Leopold Pack has 18 – 24 pups!

Pup counts are coming in from Yellowstone Park, but slowly because of the long cold wet season.

I thought perhaps 2008 might be another pup crash year because the Slough Creek Pack had a number of apparently pregnant females yet has only one surviving pup. Moreover no pups have been seen yet with the Druids.

On the other hand pups have been seen with Oxbow and Agate. The Leopolds might have as many as 24 pups! These pups clearly are from multiple litters because they are of differing sizes. No more than 18 pups have been seen at once, but photographic studies of the Leopold Pack show as many as 24 different pups.

All of the other packs seem to have denned, but pups have not been seen yet due to the long spell of bad weather which will probably rejuvenate the Park after a decade of drought.

There are no new packs, but two possible ones, both Leopold split-offs — the “469 group,” seen most recently in Swan Lake Flats and the “470F group,” which has no radio collars.

Mollies Pack has occupied the former territory of the Hayden Pack and are seen a lot further south in Hayden Valley as well as the Pelican.

The Hayden Pack is near Hebgen Lake, outside the Park. The wolf that was recently shot by Montana FWP near West Yellowstone after numerous close approaches to people and buildings had the coloration of a Hayden Pack wolf (light), but was not with the pack. It might have been an odd lone wolf from who knows where, but suspicion is that it was a dispersed Hadyen. I understand a tissue sample was taken to determine the matter.

Haydens leave Yellowstone . . . more Park wolf news.

Because people know their story and have seen them so often, the fate of the Hayden wolf pack is of general interest to those who follow the Yellowstone Park wolves. It looks like their future, however, will not be in the Park, perhaps due to too much competition from other wolves. They were last located near Virginia City, Montana — miles to the northwest of the Park.

All of the Park packs are believed to have denned, although the two most remote packs, the Delta Pack and the Bechler Pack have not been located. At the end of 2007, to the surprise of everyone, the Delta Pack turned out to be the largest in the Park. It could be that they are to the south of the Park in the Teton Wilderness where low elevation air flights are not legal.

So far visual sightings of pups have been made of two packs — Oxbow and Slough Creek.

Two Druid wolves that had lost most of the fear of people where shot with rubber bullets this week. They had passed within a couple feet of people and were lingering around the road at the base of Druid Peak. They were not hurt, but now cross the road with dispatch.

It’s my view that cracker shells and rubber bullets are the best way to educate wolves, although the later are a good deal more difficult to use (the ranger was a good shot).

This is the second time over the years that Druid wolves have needed this kind of education. The cracker-shelling back about four? years ago permanently stopped those wolves from lingering along the road.

Some Yellowstone Park wolf news

Although I expect Kathie Lynch may soon have a detailed report, I got information about a few items today.

The Bechler Pack of SW Yellowstone (the only pack down there) was finally seen. It had eleven members and was several miles south of the Park near the Idaho/Wyoming border. While they will go back to the Park, this points out a serious problem with Wyoming wolf management, the Bechlers, a Yellowstone Park wolf pack could be shot during a Wyoming trophy hunt season when they leave the Park as many Park packs sometimes do.

There has been a pretty wild mating season, with a lot of cross pack mating. In a first, an alpha male (of the Leopold’s 534M) was seen mating with the beta female of the rival Agate Pack (471F). He had already mated with his “mate,” the Leopold alpha female.

302M has left the Druids, at least temporarily, and is probably doing his favorite thing, searching for love.

Genetic research by Dan Stahler, and others,* has shown that the Park wolves have gone to great lengths (although I doubt they are thinking of genetic diversity as they check each other out) to avoid inbreeding.

The Haydens might have found a new home range. It is the territory left abandoned as the new Swan Lake Pack disintegrated — from Mammoth, north to Norris Geyser Basin. Two of the five Hayden’s got radio collars — the new adult male of the pack, who will be 639M and the well known black pup, who is now 638M. Dan Stahler finds the black pup very ineresting in that his is likely the son of the pack’s former beta or subordinate female and a black interloper. If he came from the alpha pair, he should be gray or light gray like the other 2 surviving pups.

