Kathie Lynch: Druid wolf pack likely to fade away

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.

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Mange in the mountains

Here is the story how mange came to be in the Northern Rockies-

There has been a lot of discussion of mange in this forum lately, including one thread that got out of hand. Fortunately,  Mike Stark of the Billings Gazette wrote a story about it in 2007.

Mange in the mountains. Disease used to help wipe out wolves century ago plagues animals today.

This is truly a sorry story and for more than the wolves.

Kathie Lynch: Yellowstone wolf notes Dec to Jan 2010

It looks like the Blacktails are now the largest pack on the Northern Range-

Kathie Lynch has written another report on the Yellowstone wolves (actually those on the Park’s northern range). My subhead above is just one of the many interesting facts I read in her report such as the Mollies alpha male is largest wolf in the Park.

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Yellowstone Wolf Notes. Dec. 09; Jan. 10. By Kathie Lynch
© Kathie Lynch

♦ Trips to Yellowstone in December 2009 and January 2010 provided better than expected wolf watching, considering the continuing decline in population size.

January 12, 2010, marked the fifteenth anniversary of the reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park. The year 2009 ended with less than 100 wolves in Yellowstone Park, down from 124 a year ago and close to half of the 171 counted just two years ago. The number has not been this low since just a few years after 31 wolves were reintroduced in 1995 and 1996.

The biggest current challenge some wolves are dealing with is sarcoptic mange, caused by a mite. It causes terrible itching and can kill through infection or hypothermia due to hair loss. However, wolves can recover from even severe cases, as the Mollies pack did last year.

The famous Druid Peak pack is currently the most severely affected. Every Druid wolf exhibits some degree of hair loss, especially on the tail, rear, back, legs and abdomen–anywhere they can bite and scratch at the itchy mite. It is a common sight to see them trying to sleep standing up to avoid exposing their bare spots to the cold, snowy ground.

The Druids have undergone big changes since the death of alpha female 569F last fall and the subsequent dispersal of alpha male 480M. These two wolves deserve immense credit (along with Druid 529F and Leopold/Druid/Blacktail 302M) for resurrecting the Druid Peak pack after it dwindled down to only legendary alpha 21M’s last two daughters (529F and 569F) in 2004.

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Yellowstone Park wolves to decline for second year in a row

27 % decline in 2008 will be followed by another decline in ’09-

At the end of 2007 there were 171 wolves that lived primarily inside Yellowstone Park, but very high pup mortality due to disease (distemper) along with the natural attrition of adult and sub-adult wolves caused a 27% decline (124 wolves). Disease had hit the pups two other years since wolves beginning in 1995 were restored to Yellowstone. In each case, pups and the population rebounded the next year. Not so in 2009.

Once again pup mortality is very high. The Druid Pack lost all 8 of its pups, for example. There is one important pup mortality difference from 2008. This year the poor pup survival does not appear to be due to a distemper outbreak or other obvious disease.

Mortality of adult wolves is increasing from the mange infestation that seeped into the Park. Mollies Pack was the first pack known to have become infested, although Park border packs in Montana in eastward in Wyoming have suffered from the debilitating mite for years now. Doug Smith, Park wolf team leader, told me that Mollies still has mange, but is showing some improvment. Perhaps the most infested pack is the famous Druids. On the northern range, the Mt. Everts Pack also struggles with mange, but the Blacktail Pack, Agate Pack, and Quadrant Packs are mange free. It is expected that at the end of the year there will probably be 6 “breeding pairs” of wolves in the Park (the same as 2008).

For the first time there are more Park packs living south of famous Northern Range. Packs inhabit all corners of the Park, although the Bechler Pack in Park’s  southwest corner lost its only radio collar when its big white founding male finally died this summer. He originally migrated from the Northern Range all the way down. He was born to the once famous Rose Creek Pack, which was slowly driven northward out of the Park by other packs to eventually disappear as a discrete entity.

The decline of Park wolves has management implications for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Wolf managers in the states are generally quick to say,”Oh, studies show you can manage for 30% wolf mortality a year” (note that unlike with other animals, the word “manage” when used by state wolf managers always means to kill). Even some non-affiliated biologists say 30% wolf mortality a year and a stable population go together.

Data from Yellowstone Park shows this generalization has one big exception, and it would be wise to expect that more will happen on other places.

In other news, wolves have been visible inside Grand Teton National Park, with the Antelope Pack being particularly out in the open where visitors can watch them.

Jimenez says Jackson Hole wolf pack has mange

However it is only up to 11 of about 50-55 wolves that now inhabit Jackson Hole-

Federal wolf manager for Wyoming, Mike Jimenez, says the Antelope Pack, which inhabits the central area of Jackson Hole has contracted mange.

On various days as many as 4 additional wolf packs can be in or very near Jackson Hole: Pacific Creek, Buffalo, Hoback and Pinnacle.

Story in the Jackson Hole News and Guide.  “Valley wolf pack has mange, biologist says. Collaring operation sees 15 animals fitted with transmitters for research”. By Angus M. Thuermer Jr.

Yellowstone wolf report. Enormous change in pack compositions

Are the Sloughs gone? Plus five new wolf groups-

As wolf mortality has increased there has been a general redistribution of wolves in the Northern Range. All the packs are affected, even the Druids.

The Slough Creek Pack may no longer be intact. Two more dead members of the pack have been found and the only male in the pack, who wears the only functioning radio collar has been seen traveling alone.

As Kathie Lynch reported in her last wolf update, five members of the Druids (all males) left that pack. Since then they have found 5 females of other packs (perhaps all Agate). Leaders for the time being seem to be the famous old lover boy, Druid 302M and either a 2 year old Agate female or another Agate female nicknamed “halftail” because she lost half of her tail when run over by a van last year. This new group is being called the 302/642 group (named after the wolves with radio collars). They are one of 3 groups of wolves that are part of this year’s winter study.

The Agate Pack has no more functioning radio collars, so their status is not known.

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Wyoming wolf report – Nov. 10, through Nov. 21, 2008

Latest report says mange too is now hitting the Yellowstone Park Wolves-

Ed Bangs just sent out the Wyoming wolf report. It is below. I cut off the redundant “blah, blah” about delisting, etc. that is at the outset of every report.

The key is news is that mange it now hitting Yellowstone Park wolves. Other news is that research indicates the decline in moose in NW Wyoming is not due to bears or wolves, but mostly to the nutritional condition of female moose probably due to declining habitat.

Here is the actual news-

Control
Nothing to report at this time.

Research
Yellowstone Park began its annual winter study on November 15. Research objectives include: 1) documenting kill rates of wolves; 2) determining prey selection; and 3) estimating annual wolf population numbers. Park biologists suspect that the number of wolves in YNP in 2008 has decreased due to adult wolf mortality from conflicts between packs, increased pup mortality, and mange. Mange has been documented in >8 wolves from four different packs (Oxbow Creek, Mollies, Leopold, and one unnamed group of 4 wolves).

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Posted in Bears, Moose, wildlife disease, Wildlife Habitat, Wolves, Wyoming wolves, Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone wolves. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Wyoming wolf report – Nov. 10, through Nov. 21, 2008