Only one Druid is known to remain-
Down to one wolf. I guess that means the end of the wolf pack. The Druid Peak wolf pack was formed in the release enclosure back in 1996. Most of the wolves came from the same pack in British Columbia, but not all. For example the big alpha male came from another pack. The Druids immediately set about trying, and then finally succeeding to dominate the Lamar Valley. It was a good 14 years with hundreds of thousands of people seeing them.
Kathie has all the details.
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By © Kathie Lynch. “And then there was one.”
And then there was one… From the Druid Peak pack’s beginning in 1996 and through its glory years as Yellowstone National Park’s most famous wolf pack (with an incredible 37 members in 2001), it has come to this: yearling black Druid 690F may be the sole survivor. Mange-ridden and alone, her situation is grim.
In the last few weeks, three others (691F, the “Thin Female,” and “White Line”) have been killed by other wolves, often as they scavenged on other packs’ kills.
Six other Druids are missing, including alpha 480M, “Dull Bar,” 571F, the “Female Yearling,” “Black Bar,” and “Triangle Blaze.” We can only hope that they are somehow surviving on their own, but they are ravaged by mange, and scavenging is a dangerous business.
Leaderless after the death of alpha female 569F last fall and the subsequent dispersal of alpha 480M, the once mighty Druid Peak pack may soon be just a memory.
But, the Druid bloodlines will, hopefully, carry on in other packs. The Blacktail alpha and beta males, “Big Brown” and “Medium Gray,” were both born Druids. They are the sons of the late Druid alpha 569F (and, therefore, the grandsons of legendary Druid alpha 21M, who died in 2004).
“Big Brown” and “Medium Gray” both have bred this year with former Agate females in the Blacktail pack who are granddaughters or great-granddaughters of Druids 21M and 42F. With Druid genes on both sides of the family tree, this year’s Blacktail pups will have strong ties to the Druids of old.
Another Druid disperser, Agate alpha male “Big Blaze,” is currently missing after a dramatic fight with interloping Mollies wolf 641M, right next to the road in Little America on February 14.
Both 641M and “Big Blaze” repeatedly applied biting holds to the other’s muzzle. Although “Big Blaze” initially put up a good fight, it appeared that the larger 641M prevailed. “Big Blaze” was only seen once again, shortly after the fight, so our hopes have dimmed that he survived.
Mollies 641M and another Mollies, 586M, have since taken over the two Agate females, the almost 10-year-old alpha 472F (herself the daughter of Druids 21M and 42F; she is also the mother or grandmother of the Blacktail pack females) and 715F. Chances may be slim for more Druid genes to be passed on in the Agate pack, however, since 472F has not produced any surviving pups for the last two years.
Another Agate disperser, 471F (daughter of 472F and, therefore, also a granddaughter of Druids 21M and 42F), has spent the last year in the Lava Creek pack. However, that pack of three (471F, Montana 147M, and the former Agate “’06 Female”) seems to have fallen apart recently. 471F has been seen lately in the company of the Everts alpha 685M (whose own alpha female was killed last fall).
Black 147M (who originally came into YNP from the Eight Mile pack in Montana) has deposed the old gray alpha male of the (unofficially named) “Silver” pack, which hails from outside of the Park. So far, 147M has proved to be a most tolerant and benevolent new leader of the “Silvers.”
He has bred with both the silvery-white alpha female and the gray yearling female. Both the yearling female and the gray female pup absolutely love him and delight in clambering all over him and showering him with affection.
And, surprisingly, after days of being chased away by the former alpha male, 147M has allowed him to tag along and even lead the pack at times. It is a heart-warming sight to see as the old gray guy trundles along with the pack, head listing slightly to the right, perhaps due to an injury.
The other former member of the defunct Lava Creek pack is the infamous former Agate, the “’06 Female.” After spending most of January howling her heart out to attract suitors, she ended up luring away the two black males (of unknown origin, both since collared) who had been with the (then five) Druid females in December and January.
This new group of three, “755’s Group,” includes alpha 755M (the “First Male” to appear with the Druid females in December), beta 754M (“Wedge,” who joined the Druid females in January), and, finally with two males of her own (even if they are only yearlings), the “’06 Female.”
Approaching age four, she is a wolf in the absolute prime of her life. A great hunter, she thrilled watchers one day with a close encounter as she pursued a bull elk in Lamar Canyon. Like a speeding bullet, she left those two young males far behind. Loping this way and that, they really had no idea what they were doing–except that they didn’t want to lose their glamour girl!
It will be interesting to see if this group sticks together after the breeding season. They have been frequenting the Slough Creek area, which is an open territory. The “’06 Female” is not about to let her two males go and has even attacked and driven other females away. But, the two males could very well disappear back to wherever they came from.
With no pack to return to, the “’06 Female” would have to face her greatest challenge yet–raising pups on her own. Truly a blue blood, she is the daughter of the venerable, late Agate alpha 113M and Agate 472F. And, as the granddaughter of Druids 21M and 42F, she is the source of yet more Druid genes. She may need every ounce of her spunk and royal heritage to see her through.
Various males from the Hoodoo pack in Wyoming have come calling in YNP during the breeding season. While Wyoming 682M’s group of two black males has not been around recently, another Hoodoo black male, 681M, did show up.
He spent all of one day sitting half way up a hillside near Soda Butte, lusting after and serenading the “Silver” pack’s lovely alpha female across the valley. His GPS collar indicates that 681M has been a frequent visitor to YNP, so perhaps he may move in, if he can hook up with an available female and carve out a territory.
Lastly, the Canyon pack has dropped in to the Mammoth area several times recently. They are now down to three wolves, after the disappearance last fall of their black pup and the gray 587M.
Alpha male 712M has bred with the very light gray alpha female. She is the daughter of the late, great Hayden alphas 540F (“The White Wolf”) and 541M, so their genes too may still be passed on.
The probable demise of the Druid Peak pack wolves is terribly hard to bear for all who have watched them, learned from them and delighted in knowing them for so many years.
Through their fame and the unique opportunity to get to know and care about them as individuals, the Druids made people the world over want to save wolves and wilderness. The Druids will be greatly missed, but it is comforting to know that their legacy will live on.