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.