Sunday, January 6, 2008

Wolves: The Druid Pack

We had two days in the Lamar Valley looking for wolves. We were lucky enough to see the Druid Peak pack both days. The first day they were laying on a knoll near an aspen grove, and there was a grey wolf looking on, trying to join the pack but not yet a member. People who watch the wolves regularly say he's been trying to join for awhile, and that later the same day we saw him he was injured by the alpha male. We didn't see him the second day, so I hope he made it. The photo above is of the onlooker standing under a cottonwood tree looking towards the pack.

The second day we encountered the pack laying down, but they got up and howled for awhile, which was very cool to hear, and then loped off across the valley. We saw them chase a bull elk down a slope, and then encircle another one but decide not to take him down. They also moved a herd of cows and calves across a river. I saw eight pack members - my guide said he saw eleven. There were many greys but also several blacks. Two blacks and a grey of the pack are pictured above, on the edge of a frozen river.

Wolf watching was great, but the wolves are a ways off and they avoid people, so binoculars are a must, and spotting scopes were awesome (thankfully the guides had them available). You can't get good photos without a camera a lot better than mine.

Also, it is really, really cold. When the wind blows it is staggeringly cold and any gap in your clothing is a major problem. Hand and toe warmers and many layers are required.

There are "wolf groupies" who watch the wolves every day, and I can see why. If I was retired and had nothing else to do and lived nearby, I'd probably go every day too, to see what's up. The wolves were incredibly cool to see, and it made me all the sadder that people want to start hunting them. Destruction of the pack structure will impact breeding, and stability, and I think we'll be undoing years of progress.

At least there is a protected area in Yellowstone for them, and perhaps as more people learn more about wolves we can eventually move past the killing mentality and appreciate the species for the wonderful attributes it has, and what wolves bring to the greater ecosystem.

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