Wolf watching is slow in this summer’s extra green Yellowstone-

While watching has been slow lately in the reconfigured Yellowstone wolf packs, Kathie Lynch has quite a bit of news. Ralph Maughan

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July and August wolf notes for YNP. By © Kathie Lynch
Copyrighted material. Not to be reprinted or reposted without explicit permission

Summer wolf watching in Yellowstone ran the gamut from the great expectations of June and early July to the challenges of late July and early August. Despite eternal vigilance by devoted watchers, the Druid Peak pack somehow managed to spirit their pups away from their traditional den forest to their summer rendezvous without anyone seeing them go. With the Druids’ departure from Lamar Valley, wolf watching took a turn for the worse as many days found us searching high and low just to find a wolf.

What had been a grand spectacle last year when the Druids moved their pups across Soda Butte Creek, this year quietly turned into a non-event. Because the pups stayed mostly hidden in the trees of the traditional den forest and seldom came into view, we never even obtained a solid count. However, the Druids are believed to have had at least nine pups, including five blacks and four grays. Even the Wolf Project’s monitoring flights have not been able to confirm the Druid pup count.

Most likely, the pups represent two litters, one by the Druid alphas (569F and 480M) and the other from the Druid female “Dull Bar.” Her pups would have been sired by the former Slough Creek black male who had been the alpha male to dispersed Druid 694F. “Dull Bar” had spent the winter with that duo. But, luckily for her, “Dull Bar” left before the Cottonwood pack attacked and killed 694F at her den in April. The pregnant “Dull Bar” then had another stroke of good fortune as she sought to return to and was accepted back into the Druid pack, where she presumably had her pups.

Miscellaneous Druids have been seen in the Lamar and Soda Butte valleys since their departure, but sightings have been unpredictable as they return sporadically to mark their territory or hang around on Jasper Bench. We are hoping that they will return to their traditional Lamar Valley rendezvous in late August, as they did last year. When the 14 Druid adults and their possibly nine or more pups return, wolf watching will, hopefully, significantly improve.

The demise of the Slough Creek pack has left open their traditional territory at Slough Creek. However, the Cottonwood pack appears to have designs on the area as they have recently been observed lounging about on the flats near Slough Creek or exploring the Sloughs’ former haunts near the old dens. This is not surprising since alpha female 527F and the only other female, 716F (“The Dark Female”), are both former Sloughs. The other pack members, all of unknown origin, include four grays (all thought to be males) and one black male. The Cottonwood pack is thought to have five pups, three blacks and two grays. It will be great for wolf watching if the pack does indeed spend more time around Slough Creek and less time out of sight in their traditional territory high up on Hellroaring Mountain.

The seven adults of 302M’s Blacktail pack have been observed often recently in the Blacktail Plateau area (the now defunct Leopold pack’s traditional territory) as they ferry food to their six strapping pups. The Blacktail pups probably also represent two litters, one out of alpha 693F and one out of 642F. All three adult Blacktail females (693F, 642F, and 692F) hail from the Agate Creek pack, and all four adult Blacktail males (302M, “Big Brown,” “Medium Gray,” and “Small Blaze”) dispersed from the Druids.

The star of the show has to be the illustrious 302M. Now nine-years-old and a character through and through, 302M is undoubtedly the most well-known wolf in the Park and perhaps the world. It is incredible that he finally became an alpha at the ripe old age of eight and then returned to claim his natal (Leopold pack) territory to raise his family. Veteran wolf watchers and visitors alike count it as a very lucky day when they get to see 302M!

His four black and two gray pups are huge! They must take after their father, who is always the first to arrive at and the last to leave the dinner table. The four black pups have beautiful dark coats and look like miniature 302’s. One of the gray pups is gigantic and is very independent. It thinks nothing of roaming away from the others on a walkabout of the entire rendezvous area. So far, we have been able to determine that one of the gray pups and two of the black pups are females. (For the uninitiated, female pups do a squat urination, while males do a lean forward.)

The big surprise of the summer was that the Canyon pack actually does have one pup! The Canyon alpha female (born into the Hayden Valley pack) fooled everyone and showed up at the old Hayden rendezvous site with a black pup. Although it is a long look across Hayden Valley, it is a joy to see the little black fellow bouncing along behind his almost white mother. Lacking littermates, the pup delights in jumping on his playful mother’s back and lapping up the attention showered upon him by the three other adults (black alpha 712M, gray 587M, and an uncollared gray male—all of whom were probably originally from the Mollie’s pack).

The Everts pack of six adults is sometimes seen on Everts Mountain, north of the Blacktail Lakes. They are thought to have five pups (two blacks and three grays) from alpha 685M and the alpha female. All of the adults except for 685M are black (alpha female, 470F, 684M and two yearling females). They made quite a pretty picture one day as they bounded down through fields of yellow flowers high atop Mt. Everts.

