Kathie Lynch updates on Yellowstone northern range wolves. Jan. 7, 2011

Kathie Lynch reveals fascinating new landscape of the wolves of northern Yellowstone-

Kathie Lynch is now perhaps the only person writing publicly the details of the Yellowstone Park wolves.  With more change than continuity in the last year, her most recent report takes us into the wolf world of the Blacktails, Lamars, Agates, Canyon, and even a bit of Mollies and the Quadrant packs.  Ralph Maughan

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© Yellowstone wolf update. Jan. 7, 2011.  By Kathie Lynch, Copyright

Winter holiday time in Yellowstone glowed with magnificent mauve, apricot and pink sunrises. Hoar frost glittered on bare trees and bushes like bright, twinkling stars, while bitterly cold temperatures of -22F and mountains of sparkling snow guaranteed a white Christmas.

While finding wolves was sometimes challenging, fox watching was incredible. In the past, the hardest part of achieving a “Three Dog Day” (seeing a wolf, coyote and fox) was finding a fox. This time, foxes were everywhere.

The star of the show was a rare dark phase red fox, which looked almost black and is sometimes called a cross fox. It delighted everyone in the Lamar Valley with its careful listening for voles under the snow and head-first dives.

With only three wolf packs (Blacktail, Lamar, and Agate) as likely wolf watching possibilities in the Northern Range, I felt lucky to see wolves almost every day of my two week stay. One day I saw no wolves and one day we could only find one–a sleeping one, at that! Another day, dawn to dusk effort on the part of devoted wolf watchers only produced two black ears behind a bush. Read the rest of this entry »

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Kathie Lynch on the Yellowstone Park wolves shot in Montana wolf hunt

Details revealed how Park wolf pack was eliminated in Montana wolf hunt-

The more you think about it, it is amazing how stupid it was for Montana to begin their wolf hunt right next to Yellowstone Park in the very place most of the wolves live.

Kathie Lynch has a lot of detail I was not familiar with. Park wolf watchers may not be pleased that they shot wolf 527F and eliminated a Park pack — the Cottonwood Pack.

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Yellowstone National Park’s Cottonwood wolf pack is gone. By Kathie Lynch. Copyright

Yellowstone National Park’s Cottonwood wolf pack is gone. The graying-black seven-year-old alpha female (527F), the jet black four-year-old beta female (716F) and at least two others (adults or pups?) were all recently reported killed outside of the Park boundary in the Montana wolf hunt. For all who study, advocate for and have worked tirelessly to restore grey wolves to their keystone species role in nature, the loss is profound.

The death of wolves like 527F and 716F is a great loss, not only for the Cottonwood pack, but also for science. Researchers have spent countless hours, days, weeks and years recording observations of their behavior, habits and genealogy. The value of such long-term data is immense.

Because they are so highly visible, the Yellowstone wolves have contributed mightily to our understanding of the species. Peering through the window of a spotting scope or binoculars, we have come to better understand the daunting challenges of living life in the wild and the importance of preserving wilderness. Over the years, thousands of park visitors have had a chance to share in the challenges of life in the wild for 527F and 716F.

Here are the stories of these two true champions at heart…

Cottonwood alpha female 527F was born into the Druid Peak pack in 2002, the offspring of legendary alphas 21M and 42F. Independent and full of initiative, she left the Druids as a yearling and joined their archenemy, the Slough Creek pack. With the Sloughs, she endured the distemper epidemic in 2005 and the siege by the Unknown pack in 2006.

In the fall of 2007, 527F moved on yet again and founded the Cottonwood pack. Resourceful and secretive, she made a home for her new pack high on the Hellroaring slopes.

During the summer of 2009, 527F led her pack back to her old territory near Slough Creek. Park visitors gathered eagerly every morning in Little America for the chance to watch 527F’s family of seven adults tend their four pups, one of which even had a white tip on its tail, just like its mother!

Five twenty-seven was a survivor. She stayed out of the way, and she stayed out of trouble…until the day in early October when she stepped outside of the Park boundary and a wolf hunter’s gunshot killed her.

Just a few days earlier, Cottonwood beta female 716F had met the same fate. From the very start, 716F–known for years as simply “The Dark Female”–epitomized the essence of what it means to survive in the wild.

Born to the Slough Creek pack in 2005, 716F was one of only three Slough pups to survive that year’s distemper epidemic. As a yearling in 2006, she heroically helped in the futile struggle to save the pack’s pups during the siege by the Unknowns.

In 2007, she was the only one of the seven Slough females who did not get pregnant. She and the young gray Slough alpha male (a recent immigrant from the Agate Creek pack) stayed “busier than bird dogs” hunting and providing for the six new mothers and their pups. I so vividly remember seeing her sleek black body jetting back and forth between Jasper Bench and Slough Creek, bringing food to the growing family.

The Slough alpha female, 380F, never appreciated 716F’s efforts and persecuted her mercilessly, eventually driving her out of the pack. We lost track of her for a while, so it was a wonderful surprise to rediscover her last February. As we watched the capture (collaring) procedure from Hellroaring overlook, it slowly dawned on us that the sleek black body jetting around below us was indeed “The Dark Female” (soon to become 716F)!

It was great to see that she had a last found a home and had risen to the status of beta female. With her enthusiasm and great spirit, she would have made a worthy alpha, if 527F had preceded her in death–and if she had had the chance.

But, it was not to be. The lives of both of these extraordinary wolves, who had each contributed so much to research and our knowledge of the species, were snuffed out. They had stayed out of trouble; they did not prey on livestock. Their only mistake was in stepping over the Park’s invisible boundary line.

What can we learn from their mistake–a mistake that cost them their lives? Nothing will bring back 527F, 716F, the two other Cottonwoods and the many other wolves who have been shot. The fact that wolves have been so easily hunted and killed during the legal hunt is testimony to the fact that wolves need increased and continuing protection. So that their deaths will not be in vain, we, as wolf advocates, must ask what we can do to further protect the species we have worked so hard to bring back from the brink.

We are at the crossroads. Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains are currently delisted. Wolf hunting is a reality in Montana and Idaho. Wolf advocates need to find new ways to protect and preserve the species. Unless we do, the years of effort and research that went into reestablishing this keystone species will have all been in vain as we continue to watch wolf after wolf die.

Kathie Lynch: Summertime 2009 Yellowstone wolf news.

Wolf watching is slow in this summer’s extra green Yellowstone-

While watching has been slow lately in the reconfigured Yellowstone wolf packs, Kathie Lynch has quite a bit of news. Ralph Maughan

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July and August wolf notes for YNP. By © Kathie Lynch
Copyrighted material. Not to be reprinted or reposted without explicit permission

Summer wolf watching in Yellowstone ran the gamut from the great expectations of June and early July to the challenges of late July and early August. Despite eternal vigilance by devoted watchers, the Druid Peak pack somehow managed to spirit their pups away from their traditional den forest to their summer rendezvous without anyone seeing them go. With the Druids’ departure from Lamar Valley, wolf watching took a turn for the worse as many days found us searching high and low just to find a wolf.

What had been a grand spectacle last year when the Druids moved their pups across Soda Butte Creek, this year quietly turned into a non-event. Because the pups stayed mostly hidden in the trees of the traditional den forest and seldom came into view, we never even obtained a solid count. However, the Druids are believed to have had at least nine pups, including five blacks and four grays. Even the Wolf Project’s monitoring flights have not been able to confirm the Druid pup count.

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