INTRODUCTION and WOLF NEWS UPDATE
Little did I know when I planned this trip that it would keep me away from experiencing the worst storm ever to hit New York City, Superstorm Sandy. As much as I am glad to have been spared the upheaval, I feel guilty for not bearing the burden along with my fellow New Yorkers, friends and family.
My apartment on W. 45th St was unaffected, which allowed my sister (who lives further downtown) to find refuge in it. Her apartment was without power for four days, as was her whole neighborhood. Urbanites are not used to having everything around them dark for night after night. My midtown office was closed for two days, one employee lost power for four days and another, whose family is from Staten Island, spent day after day helping neighbors who lost everything.
My return flight to NY was scheduled five days after the storm, and I fully expected it to be cancelled. But, it wasn't and I had perhaps the easiest time ever returning to Manhattan - probably because so many less people were travelling at all!
Manhattan quickly returned to normal, but there are still, as of this writing, many areas that remain devastated. New Yorkers rose to the occassion, though, and helped each other through it.
Little did I know how important this trip would be for me - a last view of favorite wolves before the Hunt.
In Little America a new pack has formed, a merger between Blacktail males and Mollie females. They are now officially named the Junction Butte pack. First known as 838's Group, then 777's Group after 838 was killed in June by unfriendly Mollies. Alas, in August, 777M was also killed by unfriendly Mollies, leaving his close relative (probably his brother) Puff, as the new alpha male.
What elevated these wolves from a group to a pack was the eventual consistent appearance of pups alongside the adults, the same pups that were seen unexpectedly by the wolf plane in spring, with collared Mollie wolves nearby, on Specimen. It is still not known which female bore these pups nor who the father is. Two of these pups have bad mange, so it is unlikely they will be collared come February, making it even more unlikely that we will ever know their parentage.
Anyway, Puff seems to have successfully avoided the fate of his Blacktail relatives, and is definitely the alpha male of the current pack. There is only one collared wolf in his pack, 823F. It was first thought that she was the alpha female, but after more observation, his mate seems to be a gray with a short tail; she is the wolf who is scent-marking with Puff.
The unfriendly Mollie wolves that killed 838 and 777 remain in the Park. They are likely all males related to the females now in the Junction Butte pack and therefore not likely to mate with them. They are not seen consistently but are likely to be looking for available females in the coming months. I saw three of these males in October - 824 and 758 plus an uncollared black. Alas, 824 was killed by a legal hunter, two days after I saw him, when he wandered into an open-quota hunting zone just north of the Park.
Killed along with him was 829, a Blacktail female he was apparently courting.
The Blacktail Pack is still led by 778M (Big Brown) and his long-time mate 693F (litter mate of the 06). There are a few other pack members still with them but they are not seen often enough to have a consistent count.
The Lamar pack now roams Lamar Valley 13 strong. They continue to have altercations with the Mollies, but their current greater number now gives them an advantage. In August, they chased, caught and killed Mollie female 822F just north of Hubbard Hill, an event witnessed by several hundred visitors, although few realized what they were seeing at the time.
They may have killed a second Mollie wolf later that day, but the evidence is not conclusive. The Lamars are healthy and mostly mange-free. The pack includes: the 06 (832F), a large-ish gray female, her mate 755M, a lean, black-going-gray; his brother and beta male, 754M, who is larger and broader than 755, also a black-going-gray; two adult females 776 and Middle Gray, born in 2010 (the 06's first litter); four of the five pups born in 2011: 820F, an uncollared gray, a small black female and a large black female; and all four pups from this year's litter, two blacks and two grays - sex not confirmed yet.
A few weeks after I left the Park I got the dreadful news that 754M had been killed by a hunter in Wyoming, the first legal wolf hunt in nearly 70 years. He was 15 miles east of the Park boundary, with the rest of his pack, and the 7th collared Yellowstone wolf to be shot by a hunter since the 2012 hunt began, not for preying on livestock, but for being a wild wolf.
I am grateful, as always, to John Uhler for starting my Loon adventure, to Doug Dance for creating this webpage and teaching me how to use it, and to Laurie L for her continued friendship and generosity.
And a note about Allison and her spirit. Allison was a shining-light of a woman, my friend and the Queen of the Loons. She passed away suddenly in December of 2003. In June of 2004, her loving family arranged for her ashes to be scattered on Kite Hill in Mammoth Hot Springs, where she had worked in her youth. Many of us were in attendance at that ceremony. Thus, each time I visit the Park I feel her presence, and I hope always to share my trips with her.