Druids retake Lamar from Sloughs. More Yellowstone Park wolf news from Kathie Lynch

YNP WOLF Field Notes, Nov. 10-12, 2007. Copyright Kathie Lynch.

“Quite a day!” is the only way to describe Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007—the day the Druid Peak pack took back Lamar Valley! Almost four years after the reign of the Druids started to unravel with the deaths of the great alphas 21M and 42F, the Druids are finally back home!

Early that morning, the entire pack of 16 Druids (eight blacks and eight grays) visited an old bull elk carcass near their former rendezvous site at the eastern end of Lamar. At the same time, the Slough Creek pack was on a new bull elk carcass across from the Buffalo Ranch, about a mile west of the Druids.

The Druids headed in the direction of the Sloughs, although they didn’t seem to be aware of the Sloughs’ presence at first. But then, the Druids’ tails went up, and with alphas 480M and 569F in the lead, the Druids went into full attack mode. Fifteen Druids (one gray had stayed to the east) descended upon the 18 Sloughs (16 blacks and two grays). The Sloughs scattered and ran for their lives, some to the southwest toward the river, some to the east, and some north toward the road.

The Druids regrouped and ran full tilt southwest towards the river and the base of Jasper Bench in pursuit of a couple of black Slough pups. They caught up with one and descended en masse, killing it. The scene was just like when the wolves kill a coyote. All of the attackers’ tails were up as they encircled the victim and bit it in a frenzy. It was over in moments.

The Druids then continued up the side of Jasper Bench a short way before making a quick return down to the site where the Slough pup died. They ran in excitedly and nosed if for a second. It seemed like they just wanted to be sure that it was dead. The Druids then returned to the elk carcass that the Sloughs had originally been on. They spent the rest of the morning feeding on it and snoozing nearby.

Meanwhile, Slough alpha 380F hooked up with five Slough pups and led them west over the divide ridge towards Little America. They later returned and most crossed the road to the north. Based on howling, most of the Sloughs seemed to have ended up somewhere north of the road. The Sloughs were not seen again. (Slough 527F has often not been with the pack recently and was not with them during the attack.)

While the Druids celebrated their triumph by lounging around, one black Druid pup got chased off the carcass by a very large coyote. The pup ran into the trees and did not reappear. After noon, 14 Druids headed east toward their old rendezvous.

When they got close to it, they found three wolves waiting for them, one black and two grays. Wait a minute–two grays? The black was the black Druid pup that the coyote had chased, and one gray was the Druid who had not been in on the attack. But, who was the other uncollared gray? It looked like a yearling and had a distinctive dark bib and dark back. It was not a wolf any of the watchers recognized, and we weren’t even sure if it was a male or a female.

For the rest of the afternoon, we were treated to one of those exceedingly rare opportunities to watch as a wolf tries to get accepted into a new pack. Always a dicey deal, this gray approached individual Druids one at a time with a tucked tail and a very submissive posture. At times it rolled completely over on its back and waved all four legs in the air as the Druids sniffed it! At one point, the Druids even chased it half-heartedly behind the foothill, but it returned unscathed and continued to follow various Druids around, submissively seeking acceptance.

The Druid alphas, 480M and 569F, and beta 302M (looking great!) seemed the least interested. However, the young Druid girls (all seven yearlings are females) found the stranger to be quite enchanting! Several happily approached him with tails up and wagging. They did a little posturing that started leading us to think that the new wolf was a male. As darkness fell, all we could do was hope that the beautiful, dark stranger would continue to be accepted and that the pack would not turn on him. We still have no idea who he might be or where he came from.

Two days later, I thought I might have seen him near where the Druids were on a carcass in Soda Butte Valley. After they all fed and disappeared into the trees, I noticed a gray nearby. When the pack howled from the forest, he perked up and ran toward the howling. Through the trees, I could see a joyful greeting by a black (maybe one of the girls?). It occurred to me then that it might be the stranger from two days before. But, perhaps it was just one of the 16 regular Druids.

