Monday, April 21, 2014

Wolf Watching in Yellowstone, April 2014

For spring break, I again headed to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming to observe wolves in the wild. We saw a total of 11 wolves in three packs: 7 in the Junction Butte Pack, 2 in 755M's group, and 2 in the Lamar Canyon Pack. We were there for about 6 days, and every single day we saw hunting behavior from the wolves. Several times we saw young members of the Junction Butte Pack attempting to hunt some elk. One day, they faced off some elk on the edge of a rocky ledge, then chased one elk down some very treacherous and steep terrain. Then we saw the Lamar Canyon pair chase and test a small group of elk. Several more times we saw the Junction Butte wolves seriously chase some elk; but of all the wolves' kill attempts we witnessed on our trip, we didn't see a single successful hunt. Studies have shown that wolves are only successful about once or twice for every 10 times they attempt a kill. That means they fail 80%-90% of the time. Elk are by no means defenseless against wolves, and many times we saw the elk chasing the wolves. Wolves can be severely injured by their prey. Hunting is a life-or-death event for both predator and prey.
Here are some images from the trip:

These are the two members of the Lamar Canyon Pack, 925M and 926F. 926F is very pregnant, so 925M will have to provide for her and the pups all by himself. Perhaps at this moment he was showing her what he was capable of...but the elk would have none of that!

 889F and 755M. 889F used to be part of the Junction Butte Pack and 755M used to be the alpha male of the Lamar Canyon Pack before 06, his former mate, was shot. While we were there, this pair met up with two young males from the Junction Butte pack. At first, the two males chased 755M because they didn't know him, but eventually they all played together. Interesting inter-pack interaction.
 925M, aka "Big Gray," the current alpha male of the Lamar Canyon Pack.
 926F is the fearless alpha female of the Lamar Canyon Pack. She stopped to face this bull bison, who barely gave her a second glance. He's about 20 times bigger than her and so had nothing to worry about.
 Six of the seven members of the Junction Butte Pack.
 Coyotes on a bull elk carcass (not killed by wolves, but instead probably died of malnutrition)
 A yearling from the Junction Butte Pack spent quite a long time trying to get at this newborn bison calf, but the mother bison was experienced and the young wolf eventually gave up.
Young Junction Butte wolves frolicking while the alpha female was at the den, perhaps giving birth, and the alpha male attends to her.

1 comment:

  1. This is the reality, wolves aren't eating elk by the 1000's, it would be physically impossible for them to do anyway (I haven't even seen a picture of a fat wolf which pretty much speaks for itself). Many people may still have an image of say, Bambi in their minds, but elk, deer, etc. can be suprisingly aggressive when feeling defensive. My brother was nearly charged by a buck last year while out hiking with his cousin in Coal Canyon, CA. It was burning mad from what he told me, but they had realized just in time and got out of harm's way. Thanks for sharing :0)! Love the pictures, and reading your observations. Firsthand accounts are the best.