Here is the latest update on the wolves of Yellowstone Park. As usual there is a lot of news, especially interesting to those who follow the Park wolves closely.
Perhaps most important, however, is that the non-native parasitic mange infestation has finally spread from either Wyoming, or more likely Montana into the Park.
The first mangy wolf was discovered last year, a member of Mollies Pack who was old and soon died.
The closest source of mange outside the Park has always been from Gardiner, MT north, especially the Paradise Valley where many packs have battled mange. Just last week two mangy wolves in the area were put down. Of this, Ed Bangs wrote in his weekly wolf update report,
On the 24th, MFWP responded to a call of a sick wolf hanging out near a livestock feedlot in Paradise Valley, MT. The wolf was bedded in a stackyard and was extremely mangy. It was euthanized and found to be a disperser from Yellowstone Park’s Leopold pack.
On the 25th, MFWP set up over a mile of fladry around a calving pasture in the 8-Mile pack’s territory in Paradise valley. The wolves have been frequenting this area and the producer had started calving. Cracker shells were also issued and the producer will randomly fire these off during his night checks. The producer has also reported seeing a mangy collared wolf sleeping in his haystacks. The collar does not seem to be working.
On the 30th MFWP/MT WS euthanized a mangy wolf seeking refuge in a hay barn in Paradise Valley, MT. The collar was not working but the serial number indicated it was once a member of the Swan Lake pack (205M).
Uphill to the south inside the Park, several mangy wolves have been hanging out in the Mammoth area. In fact, mange is suspected as a possible reason why the new wolf pack that formed last winter in the Swan Lake flat/Gardiner’s Hole area fizzled.
Mangy wolves are susceptible to dying from the cold, which is why they are often found seeking shelter in barns. It is thought, but not proven, that very cold weather and, thus altitude, will limit the spread of mange deep into the Park.
The first phase of the winter study and wolf radio collaring is over. There are some surprising results.
The Yellowstone Delta pack is almost always the most difficult pack to collar because of their remote range in the SE corner of the Park and southward into the Teton Wilderness, where aircraft are not allowed to land. This winter, however, 4 female members of the pack were captured while on a kill and colllared or recollared, and it was discovered that the Delta Pack is the largest in Yellowstone — 22 wolves.
The Park’s oldest wolf was also discovered, she is wolf 126F, daughter of two of the originals 13M and 14F of what was then named the Soda Butte Pack. She is eleven years old, was wearing a non-functioning radio collar, and was found to be in good condition, weighing 121 pounds, and might still be capable of reproduction. Two of the other females were adults. One was an equally large wolf, but still a pup. One GPS radio collar was deployed along with 3 standard ones. This pack has always been hard to keep collars on because it has always been a “collar-chewing” pack. Past collared Delta wolves have also dispersed or been shot while south of the Park.
The Cougar Creek Pack in the NW corner of the Park received two radio collars. One of the wolves collared turned out to have just 3 legs. One had been completely amputated. Did she chew it off after an injury or a trap outside the Park? She was in good condition. This pack was (and still is?) led by wolf 151F, who is 10 years old.
The Leopold Pack got 3 radio collars, including 2 of a new kind of GPS collar. These are being deployed for summer predation studies. Summer predation is much harder to track than winter, and what wolves of Yellowstone eat in the summer and the rate of kill differs from the winter. This the first time a pack got 2 GPS collars. This will allow more accurate checking of the pack’s prey patterns.
The Oxbow Pack got a GPS collar on the alpha male. A female pup was collared too. The Oxbow Pack will also be part of the summer predation study.
Three members of the Slough Creek Pack were collared, including a former Druid male who was allowed to join the pack.
In her last wolf update, Kathie Lynch wrote quite a bit about 380F, the Slough alpha female’s aggrssive attitude toward other pack females, especially low ranking 527F. 527F has now left the Sloughs and is hanging with a group of wolves trying to find a place between the Sloughs, Druids and Agates. The Idaho wolf that had briefly been part of the Slough Creek Pack remains alone. He has not been seen courting any female wolves or them showing interest in him so far during this mating season.
The remnants of the Hayden Pack continue to look for a safe place on the northern range. The surviving adult Hayden female has now been joined by an adult male disperser making it a pack of five, counting the black male pup and his two sisters.
Yet to be collared are Mollies Pack, Druid Peak, Agate Pack, Gibbon Pack, and Bechler Pack.
Snow is the deepest on the northern range since the killer winter of 1996-7, and the wolves are finding and utilizing more dead elk and bison than in recent decade of drought winters. Because the grasses were in poor condition as winter arrived, with the deep snow it is a reasonable expectation that the kill rate will increase, perhaps a lot, as the ungulates starve in March. Added Feb. 3, 2008. Current snow depth map (west wide – Snotel).