It's been an unusually long time between visits. I did not expect to get to the Park at all this fall, but finally, when things took a better turn at work, my staff asked "aren't go going to the Park this fall?" so I booked a flight!
When I was last here, in July, the rivers were in flood, the grass was bright spring green and the wildflowers had just begun to blaze forth.
The wolf pups born this year are no longer hanging out near their den sites nor their rendezvous sites - instead they are traveling with their packs when they go hunting or on wide- ranging journeys to check their territory. The Lamar Canyon pups are learning how NOT to be left behind when the pack heads out.
One of the Lamar Canyon yearlings - the Dark Gray male has already dispersed from his pack. He showed an independent streak from the beginning and learned to hunt from his fearless mother. It would not suprise me at all if we see him emerge as an alpha in the near future.
The Blacktail pack has become a fairly dominant and aggressive pack. They are 15 members strong with three prime-of-life mature males in charge, as well as a robust alpha female 693F.They routinely travel to the edges of their territory and have frequently gone way beyond. They were seen recently as far west as Stephens Creek and as far east as the hills north of Fisherman's pullout in Lamar Valley. Whether they are exploring or seriously expanding their territory remains to be seen, but there have been numerous conflicts with other wolves, some of which has resulted in injury and death.
Wolf 586M, a former Mollie wolf before he joined the Agates, was killed by the Blacktails, along with one or two young wolves found dead after a visit by the Blacktails.
The Agates have stayed in their main territory of Specimen Ridge and have been seen in Little America as well, and the Lamar Canyon pack has ranged well beyond Round Prairrie to the east, up Cache Creek to the south and into the northern hills beyond Slough Creek.
As fall turned to winter, the Canyon Pack abandoned Hayden Valley, as per usual. They have been seen in the Norris area, Swan Lake Flats, and a few times in Mammoth.
There are two other news items, sad in nature, that I feel obliged to record here. Wolf hunting in Montana is legal again. Four wolves were legally shot north of the Park; and one illegally (that we know of). Quotas in those units were reduced by Montana, partly in reaction to the outcry over the collared Cottonwood Pack wolves being shot there two years ago.
But a young Gardiner resident neglected to keep himself informed of hunting rules and on November 5th he shot and killed wolf 692F, the former beta female of the Blacktail pack, and well-known to every regular wolf watcher in the Park. She had been on her own for many months, traveling in and out of Park boundaries, never killing livestock nor getting in any trouble with human habitation.
The young man at least had the sense to plead guilty and was fined $135.00 (first time violation). Apparently he drove back to Gardiner with the wolf in his pickup, bragging and willing to show it to anyone who wanted a look. A courageous Gardiner citizen turned him in (thank you, whoever you are). The shooting was illegal because 1. the quota for that unit had already been filled and 2. Hunting season ended in that area some weeks before. I hope that some good can come of this loss; that this might spur renewed efforts at hunter education, at least in Gardiner.
The second incident involves a wolf in the Fishing Bridge-Mary Bay area, an adult male of the Mollie's pack, that was fed repeatedly by humans. We don't know who started it, whether a misguided employee, ignorant visitors passing through, or someone with a more devious purpose, but the wolf became bold and began seeking a food reward from humans regularly. He was hazed repeatedly by Park personnel and by visitors who understand how un-natural (and dangerous) such behavior is, but other humans showed poorer judgment.
Although no one was ever bitten by this wolf, his behavior was potentially too dangerous to tolerate, and in October, the Park had it killed.
Please, please, please remember, just as a fed bear is a dead bear, a fed wolf is a dead wolf. Please do not feed the animals in the Park - not the birds, nor squirrels or anything else! And please report any instances of feeding you see, and document it with photos or video if you can. If you have an opportunity to thwart such behavior safely or to educate the visitor (most people are not ill-intended, just ignorant) please do so, as well. AND notify Park authority.
Thanks, as always, to John and Doug. And this time, especially, to Sian. And now, on to my report.
P.S. I am not a wolf or wildlife expert, but an enthusiast, and if you find anything in this report
to be wrong or misleading, feel free to bring it to my attention by e-mailing me at