Sunday brought the opportunity to see all 17 Agate Creek wolves (12 grays and five blacks; we are now counting black-turning-gray alpha 472F as gray because that’s how she looks). We found them just north of the road from Rick’s Pullout (near Petrified Tree/Elk Creek). In fact, we were looking all over for them, and they were almost right under our noses! We moved to Wrecker and got a good look at them as they appeared across the Yellowstone River before heading out of sight.

The very sad news is that our beloved long-time former Agate alpha, 113M, is missing and is most likely dead. He has not been seen since mid-October. His disappearance somewhat coincided with a visit the Agates made to Slough Creek. About the same time, a Slough Creek black pup was found dead and a Slough gray pup disappeared. Perhaps there was an altercation between the packs, and perhaps 113M was just too old and too slow. Since his collar no longer worked, we may never know what became of this great and beloved wolf.

113M was born in 1997 in the Chief Joseph pack to Chief Joseph 34M and Rose Creek 17F. In 2002, he founded the Agate Creek pack and produced pups with two or three alpha females over five years. All six of his last litter with alpha 472F in 2006 survived to adulthood. Several of his offspring went on to become alphas themselves, including the two most recent alpha males of the Slough Creek pack (the two-year-old uncollared gray male who was hit by a car in Little America and killed on Sept. 12 and his black yearling brother, 590M, the current Slough alpha male.) 113M’s own son, 383M, took over as the new Agate alpha last winter after 113M suffered an injury that prevented him from breeding.

113M will long be remembered not only for his longevity (nearly surpassing the park record of age 10 1/2 years), but especially for his wise and noble nature. He was an impressive leader, an excellent provider, a devoted mate, and a tolerant father and grandfather. With his possible passing, I felt like I had lost my last “favorite” wolf. He was truly one of the great ones.

In other pack news, a surprising development was the defection of a black Druid uncollared male yearling to join the Sloughs in October! After Agate 590M took over as the new Slough alpha male, the Druid yearling somehow ended up joining the Sloughs. In all the confusion during the Nov. 10 rout of the Sloughs by the Druids, there was no way to tell how the Druid-turned-Slough fared or how the Druids reacted to him.

Additionally, the big gray Druid male yearling, 570M, disappeared in October. His collar was still working, but he has not been seen, so his fate is unknown. It seems like a lot of yearling males are dispersing early this year, so maybe he will resurface during the breeding season.

And, speaking of resurfacing, another new pack has appeared/reappeared in the Lamar/Little America area! This is quite a colorful group, including an adult trio of silvery white, black and gray, plus one black and two gray pups. The three adults were first seen last winter in Lamar. On Nov. 8, they showed up again, this time with their pups, and they ended up getting chased by the Druids in Lamar.

On Nov. 12, the pups and adults became separated on either side of the road in Little America. The black pup made it across the road and up to the top of the Peregrine Hills, where he sat and howled his heart out to the four winds. In answer to his cries, the trio of white, black and gray adults materialized, highlighted on a rocky outcropping.

What a total thrill to catch my first glimpse of the stunning silvery white alpha female gleaming in the sun! In that instant, I knew that the spirit of our recently lost, beautiful and beloved white Hayden alpha 540F lives on in this new silvery white beauty.

Although we have endured so many losses this fall, we have only to look with open eyes and open hearts to find new favorite wolves to inspire us. The wolves will show us the way.

42 Responses to “Druids retake Lamar from Sloughs. More Yellowstone Park wolf news from Kathie Lynch”

  1. Bob Ostler Says:

    Thanks Kathie. Lots of good information in this report. Always a pleasure when you reappear.

  2. Dave Collins Says:

    Thanks for the great update Kathie! I cant wait to get back in Feb.

  3. Sue Reigle Says:

    Kathie..sitting here at my computer in central PA, but thanks to your time, patience, dedication and obvious love of the wolf, I’m right there with you in Yellowstone!! Always a pleasure to read your entries!
    Thanx again!!!
    Sue

  4. Lynne Stone Says:

    Kathy – awesome. Thank you. I can picture the packs as you describe them.