Recently a Druid pup, among other Druids was radio collared. While still somewhat under the effect of the drug, two gray wolves, unseen by the darters and collarers, came down, and one tried to attack the pup. The pup is apparently not hurt and is seen looking perfectly fit now among the rest of the Druids.

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* The genealogy and genetic viability of  reintroduced Yellowstone Gray Wolves.  Molecular Ecology (2007).  Bridgett M. Vonholdt, Daniel R . Stahler, Douglas W. Smith, Dent A. Earl, John P. Pollinger, and Robert K. Wayne

Haydens near Mammoth

I haven’t gathered any news about Yellowstone Park wolves lately due to pressing controversies, but Kathie Lynch told me that the surviving Haydens were seen about a month ago near the high bridge east of Mammoth — “1 gray adult, 2 gray pups, and everybody’s favorite black pup.”

I’ll try to get some news soon.

Haydens probably down to three wolves

Tom Mazzarisi, ranger at Madison in YNP told me that things have not gone well for the 5 remaining Haydens who had been hanging out in the Madison River since being attacked and driven from the Canyon area by the larger Mollies Pack.

He told me something I didn’t know — last winter they spent much of their time in the Madison River area. So it is only natural that the one remaining Hayden adult led the 4 remaining pups to the Madison after being attacked by the Mollies.

The Madison isn’t safe country, however. Some believed they would be attacked by the nearby Cougar Creek Pack, but instead it appears they were attacked by the much larger Gibbon Pack which recently moved up through the area and back into the Gibbon Meadows area. Now it looks like the Haydens are down to three — the adult female, a gray pup and the black pup (who has become pretty large and an effective hunter).

They were last spotted near Old Faithful and moving south toward Craig Pass .

Hayden Pack found near 7-mile Bridge!

The Haydens have largely survived are have been found nowhere near their old territory, where yesterday 15 !! Mollies were hanging out.

The remnants of the pack were near Sevenmile Bridge on the Madison River about 10 miles east of West Yellowstone. There were 5 Haydens spotted, the only clearly identified one was the black pup. There is probably one adult Hayden with them. So it seems the Mollies probably nailed one more adult Hayden and one pup, although perhaps they just dispersed elsewhere alone.

The Haydens are not home free, however. They are not far from the Cougar Creek Pack which holds down the territory north of Madison River between about Sevenmile Bridge and West Yellowstone.

Even more interesting, several Bechler wolves have moved way north of their territory in Bechler Meadows in the SW corner of the Park. They are probably dispersers from this rarely seen wolf pack, and one or more of them could hook up with the adult-poor Haydens.

This information came from Dan Stahler of the Yellowstone Park wolf team.

Haydens outrun Mollies! For now anyway.

This latest information again comes courtesy of Kim Kaiser who has been in contact with Leo Keeler who has been in the area. This is the email he got today. Thank you, Kim!

This will be about it for the year, because they will be closing the roads, so I hope they make it.

Keeler wrote:

This morning I found the Hayden pack near the road junction at Canyon. After seeing the old Beta, ­ now alpha ­ female and the 5 pups, I noticed the Molly pack coming out of the draw to the east ­ at full speed. The wolves of the Molly pack are significantly bigger than the Haydens, but the Haydens are much faster and they outran the Mollies.

The Molly pack remained in the area for about 20 minutes, checking for the scent markings of the Hayden’s. With the Molly wolves so focused on finding and catching the Hayden’s, the common belief is the only way the remaining Hayden’s can survive is to leave the area. When they leave, it will complete the takeover of their territory by the Molly pack.

I am saddened by the loss of viewing/photographing opportunities provided by the Haydens (likely the best in Yellowstone) and the take over of their territory by the Molly pack (the least seen group of wolves in Yellowstone). But as we all know, photographing opportunities change and in this case we can all be glad it is a natural change.

Unless something significant happens in the next two days, this will be my last post on the changing of territories by these wolves.

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Note: Keeler has a photo of the Mollies on the chase. However, to see it you have to register with NatureScapes.net