Druid 253, Rest in Peace
By © Kathie Lynch
It has been nearly a week since I returned from Yellowstone, and I still find it hard to muster my usual enthusiasm. The feelings of anger and despair caused by the cold-blooded murder of Druid wolf 253M, combined with the daily horror of watching bison march out of the Park’s north entrance in Gardiner to their deaths, were almost too much to bear.
I want to tell you the story of 253M, one of the finest wolves ever to walk Yellowstone’s soil. Born in the spring of 2000, he was the son of the great Druid alpha 21M and 106F. As a yearling, 253 injured his hind leg during a fight between the Druid and Nez Perce packs. Known affectionately ever after by his legions of fans as “Limpy,” 253 never let his disability get him down.
As an adventurous two-year-old, his travels took him almost 250 miles south to Morgan, Utah (just north of Salt Lake City), where he was caught in a coyote trap, injuring a front leg. The fact that he wore a Yellowstone collar undoubtedly saved his life. The US Fish and Wildlife Service arranged to retrieve him and return him to Yellowstone. But, with deep November snows and closed Park roads, he was released south of YNP, in Grand Teton National Park. Unbelievably, by December he had made it all the way across Yellowstone on only two good legs to rejoin his natal pack in Yellowstone’s Northern Range.
He spent the next year-and-a-half serving as favorite uncle to the pups and faithful Beta male to his father, 21M. Together they led the Druids with dignity and forestalled the advances of Leopold interloper 302M, who was bent on romancing the Druid females.
When 21M disappeared in June 2004 (and was found dead in July), we all hoped that his son and faithful lieutenant, 253, would step up to be the new alpha. But, 253 had other ideas. Although he fought with and beat 302M and 302’s Leopold brother (the future Druid alpha 480M), 253 chose to leave while he was still top dog.
A wolf with wanderlust, he once again headed south and made a new life for himself with the Flat Creek pack near the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming. Over the next few years, we would hear bits of news, but he gradually slipped out of sight. The last I heard of him (last summer, I think), he was near Pinedale, Wyoming, the black hole of death for wolves. A member of the Daniel pack, he never got into trouble with livestock.
On March 28, 2008, the first day the Gray Wolf was delisted from the Endangered Species List in the Northern Rocky Mountains (“Opening Day,” as I have heard some Wyoming newspapers called it), a wolf-hating hunter’s bullet killed 253M in cold blood near Daniel, in Sublette County, Wyoming. He was gunned down in the Predator Zone, which makes up 87% of that state, where a wolf can be killed at any time and for no reason at all.
A favorite of all who knew him (I’ve had hundreds of park visitors tell me they wanted to see “The Wolf Who Went to Utah”, 253M lived an adventurous and exemplary life. He lived life to the fullest, made choices that pushed the limits, and didn’t take the easy way out. It is our responsibility to celebrate the life and legacy of 253M so his death will not be in vain. We must push the limits and not take the easy way out as we work ever harder to make the world a better place for wolves.
I am reminded of a poem I saw etched on a mountain climber’s gravestone in Zermatt, Switzerland:
“Let me go climb these virgin snows
Leave the dark stain of man behind
Let me adventure and Heaven knows
Grateful shall be my peaceful mind.”
Rest In Peace, Druid Wolf 253M.