  5. timz Says:

    Great report Kathy,especially after recently watching the Landis special on the Druid/Slough fued. Did you hear anything from anyone as to the fate of the young Hayden’s?

  6. Monty Says:

    In the years before the re-introduction of the wolf, the Lamar Valley was pretty much devoid of humans…especially in the early spring. And, I was always suprised by this fact, as I always thought that the grasslands of Northern Yellowstone, in particular the ambience of the Lamar Valley, was unparalleled. On balance, if I had to choose between no wolves & fewer humans, I would choose the wolves. Kathy, your wonderful narratives confirms this for me.

  7. Chuck Says:

    Thank you Kathy, were there in September and the only ones visible were the sloughs, with one of the black ones limping badly.

  8. Kevin Says:

    Kathy, what a great write up on the activities of the wolves. I just found this page today. I am planning on coming back to Yellowstone in MAR and staying in Silver Gate for the entire month. Hopefully the viewing will still be as good then. I spent 45 days in the park last spring and didn’t want to leave. I came back for two weeks in August. I spent a great deal of my time there in August watching the Hayden Valley pack. I was saddened to read in this entry (the first one I’ve read) that 540F was gone. It was a thrill and a pleasure to be able to watch her. She was always the first of the Haydens to be seen and always the last into the trees everyday. Now I will delve deeper into your writings to see if I can find what happened to her.

  9. Patti Says:

    Thank you, Kathie, I always look forward to reading your reports.

  10. nancy Says:

    Hi Kathie…..once again, thanks for your wonderful report…always look forward to reading them…..good to hear that 302m is doing so well…..any more on the Hayden pups?

  11. skyrim Says:

    Thanks Kathy………….Outstanding report in every detail. I hope you write your book one day ( I heard you were considering it) If you do, put me down for a copy… ^..^

  12. skyrim Says:

    Woops! I hate it when people miss spell my name. Sorry Kathie.

  13. Pam C. Says:

    Thank you Kathie for the marvelous report. Those of us who can only make it to the park a couple of times a year really look forward to your detailed reports and insights into pack dynamics. Wolf lovers around the world very much appreciate the fact the you take the time to recount these epic tales for us here on the internet.

  14. Chuck Says:

    Yes sorry Kathie for misspelling your name. Also put me on the list of buyers for your book if you decide to publish one.

  15. Dave Collins Says:

    BOOK??????

  16. Lori and Steve Says:

    Thanks for the great update. Any news about the Hayden Valley pack?

  17. mac nelson Says:

    A very moving report, Kathie–I feel your loss of the Agate alpha, but I agree that the wolves will prevail. It’s wonderful to hear all this gritty stuff while I am 1900 miles away–I feel like I’m there. Thanks again, Mac Nelson

  18. swjags Says:

    Another excellent report, thanks Kathie!
    BTW, does anyone know of a map online or in a book that actually shows where the main wolf-watching landmarks (e.g. Rick’s Pullout) are located? Thanks.

  19. Matt Says:

    Many of the landmarks of the Lamar Valley are shown on a map here: http://wildlifealongtherockies.homestead.com/ Scroll most of the way down the page to find it. I don’t know if there is a better map anywhere else or not. This web page is maintained by Dan & Cindy Hartman, wildlife photographers in Silver Gate. They post many of their better wildlife sightings on this page; I have always found it to be a great resource on wolf happenings in Lamar Valley.

  20. swjags Says:

    Excellent. Thanks, Matt!

  21. Tim Z. Says:

    I saw a book in our local bookstore called Hiking Yellowstone and it had a lot of detailed info like that in it.

  22. mtn dove Says:

    Well I didn’t see anything that amazing, but I watched all the oxbow bend pack yesterday. The crazy thing was the nice big grizzly bear they said hello to. Can’t believe the bear is still awake. I guess the warmer fall, an lack of snow has kept him up.

