Latest wolf news on YNP northern range. Slough/Druid encounter?
I talked with Rick McIntye, and he had a lot of news I hadn’t heard.
Here it is in no particular order:
1. The Leopold Pack split-off, formerly called the “536 group,” has been named the Oxbow Creek Pack. Some folks may remember the Geode Creek Pack, eventually scattered by the Leopolds. Oxbow Creek is in the same area. This pack has 4 adults, and 9 of their 10 pups have survived.
2. The Leopold Pack is as usual on the Blacktail Deer Plateau or near vicinity. The most recent visual count was 18 wolves!
3. The Hellroaring Pack is seen off and on when they are not way down in the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone or north of the Park. They have 5 adults and 4 pups. Two adults dispersed during the summer.
4. The Slough Creek Pack remains together with 8 adult wolves, all them female except 490M, the alpha male. Two other Sloughs, informally called “the gray female” and “left tail” (a male) haven’t been seen since the events of last May. They seem to have taken off somewhere together. Given no radio collars, they are essentially untrackable.
To clear up what is apparently a common misperception, the “Unknown Pack” of last May probably did not kill any of the Slough Creek pups. What is more likely is that the pups (whose remains were never found) died for lack of hydration or food during the seiged conflict between the denned Sloughs and the “Unknowns” who had occupied their den area. The dead pups were then either consumed by the Slough females or, more likely, removed by them and buried.
The Unknowns are not really gone, although they disappeared from the Park in late May/early June. In fact recently, 9 of the Unknowns and the 8 Sloughs had a howling bout in Slough Creek. It is highly likely the Unknowns moved back into the headwaters of Slough Creek, from whence they came, and spent the summer there. Although there are a number of possibilities, I think the Unknowns are really the old Rose Creek Pack or some pack derived from them. Others think this is likely. I wonder if the Unknowns will come down Slough Creek this winter in search of more prey than in the drainages’ upper reaches north of the Park.
The Sloughs also recently had perhaps their first encounter with the greatly enlarged Druid Pack. As if they were being chased, the Sloughs were seen to come running down out of the Lamar Canyon upstream from Lamar Valley. They stopped running at the “Chalcedony rendezvous site” (a site established and used for years by the Druid Pack). At Chalcedony the Sloughs did a lot of upset howling. The Druids were not seen, however.
5. At times the Druid Pack has come down to the “Hitching Post” area, footbridge, the base of Mt. Norris, etc. There are indeed 15 of them — 4 adults and all eleven pups. The pups now appear to be almost as big as the adults, especially from a distance. I am curious as to whether the Sloughs simply saw how many there were and ran, or whether there was a test.
I am curious how the eight seasoned Sloughs would do in real test between 4 seasoned Druids and their 11 big, but wobbly pups. Of course, that’s not how things always work. After all, the Unknowns occupied the Slough den area while the Slough females were in their dens and the rest of the Sloughs off hunting or whatever, effectively splitting the pack.
The Druids will probably come down for the winter for good soon because the elk are coming down out of the snowy mountains into the Lamar and Soda Butte Valleys.
6. The Agate Creek Pack thrives. They have 7 adults and 6 pups, with old 113M still the alpha male. At 9 1/2 years he is tied for the oldest wolf the Park (tied with 193M, alpha male of Mollies Pack). The Agates and the Sloughs have so far had at least one confrontation, and the Sloughs ran, although the entire day might have been more complicated than that. The Agates are mostly seen in the Tower Junction to Elk Creek area, a place all wolf watchers are familiar with.
Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.
11 Responses to Latest wolf news on YNP northern range. Slough/Druid encounter?
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Thanks for the great update, Ralph and Rick–that was the next best thing to actually being in Yellowstone watching wolves! The only thing I’m wondering about is whether the correct Slough Creek wolf was identified as having possibly dispersed in the company of Slough Creek wolf “The Gray Female” during the summer of 2006. I believe that it was the 2-year-old gray male “Slight Right,” not the 2-year-old gray male “Left Tail” (who dispersed in January 2006). It does get very confusing with all of those unofficial names (especially those based on which way the tail bends!), but it still helps wolf watchers to have names to identify commonly seen uncollared wolves.
Is it possible that the “Unknowns” could be part of the Druids who left with #253 when the Druids split up several years ago. I know there were several wolves that disappeared at that time. They seem to know the area well and they pretty much left the Druids alone. Maybe just wishful thinking on my part.
It’s certainly possible some of the Druids that disappeared after the death of 21M, went north of the Park, but 253M certainly wasn’t one of them.
Is there any talk of recollaring the one from the unknowns who is collared and seeing who he is? Or recollaring any of the other members? Would solve at least one mystery with these guys and they could then be tracked since they seem to be a presence in the middle of Druid and Slough territory. Also at what point will they give them a real name?
A pack can essentially be named at any time the manager (in this case Douglas Smith) sees fit. As the definition of a pack is a male and female traveling together on a territory. At the current time the Oxbow Pack has no real territory of their own. The Oxbow Pack (as it is now called) have been living independently from the Leopolds since last March. They are living on rented property. It will be a very interesting winter for sure.
I just received my copy of the Yellowstone Park Foundation’s 2005 Annual Report. On Page 6, Tom Murphy has a picture of the “Druid” Den. I’m going to assume you got one also – maybe an incorrect assumption.
Do you have any idea if it’s the old den on Druid peak or the new one up in the “Ampitheater”
Any ideas on what became of Wolf 302? Just finished reading Doug Dance’s wonderful book (“Once Around the Sun in Yellowstone”), and I’m afraid I’ve fallen in love with the dashing black rascal!
If this has been asked and answered before, forgive me, I’ve just come back from my first visit to Yellowstone, and am primarily interested in the wolves. Sort of a “late-comer”, if you will!
To answer Dan, the photo is of one of the holes of the old Druid Den on Druid Peak.
And to Jan, wolf 302M is currently the Druid beta male. His persistence paid off.
I was in the Lamar Valley for the past few days. My daughter and I were on vacation. I have previously seen the wolves many times since 1995. I also volunteered for Defenders a few years ago to collect signatures to keep the wolves in Yellowstone.
We saw many wolves in the past few days, some near Trout Lake, Soda Butte Creek and also near the confluence east of the Buffalo Ranch. I wanted to know if anyone can tell me which pack we were watching, Druids, Sloughs, Agate or Unknown. I am so pleased that they are doing so well and look so beautiful and really fit the landscape. It’s whats been missing for many years. Thanks, Terry
I thought it might be the Druids. I forgot to add that when they were crossing the valley, there were 7 black and 5 gray later joined by two more ….. fourteen sighted in all. Very majestic and so thrilling. When the final two joined the group, they all started howling and a lot a jumping around, greeting and tail wagging.
Yes. Definitely the Druids!!