Update on the Cougar Creek wolf packs

The original Cougar Creek Pack is, as usual, in the Cougar Creek, Duck Creek, Gneiss Creek areas of Yellowstone Park. They may range west outside the Park. One of our Board members saw numerous wolf tracks on Horse Butte near Hebgen Lake.

Much of the range of this pack is in very thick lodgepole pine regeneration, and it is hard to get a sighting of them. As a result there is no pup count this year so far, although Doug Smith of Yellowstone Park told me they are assumed to have pups.

Last year half of the pack or more split and moved about 10 miles north to the NW corner of the Park, where the Chief Joseph Pack used to live. They were given the informal name of Cougar Creek II Pack.

Note that Chief Joe was one of the original reintroduced wolf packs (dating from 1996). However, Chief Joe had moved out of the Park, becoming a totally Montana wolf pack.

Today Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks gave me the update on the Cougar Creek II Pack.

They had lost contact with Cougar Creek II from April-July, probably due to radio collar antenna problems. However, they were relocated in July and seen regularly since. They range from Porcupine Creek on the north to Daly Creek on the south. Daly Creek is in Yellowstone Park. Chief Joe used to den there. All of this is in the Gallatin Range. Six adults have been seen, and 3 pups were seen in Daly Creek, and were thought to be some or all of the pups-of-the year.

The Chief Joseph Pack seemed to be in decline, were infected with mange, and I suspected that had dissipated. However, MT FWP told me there is a pack of wolves in Tom Miner Drainage that is a remnant of Chief Joe. I guess that means it is Chief Joe. Chief Joe had, over the years more and more favored Tom Miner. I saw a lot of wolf tracks there and friends saw the wolves, but that was about 3 years ago. Four or five wolves were seen this summer in Tom Miner, and there were signs of pups. Montana FWP is trying to place a radio collar.

Posted in Montana wolves, Wolves, Yellowstone wolves. Comments Off on Update on the Cougar Creek wolf packs

North American Wolf Conference moving to the Southwest — Flagstaff, Arizona

Every year the Wolf Recovery Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, and several other groups host the North American Wolf Conference. It is no longer held in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2006, like most years in the past, the conference was held at Chico Hot Springs, Montana. However, in 2007 we are moving it to Flagstaff, Arizona. The conference will be held April 24th – 26th at the Little America Hotel www.littleamerica.com/flagstaff, with a Friday field trip to the Grand Canyon.

We hope this change will allow for a new array of participants to attend, as well as give focus to the limping Mexican Wolf project. More information will be coming regarding room reservations, the call for papers and online registration.

I will post it when it is available.

Ralph Maughan
Wolf Recovery Foundation

Posted in Wolves. 3 Comments »

Story of wolves at Green River Lakes (Wind Rivers)

Tom wrote:

“We had had an interesting wolf experience this past weekend.

We canoed across lower Green River Lake with my 7 year old daughter and her friend, camped on the nice beach on the southern shore. Saw a few moose that evening: a large male and then a mother and calf.

Between 4 and 5 am, we heard frantic episodes of moose running along the beach, in the water, and through our camp (I purposely placed the tent among the tight trees so we wouldn’t be trampled.)

I got out of the tent a couple of times to see what I could see, but couldn’t see anything. Several times, I sat up in the tent after hearing some very strange noises. I was wondering what was making the moose run.

In the morning, we went out and the beach was riddled with wolf tracks. Moose tracks in the mud in the water told us that the moose found safety in the water…20-40 feet out from shore. There, the wolves (between 1 and 3 individuals) could not catch them. So as the moose ran along the shore in the water, the wolves would run along the shore on the beach. Back and forth along the beach they danced for an hour. Every so often, a wolf would dart into the water in an attempt to spook the moose back onto the beach where they could be attacked. There would be a flurry of activity with the sounds of running hooves through water becoming more quiet or louder depending on which way the moose were running. No blood or carcasses visible, and we saw the mother and calf nearby the next morning.

It was very exciting. My daughter really enjoyed it. Her friend was terrified.”

The Upper Green River area has probably seen the death of more wolves (government control to benefit the livestock industry) than any other place in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. It’s very good hear that, nevertheless, there are wolves that people can see at the north end of the Wind Rivers.

Note that Turiano is the author of what I think is the most comprehensive book ever written on the mountains of the Greater Yellowstone. It is “Select Peaks of Greater Yellowstone: A Mountaineering History and Guide.”

Here is a link to his website and “Select Peaks” and two other impressive books he has authored.

Lower Green River Lake
Lower Green River Lake and the Wind River Mountains.
Copyright Ralph Maughan

Big whitebark pine crop great for grizzlies east of YNP

One of the major factors every year whether there will be grizzly conflicts in the fall is the status of fat-rich whitebark pine crop.

If there is a good crop, the bears will stay at high elevations where the whitebark pine grows — just below timberline.

In recent years, there has been some pessimism about the future of the grizzlies because whitebark pine are dying out in much of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem (GYE) due to whitebark pine blister rust (a non-native pathogen). The GYE fires of 1988 also burned high elevation stands east of the Park. However, the whitebark remain strong in some parts of the GYE, especially to the south and southeast. When Lee Mercer and I were working on “Hiking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness” the number of bears to the Park’s south and southeast was very impressive, especially compared to my experiences 10 to 20 years earlier.

The article today in the Billings Gazette has a headline that suggests the big crop is maybe a bad thing — “Big pine cone crop could bring in bears.” This is misleading. Yes, hunters should be careful in the high elevations, but that is a lot better than having hunger bears down among the houses and pastures in the stream valleys.

Read the Billings Gazette article.