  23. Lynn Says:

    Thank you Kathie for your, as always, wonderful in depth report. I start my morning everyday at work, checking out Ralph’s blog. Your reports make me feel like I am sitting on your shoulder watching. I feel like I know the wolves and all the wonderful people that write in. We try to come up at least once a year to get our viewing in. Would love to say hi to you all someday and just be able to share stories about our passion, the wolves. Happy Holidays to all!

  24. Jan Says:

    Thank you, Kathie! Still “in love” with 302M, and sittin’ in Florida, so I love your reports!
    Jan

  25. Linda Hoydic Says:

    Thank you, Kathie! The Druids were the first wolves I ever saw in Yellowstone and hold a special place in my heart. I’m so happy to hear the news that they are once again a powerhouse in Lamar. I can’t wait to get back there next summer! I look forward to all of your updates throughout the year, it makes me feel like I’ve never left.

  26. Mike Wilson Says:

    Kathie, thank you for another great report. Your descriptions are always wonderful.

    I’ve tried to work on a google map of the locations as I know them. Comments are welcome. I think you’ll need to click on the “Hybrid” to see roads, etc
    See if this link will work:
    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&hl=en&msa=0&msid=113963900437713487300.00043e977def7b641bb60&t=h&om=1&ll=44.948763,-110.310287&spn=0.21917,0.462799&z=11

  27. catbestland Says:

    Mike Wilson,
    The map is excellent. This is exactly what I was looling for when I went to Yellowstone in October. I am printing it out and will have it for my trip in April. You should stand on the corner in Cooke City and sell them.

  28. Danny Says:

    Last Augsust when the Druids were hiding out up Cache Creek my wife and I did a hike out of Lamar, up Cache Creek, and over Thunderer to do some fishing and maybe hear the wolves. On the first morning I was spotting three big bulls screaming at each other on the hillside and stepped back to rest my eyes. I immediatly caught glimpse of a a black Druid that had slipped into the meadow with me. It was trotting and would stop every now and then to look at me. Being close enough to see the gold eyes on black fur was pretty incredible. It then went over the hill and soon after the whole valley behind Thunderer lit up with howls from the Druids. I’m excited to hear that the underdogs I met last summer are now back in the valley in full force.

  29. swjags Says:

    Thanks for the map, Mike. Very helpful!

  30. Tom Says:

    Great article Kathie 🙂 Can’t wait for the next update!

  31. Jim Says:

    Two summers ago I was in the Lamar Valley and happened to be watching as the Druid adults, of whom there were only four, made a foray to their traditional rendevous site. At that time the Unknown Pack had taken over the Lamar from the Sloughs who had taken it from the Druids the year before. This particular morning there happened to be four Unknowns at the old rendevous site. Once The Druids got close one of the Unknowns felt/saw/heard (?) their approach and looked up at them, which the alerted the Druids to their presence. A fight insued with the Druids routing the four Unknowns and chasing them off.

    I remember some of the people who were watching getting upset either at seeing such violence, or because they hate to see animals they love so much fight. I remember feeling elated at the idea that the Druid pack, who had provided all but one of my wild wolf experiences, taking back the territory that was “rightfully” theirs. The Sloughs didn’t belong there and neither did the Unknowns. I was happy about this tunr of events.

    I juxtapose this feeling of happiness over the Druids’ retaking of the Lamar by attacking other wolves with the sadness I felt when the Hayden alpha pair was killed. The situations were a little different; the Mollie pack invaded another packs territory, it wasn’t a case of them defending or retaking their own (for a comparison think of our country’s invasion of Iraq, with us being theMollies and the Iraq’s being the Hayden’s), still this instance of wolves being attacked by wolves saddens me while the other instance elated me.

    Now, I love all wolves and the death of the Slough pup does also upset, and if it were up to me I would close the park to all human use to give the wolves and other wildlife some peace. I case I am just wondering publicly about my own feelings.

