INTRODUCTION and WOLF UPDATE
This trip was full of melancholy - the first time since 2000 that I visited the Lamar Valley without seeing a single Druid wolf. It was cold and full of snow, but I count myself lucky to have seen as many wolves as I did, given the drastic reduction in their numbers on the Northern Range.
As I expected after my Christmas visit, 2010 brought a huge change to the Northern Range: the mighty Druid pack is no more. Their ending was as pitiful as their reign was majestic but they left a lasting legacy in the Park, and in the hearts of those who watched them.
In fact, some individuals may still be alive, holding on through a cruel winter into a merciful spring. A month after the end of my April trip the wolf known as The Female Yearling was spotted in the Lamar, feeding on a carcass. That gives me hope that I might still see 480, Dull Bar and 571 again.
Mating season in February brought its usual stress, and it turned out to be more than the wavering Druids could handle. They had become scavengers, too weak to hunt prey on their own, and for a while it worked due to their numbers. But as mating season brought new wolves to the Northern Range, rivalries and pack strife increased, and one by one the individual Druids succumbed. We know that The Thin Female, 691, White Line and 690 have all died.
The Blacktail Pack - founded by famous late wolf 302, whose territory approximates the old Leopold Pack, is in good shape. There are 9 members of this pack. Big Brown and 693F are the alphas; Medium Brown is the beta male, adult females are 642F and 692F. All the adult females became pregnant, although the alpha has driven her two sisters to den elsewhere, so it is somewhat doubtful that all the pups will survive. There are four remaining pups from 2009 in the pack; 3 black and 1 gray.
The Agate Pack underwent a change during mating season. Two dispersing males from the Mollies Pack, both mange survivors 641 and 586, deposed the young Druid-born alpha male Big Blaze and were accepted by matriarch 472 and her daughter 715 for a total pack size of four. 472 did become pregnant.
The Lava Creek group underwent a change as well. First the 06 female began chasing after the two young males that had been accompanying the Druids. She finally won them over and the two males were collared as 754 (Wedge) and 755 (New Male). The 06 female eventually denned in the same area as the old Slough Creek pack and four pups have been seen so far.
The alpha male, 147, became enamoured of the alpha female of the Silver Pack and her two daughters. He had one short fight with the presumed alpha male of that pack, but, then, in a move that surprised both visitors and biologists, he allowed the old male to remain in the pack. 147M continues to lead this pack of five; both the alpha and the newly-collared 753 became pregnant. They have now denned in the forest behind the old Druid rendezvous site but no pups have been observed as of yet.
This left poor 471F without a mate of her own. She was seen with a former Leopold wolf during mating season but sightings have become few and far between.
And finally, the 3 male wolves from Wyoming, called variously the Miller Group, the Hoo Doos, or sometimes 697's or 682's group were seen off and on in Lamar during mating season but never with any females, further evidence to support that these are gay wolves. After all, as Chloe reminded me, they DID leave Wyoming. 8~)
Coming from a city of 8 million I crave the solitude offered by the Park at this time of year. In early April I can drive very slowly from place to place, unconcerned that I might be holding up a line of cars behind me. I find solace in spots usually swarming with visitors, such as Footbridge or Slough Creek.
Of course, since I have developed friendships with so many wolf-watchers, there is still a comfortable comraderie to be had when animals are in view, because as much as I love finding animals on my own, I like it even better when I can share the sighting with a like-minded friend or two.
So I hope you will enjoy this report, and re-read some others along the way. Thanks always to John Uhler, and especially this time to Laurie and Dan, Calvin and Lynette and Rick.