I have never been to YNP in March. Now that I have done so I will suggest it has three things to recommend it. First, like November, there are VERY few visitors in the Park. Second, of the visitors who ARE here, the majority are people I know and Third, the Wolf Project Winter Study is in progress, meaning additional crews and additional telemetry.
The main reason not to visit in March is: WIND. YNP’s weather is always unpredictable and March can bring raging blizzards as well as blinding bright sun but the real problem is the wind. My other issue, this trip has to do with the low number of wolves in the Park at the moment, or rather, on the Northern Range. Despite the presence of crews with additional telemetry, the 26 wolves of the Northern Range simply remained elusive. Of course, I only spent three days looking, which limits the odds anyway, but the truth is, this trip was kind of a bust for wolf-watching. Still, being in Yellowstone is its own reward – the Park is always beautiful and every day there are surprises of an animal nature. And the abundance of like-minded friends to share it with, did make for happy days.
The 26 Wolves in the Northern Range are:
8 MILE PACK – sometimes as many as 12 in this pack, more often 7 or 8 They range from Gardiner to the Blacktail Plateau. Might den in the Stephen’s Creek area. Currently, a mating season split has created a possible new pack made of 763M, 821F and another female known as “third sister”. These three have been traveling and hunting together for the last two-three weeks, and may den in the Blacktail/Hellroaring area. Note: Three gray females from the former Quadrant Pack joined available males in the 8 Mile pack last year. They had 9 puppies last year, of which 6-7 are still alive. Other 8 Mile members include 6-7 pups, and the alphas.
JUNCTION BUTTE PACK – there had been a fairly reliable 9-11 in this pack, but come mating season, a split developed. The current alpha pair is 870F, 890M and the pack consists of 869M (aka Lucky), four pups and 907F
During the mating season of 2014, a former Blacktail, sometimes-Junction wolf 911M (possibly the pup once dubbed “Huge” attracted the “black Junction Butte female, as well as former Mollie wolf 889F. Both these females are also sweet on 755M, the “widower” of The 06. Although these two males are often seen traveling and/or bedded fairly near each other, with or without the two lone females, they don’t seem to get along well enough to join forces.
Their range is from Hellroaring to Slough Creek/Specimen Ridge
LAMAR PACK or LAMAR CANYON PACK
The remaining wolves from 06/755 family are just two, the “black female” (now 926F) and her mate Big Gray (now 925M). She was born beneath Druid Peak to the 06 and 755, their second litter as a pair, but the first to be raised in the traditional Druid den site. He is thought to be a Wyoming wolf, but his DNA has not been run yet. Last year, these Big Gray’s mate was Middle Gray, daughter of 06 and 755 (first litter) and 926 was their helper. We often saw her flirt with Big Gray, but she was a loyal pack member and helped raise Middle Gray’s pups, like Big Gray did, even though he was not their father (two grays cannot bear black pups; Middle Gray had black pups and the black female was not pregnant that year). By late summer of 2013, though, all of Middle Gray’s pups were gone (no one knows what happened) and then in the fall, Middle Gray herself disappeared.
Anyway, for several months now, this new pair have been spending their time in the Lamar Valley from Fisherman’s to Round Prairie, although they are rarely seen. They have been eating very well. It seems the Black Female did inherit her mother’s amazing hunting skills and Big Gray is no slouch either.
This iconic pack does sometimes make forays into the north, including Mammoth or the Tower area, however, they have not spent nearly as much time on the Northern Range this past winter as they have in years past.
Alpha male is 712M, alpha female is not collared but easily recognizable by her very light gray/white coat. There are at least three subordinate grays in this pack. The black wolves have either disappeared or were killed.