    Call me nuts if you want. Or put me down by saying I’m applying human things to nonhuman things (like what happened on the other thread) just don;t say anything about “that is what happens in nature” or “this is what we wanted in the first place, wild wolves just being allowed to be wolves.” Cause there’s little natural about YNP and the wolf recovery program, both of those things are just giant examples of human interference with the natural process. If they weren’t intereferences, nobody would know that the Hayden pair were killed or that the Sloughs got routed by the Druids. These things happen in the “real” wild places of the world all the time and they’re not known about because they don’t happen in places convenient for people to see.

    Jim, yes indeed these things happen all time in places other than Yellowstone, and they are not known about. That’s one reason why the Idaho and Montana wolves are so important, and I implore folks not to pay attention only to the Yellowstone wolves. Ralph Maughan

  32. Cindy Knight Says:

    I was just in the Lamar in October and saw the Druids for the first time in three years. It is wonderful to have them back and be able to watch them again. They were the first pack I saw, the originals in 1997. However, I have watched the Slough Creek Pack for the past several years and feel sad that their struggles continue. Losing 113 is difficult too, He was a wonderful wolf to watch with his pack as were 21 and 42 and the Hayden alphas. I used to think that as there were more wolves, I would develop more distance from their fate, but that hasn’t happened and now I just go ahead and fall in love with each new group. I guess that is what I have loved about wolf watching. That and getting to know other people that feel the same way. They are a fascinating animal and a lot happens in their short lives, but seeing how they accept what happens and move on, how they enjoy life every day, and seeing their joy in greeting one another even if it has only been five or ten minutes has been a profound experience for me. To watch them in action is a gift every time. Their world is the “rea”l one and if I can spend time watching wolves and other animals in Yellowstone a few times a year it renews me so I can deal with the difficult and nonsensical world we live in.

  33. Kevin (WA) Says:

    Jim,
    My two cents about your post may not be put as eloquently as could be done by others, but I’ll try. I will say that I’ve had the same thoughts as you have about YNP being closed to visitors. Of course from a totally selfish stand point, that would mean that I wouldn’t be able create any new experiences and memories to go along with the ones I’ve already had in the park.

    I spent a bit of time in the park earlier this year in the spring (late May – early July) and again in late summer (Aug). I spoke with many people and this issue was one that I spoke with several people about. The conclusion that we came to was this. Yes, our presence does interfere with the truly natural order of how all the wildlife in Yellowstone acts and lives. But think about the sheer number of people that have been able to enjoy the wonders of all the animals in their natural habitat. There is no comparison of seeing a Wolf or a Bear in a zoo and in the wild.

    If my research is correct there are close to 3 million visitors to the park every year. If a small portion of those people gain any new respect and love for the animals and want to do something to help change the decisions and policies on how they are maintained or not maintained then it is more than worth it to have the park open.

    Think of the Wolf reintroduction alone. How many people have had the blessing and honor of seeing their first Wolf in the wild because of it? How much have those people donated for that cause? The actions and reactions of visitors make it possible for research and study to continue.

    I have been there when people have had dramatic life changing experiences in the park. One instance, I was at alum creek in early June 2007 and watched the Hayden Valley pack attempt to take down a cow elk. Watching from the same pullout was a lifelong rancher, who wasn’t to ‘keen’ on the Wolves in general. There was another individual there at the time talking about the Wolves and the changes that have occurred in the park since they were reintroduced. (Now I wish I had gotten their name) I’m sure you know a lot of the changes, the beaver returning, the coyote decline, the fox population growing, waterfowl and songbirds returning, etc. With that knowledge and the experience of watching those wolves do what came natural to them, that lifelong rancher was a little more ‘keen’ on the Wolf after that experience. He said something to the affect: “How could I have hated something I didn’t understand?” If this one experience could change an individual’s opinion so drastically, someone that had spent his entire life hating the Wolf, how do you think it affects other people?

    So you’re correct, we would give the animals some true peace if we closed the park. But it would be a true tragedy, in a larger scope. Because then the only people that will care are the ones that already do. I do however feel that there should be more education for visitors and how their actions affect the wildlife. There should be stiffer penalties for those that don’t adhere to the simple park rules of approaching and harassing wildlife.