We did notice that only the old “Everts Female” (a.k.a. “The Limping Black” or “The Old Black Female”) was missing that day. As it turned out, she had recently died of natural causes, perhaps just old age. Born a Leopold a long time ago, she was an especially interesting wolf because she would sometimes disappear for a year or two at a time and then resurface in another pack. Opportunistic, resourceful and lucky, she was a true survivor.

The Agate Creek pack’s four adults are sometimes spotted in the Antelope Valley from Dunraven Pass or high on Specimen Ridge above Little America. Unfortunately, none of nine-year-old alpha female 472F’s pups survived. Consequently, the pack has not been localized around a particular den or rendezvous site, which makes spotting difficult and random. They did, however, save me from going wolf-less one day when we finally found them at 8 p.m. on the back side of Specimen Ridge!

The current Agate pack actually only includes two Agates by birth (472F and her niece or daughter 715F). The two other pack members, both males (alpha “Big Blaze” and “High Sides”), were born Druids, but they dispersed with their uncle 302M last fall to briefly become Blacktails and then left to join the two Agate females.

I never see and rarely hear news of the non-Northern Range packs (other than the Canyons), but this is what I know about pup counts: Mollies: 5; Quadrant: 3; Gibbon: 6; 478F: 3 (478F is a former Cougar Creek wolf who is now with a Gibbon male); “Tripod’s Group”: 2 (Tripod/632F only has three legs! No one knows how she lost most of one rear leg. Originally a Cougar Creek wolf, she branched off with a Gibbon male to form what may become known as the Grayling pack).

Along with the pups previously mentioned (Druid: maybe 9; Cottonwood: 5; Blacktail: 6, Everts: 5), the total pup count is about 45. We can only hope that disease will not take a toll this year and that pup survival will be good and territory disputes few. Summer rains have kept the hills and valleys unbelievably green, even into August, and the elk and bison are in spectacular condition. Hopefully, 2009 will prove to be a year of plenty for all.

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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 Kathie Lynch: Summertime 2009 Yellowstone wolf news.

  1. avatar Jon2S6 says:

    I check this website several times each day mainly for this report. It makes my day when the Yellowstone wolf report comes out. I’m in the park often in the summer and fall to hike and flyfish. I always feel blessed when I see or hear the wolves when I’m there. I just feel fortunate to be able to visit such a place that has so much wildlife in such a great setting. I really do appreciate the report.

  2. avatar Terri says:

    Kathie,
    I too want to thank you for these reports. I spread the link around and I know many others appreciate your efforts. Thank you for sharing what you find.

  3. avatar JEFF E says:

    It is too bad Katie that you could not be in Ystone next week and hook up with President Obama and his family. I am sure that he would go away a much better educated man.

  4. avatar GrammaJackie says:

    Kathie, I am just an interested wolf person who has been lucky enough to see wolves on my only two tries in Yellowstone. The latest being the 25th and 26th of June when a buffalo carcuss was across the valley, just down the Lamar Valley from Troat Lake. We were blessed to watch the drama of two black wolves chasing a baby antelope, only to see them pull up and coyotes that had been harrassing the area all day, make the final kill. The next day, a grizzly was on the carcuss and a black wolf just hanging around, sneaking in once in a while. Old hat for the “wolfies” but intense and exciting for us first timers. Thanks for your interesting updates. I have no idea what wolves we were watching, but no less amazing, and would like to imagine they are from the famous Druid Pack.

  5. avatar Terry says:

    Thanks Kathie. Have been waiting patiently for a new report on the pup status. Glad to hear of the new additions. Also very glad to find out that the Canyon female did have one pup. Saw the Canyons very up close and personal in late January and was totally awed by her beauty. Have some great shots of her and her pack. Thanks again and keep up the good work. Will be in Yellowstone for 9 days in January and hope I will be blessed again with their presence. I just love the winter in Yellowstone. It’s so tranquil and easy to see the wolves in the snow.

  6. avatar Charles Artley says:

    Kathie, I really was pleased to hear your comments about the black pup in the Canyon pack. When I was in Yellowstone in the middle of July, I was lucky enough to observe it for a bit through a scope as it played with it’s mom (I suppose). I saw 712 arrive and greet the two. I’d enjoy learning more about how the pup managed to survive the long trip from the Hot Springs area.

  7. avatar Dave Hornoff says:

    Thanks for the reports Katie…great job. I was there this pat June and saw members of the Druids, mostly one here or there in Lamar. Especially a 14 month old female several times. You do a great job and I really appreciate your posts and update my website every moth with your reports for others to see as well. You can find it under Yellowstone Wildlife.

