the summer so she can come up the the Park full-time (or so I think).

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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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