    Well that is my long two cents.

    Mike Wilson, thank you for the great Google Map.

    Kathie, I will add my name to the list of people who spelled your name wrong. Sorry.

  34. catbestland Says:

    Here, Here, Kevin,
    Well said, I am one of those individuals who, because of what occured in the Parks wolf reintroduction program and after having had the “wolf Watching” experience, have become an avid “wolf advocate” Not only have I come to understand the importance that the wolf plays in the health of ecosystems but also the effect, good and bad that man has and could have on his environment. The Park’s wolf porgram has been for me, and countless others I’m sure a catalyst in seeking and education in, and a balance with nature. Long may it continue.

  35. JB Says:

    Well put, Kevin. Yellowstone is a safe place where people who might not otherwise have the opportunity get to interact with wildlife in a semi-wild place. I think the benefits of this interaction far out weigh the cost to individual animals in the park. No offense, Jim. I have often dreamed about what it would be like to visit a truly wild Yellowstone with no roads and parking lots–but I’m happy to give up this dream if it helps people understand the importance of conservation.

    JB

  36. JEFF E Says:

    There are countless opportunities to backpack and/or hike in the GYA. It is not hard to leave the crowds behind.

  37. Kevin (WA) Says:

    Thank You Cathy and JB for your support.

    Jim, I didn’t mean any offense to you either. Just a view on the value of us as ‘interlopers’ into YNP and the GYA.

    Jeff, you are absolutely correct. But for the vast majority of visitors to the area that isn’t an option. Either becasue of health, finances or the short period of time they can spend in the area. But what a wonder it is to get away from the roads. As long as it’s done properly and within constraints. The amount of land just in YNP that can’t be seen from the road is amazing. It simply astounds the mind contemplating what what adventure and experience lays just over that hilltop.

  38. Kevin (WA) Says:

    Or he can give you mine. (If he see’s this)

  39. Don Riley Says:

    Mike Wilson,
    I wouldn’t have a clue how to put together a map like yours. It had to be significant time at the keyboard. Thank you for all the work, will be visiting Lamar and your map this Thanksgiving.

    Don

  40. Mike Wilson Says:

    Don, good luck with the trip this next week. Only the road from Gardiner to Silver Gate (through the Lamar Valley) is open this time of year, but you likely already knew that. It takes an early start to be in the Lamar before sunrise.
    Thanks all for the kind comments on the map.

  41. Nell Says:

    Thank you Kathie for all your wonderful info about the wolves. 113 and the Agates were the very 1st wolves I heard howl. It was in June of 05. We were on the pull out on Dunraven Pass and the wolves were down in the valley below. The howling was beautiful and the pups also joined in!! I just stood there in awe and cried! That sounds kind of foolish, but that is how I felt!! I have always wondered what it would be like to discover America with no roads, no highline wires, no trash, just wilderness!!! Oh, how much closer to God we would feel!!! Just to days ago, I stepped out my back door (here in rural Oklahoma) and there was about 30 wild turkeys in my back yard. I came back in and grabbed my camera for some quick photos. They were chirping and clucking so much they didn’t seem to mind much that I was there. Then I put my camera back in the house and walked out my our garage and 3 more big toms came out from our garage. What a sight! They just walked on like I wasn’t there. Sometimes animals can sense when no one is going to hurt them!! It was a beautiful morning that day with no wind and crisp and cool!!! I wished everyone could enjoy God’s wilderness there in Yellowstone and in other parts of the country. Sometimes even in one’s on back yard, if they take the time to stop and notice!! I am always looking for some kind of wildlife!!! My family and I are planning a trip back to Yellowstone in June. I miss the mountains!!! Nature lover in OK. Love in Christ, Nell

  42. Ralph Maughan Says:

    White there are those who say the only good in nature is the ability to turn it into material goods, I think Nell’s comments speak of an experience a great many of us have had and many more should.


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