    Keep up the great work. I will be out there in February with the Wild Side(Nathan and Linda) and staying at the Buffalo Ranch for better viewing opportunities. Thanks again.
    Dave Hornoff

  8. avatar Sue Reigle says:

    Kathie,
    Adding my profound thanks to you as the others have done for your latest report! What reading! I am “there” thru your eyes and comments, & will never tire of reading this over & over. Here’s to the 45 pups!!

  9. avatar IzabelaM says:

    Kathie,
    Thank you for this report. I am going to YSNP on 8/27. Hope to see some of my wolves.

    Jeff E.
    You said Pres.Obama was going to Yellowstone? I wonder if BFC is planning a meeting with him to save bisons. (Nice educational session would be good).

  10. avatar Save bears says:

    IzabelaM,

    Nope he is not, his whole purpose is to promote the National Park System, of course that is just a smoke screen for his health Care Program, it will be a very hollow visit that last but only a couple of hours..The Presidents, current and past have not really concerned themselves with the issues of wildlife in the west, it is simply a publicity tour…

  11. When Bill Clinton came to Yellowstone, he met for several hours with conservation groups and took an aerial tour to the site of the proposed massive gold mine above Cooke City.

    He saw quickly it was a bad idea, and within days took action, which, in conjunction with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, put an end to that mine for all time.

    I also believe it is important for political leaders to get in touch with the outdoors — the real world.

    I’m very happy he is coming because he doesn’t seem very familiar with these issues.

  12. OK, saying that. Let’s keep this thread to Kathie’s report on the wolves.

    If you want an open thread email me.

  13. avatar Steve and Dylan Cozart says:

    Kathie,
    Thanks for the update. My son, Dylan and I visit the YNP to watch wolves every June when school gets out. This year we were there when the Druids brought out 6 pups to an opening near the den forest. What a thrill to see 3 black and 3 gray Druid pups.

    Dylan loves hearing the stories of the wolves and he too loves 302M. We loved the update with all the 302M info, we appreciate your efforts to keep us informed.

    Dylan hopes to have Ric’s job someday….hang in there Ric relief is coming. (In several years.)

  14. avatar Luna says:

    If you only had 1 day in the park, where would you go to try and see the wolves?

  15. avatar heavenabove says:

    I love these wolf reports. Must be a fun job keeping track of them all. Very interesting to see the changes over the years.

    Luna, I was just in YNP for the past 4 days. The Canyon Pack was out every evening in Hayden Valley. I always have good luck with wolves there.

  16. avatar GrammaJackie says:

    Is there somewhere out there to pull up a detailed map of all these places you talk about in the threads? I’ve gotten the pack population map and printed it but it just shows state lines etc. I’d like to know about the “Canyon Pack” in the “Hayden Valley” and all over the greater YNP area. Where’s the “institute”? the Druid Pack’s den site from the Pebble Creek campground and things like that. Can someone help?

  17. avatar Luna says:

    heavenabove – any particular place in the hayden valley you recommend or just drive around? Thanks for your help!

  18. avatar Gerry says:

    Here’s a link to a map of place names in The Lamar Valley, scroll down the page

    http://www.yellowstoneupcloseandpersonal.com/tripreports/2009/080609.htm

  19. avatar GrammaJackie says:

    Gerry, thanks for the link. I love to see the exact places we were at when we saw the amazing antelope chase in relationship to what everyone is writing about in their comments. I can imagine I’m there again. GJ

  20. avatar mac nelson says:

    Bless you, Kathie. I know how hard you work at this important stuff, and I feel I am there with you again as I read. Favor us with a book soon–the book only you could write.
    Best, Mac Nelson (and Joyce says HI too)

  21. avatar Phil Sonier says:

    As always Kathie your reports are interesting, fun to read, educational, knowledgable, and inspirational. Your reports stay on track (Yellowstone’s Wolves) and leave the politics/policies to others. Guess that is why I (everybody) eagerly awaits your reports. Keep up the good/great work.

  22. avatar robert says:

    You need to hit the Lamar Valley and surrounding areas in late September when the elk and buffallo are in rut. the wolves are around every where the weather is cool and the fall colors are awesome. And if you like to fish, the river is down, the otters are out along the banks. I know I’ve seen them all. I used to go in late May and June, to many people and the weather is really unpredictable. The grizzly are still around mostly headed up high but they’re there. Anytime in Yellowstone is great,but if you like alittle privacy this is the time of year for viewing al the wild life. Have fun I know I do.

  23. Thank you Robert.

    Folks should note the current difficulty getting to northern Yellowstone from points south — construction one route; forest fire the other

  24. avatar Robin says:

    I’ll be there for the first time in a few days for the YAI class, Wolves of Yellowstone. Thanks for posting all the great information as it will be helpful to know a little before I get there.

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