INTRODUCTION: Normally I plan to blog on current happenings. Occasionally I plan to let some old history slip in such as this three part series. All three parts should be posted within the next few days.
Our local newspaper, The News Review, carried an item last week that brought back a flood of memories: “Famed Wolf Pack Down to 1 Member.” It’s an article about the Druids, a wolf pack I’ve known since they came to Yellowstone as part of the second year of the wolf reintroduction. My journals are full of references to the Druids.
Sept. 29, 1996: The sun is just rising in the Lamar Valley. Frost sparkles on the meadow and golden steam rises off the Lamar River. It is a crisp, still morning. Mergansers are feeding in the shallow waters. The river moves gently, almost stands still.
7:25 AM. Wolves howl! All five members of the Druid Pack are lying near the river. Their howling disturbs about fifty ravens, sending the birds up from behind the river bank and into the sky. The ravens circle overhead until the wolves quiet. The gathering of ravens tells us the wolves have a fresh kill just out of sight.
As the sun gradually inches towards the resting wolf pack, one of the grays stands and takes a couple of steps. He limps. It is obviously an injured wolf. Now a black stands and stretches. All settle down again. Once again the Druids are howling, a chorus in unison. Lovely mellow howls drift across the frosted meadow.
Soon we spot six coyotes making a beeline towards the resting wolves. Seven Coyotes. As they near, the wolves raise their heads. Time to rethink. Coyotes draw back and mingle anxiously. It doesn’t take long for the coyotes to leave.
8:30 AM: The wolf pack rises and heads south across the valley bottom towards the forest on the far side. The lame wolf keeps up reasonable well. He carries his left leg. It doesn’t dangle. When he pauses, he lets it rest on the ground. That is a good sign. Probably isn’t broken.
The pack travels slowly. Their bellies are full and they keep pace with the injured one. A grey, tail high, scents (pees) on a bush. The next wolf, also a grey, scents the same spot --typical alpha male and alpha female behavior. We lose the wolves in the woods about 8:50 AM.
After the wolves left, ‘official’ wolf watchers hiked in to the kill site. Later that afternoon I hiked in for my own look – something I wouldn’t do today. I now know that there is always a possibility that the wolves will return to their kill. Since the site had already been disturbed by humans and since there wasn’t any food left on the elk carcass, I probably didn’t do any harm. My notes next to my sketch say it well, “5 PM I hiked in to the kill site. Found 2 nice prints in the mud and not enough meat on the carcass for a vegetarian stir fry.”
Nov. 23, 1997: Bummer! I just signed up for internet. I have been looking forward to accessing Yellowstone wolf updates. The first posting I find has rotten news: two wolves have been shot illegally outside the Park. The Druids have lost both their alpha male and their beta male. It is almost surely a quick end for the pack.
Feb 1998: Wonderful news! Bob Landis, a dedicated Yellowstone filmmaker filmed a fascinating event. A male wolf, M 21, from the Rose Creek Pack, has succeeded in becoming the new alpha male of the Druids. M21 is a black wolf, who came to Yellowstone with the Rose Creek Pack in 1995.
Note: All sketches in Part 1 are taken from my journal, i.e. drawn on location.