An old article I came across written by Ralph Maughan about Yellowstone National Park’s Druid Wolf Pack. They’ve been called the most famous wolves in the world due to the fact that their den and primary living area were both in full view of a major road in the northwest part of the park. Hundreds of people a day would set up along the road, wait for them to appear, watch them until they (the wolves that is) got bored and went somewhere else. Best viewing times were at sunrise and sunset.
Link to a wiki page created about them: Druids Pack | Wolves Wiki | Fandom
As of 2010 the Druid Peak pack was extinct.
Here is the latest major wolf news from the Greater Yellowstone wolf recovery area.
Famous Druid Pack splinters
Jan. 23, 2002
Few thought over 30 wolves could stay together in one pack indefinitely, and now it is clear the Druid Peak Pack has splintered. The large pack enabled by the fratricide of 2000 will not reassemble. Presently the pack has split into three groups, each of which may have pups this spring. There is still the main group, led by 21M and 42F, with about 15 wolves. A second group is led by 106F and an uncollared mate. A third group, all uncollared wolves, also roams the area. A number of Druid wolves have also dispersed. Details must await the next Gray Wolf Progress Report from the USFWS.
The result of the 2-year-long Druid expansion was that the Rose Creek Pack, introduced in 1995 and once the Park's largest pack with 24 wolves, has been pushed further and further down the Yellowstone River. This pack of now only seven wolves, occupies the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone (in the winter) from Cottonwood Creek downstream to Gardiner, Montana. Bill Kaiser of Helena told me this weekend that Rick McIntyre and a group from the Yellowstone Institute observed 4 gray wolves chasing a larger black wolf on Hell Roaring slopes. "It appeared the black wolf was running for his life." Doug Smith, leader of the Yellowstone wolf team, told me that he didn't know the details, but all of the wolves on the northern range are in mating season and jostling for position and range. Significantly, the expansion of the Druid Pack has not increased the number of wolves on the Yellowstone northern range significantly. The northern range count was 72 wolves at the end of 2000 and 77 at the end of 2001. Once again this is evidence that the wolf population may soon stop growing as wolves are pushed out of the Park by existing or new packs, and then they occupy the niches of habitat around the park, and there is some news here. The Taylor Peaks pack, which lost its alpha female this year due to dispersal (probably expulsion), has a new alpha female, 198F. She is leading her pack back-and-forth between the Taylor Peaks (of the Madison Range) and the Gravelly Range, crossing the highway and the Madison River in the process, upstream from Ennis, Montana. The old Taylor Peaks pack had a territory nearly perpendicular to this, ranging from West Yellowstone to the SE to near Ennis on the NW. Observation of the Taylor Peaks pack indicates they are still living almost entirely on the remains of the elk hunt. They are killing few elk or deer. This provides further evidence for the hypothesis that the deer and elk hunts generally benefit the wolves by providing partial carcasses, gut piles, and wounded prey. A new group of wolves was sighted near the south end of the Madison Range (Earthquake Lake/Beaver Creek). The Freezeout Pack, new last spring, still occupies the southern end of the Gravelly Range and a group of wolves is on Ted Turners Snowcrest Ranch and the Blacktail Game Range at the southern end of the Snowcrest Range. The Snowcrests are the next Montana mountain range west of the Gravellys. These wolves are likely the remains of the Gravelly Pack, which was "controlled" last spring, plus new wolves -- a radio collared member of the Chief Joseph Pack is among them.
Last Friday members of the Park's two largest packs had a violent dispute when 8 or so members of the Nez Perce Pack (the Park's second largest wolf pack) moved north and were repelled by members of the Druid Peak Pack. It appears the alpha male of the Nez Perce 70M was injured as was perhaps the Druid alpha female 42F, although her injuries seemed to be minor, and the blood on her flank perhaps that of another wolf. Last year about this time the Nez Perce Pack briefly left their central Yellowstone home range and briefly moved onto the northern range, although apparently without incident. The Nez Perce Pack has over 20 members and the Druids over 30, although it appears sub-groups are forming. Recently biologists recovered the carcass of a dead grizzly cub in the territory of the Druid Peak Pack. The bear had been chewed on by wolves, and because there was hemorrhaging around the bites this indicated the bear was alive when the wolves bit it. This dead cub, is the second grizzly cub probably killed by wolves. Earlier this year a similarly dead cub was found in the Hayden Valley, in proximity to the Nez Perce Pack. Perhaps size of the pack has something to do with it. The Druids and the Nez Perce are the two largest packs in the Park. I wonder if the cub was killed in the incident described in early August by John Harryman. It is also possible that grizzlies have killed a wolf or two in unrecorded backcountry mortality of uncollared wolves. By large, however, grizzlies have greatly benefited by the extra animal protein the wolves have provided, and grizzlies seem to almost always win the carcass. One report said the grizzly wins in Yellowstone about 90 per cent of the time. Hi folks, Here is a good news story. Ralph Maughan ############# Despite all the negative news I have had to write about wolves being killed in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area of Idaho because a band of sheep was dropped on them, I recently had an excellent wolf observation trip to Yellowstone, where I saw, along with many other folks, terrific wolf action. It is my dream that central Idaho might someday have all the wildlife of Yellowstone without its current marginal and hobby livestock operations to threaten the wildlife. The highlight for me was two Druid-grizzly bear interactions near Round Prairie on Soda Butte Creek. Just as the sun was rising on June 30, I spotted a black yearling from the Druids walking along the side hill that runs from near the Soda Butte Cone and ends at Round Prairie, about 2 miles. It was mildly interesting to watch until the wolf reached a patch of sagebrush and suddenly flushed a large dark brown creature. I soon saw that it was a small grizzly bear, perhaps just having been driven off by its mother. The wolf and the bear followed each other around in circles for about 10 minutes with the high point when they came almost nose-to-nose (well, maybe 2-3 feet apart). The interaction seemed playful. A few minutes later I drove to Round Prairie where many vehicles were pulled onto the shoulder. The core of the Druid Pack was on the meadow, where they had killed a bull elk the previous night. It was easy to see their shapes, but the details were difficult in the full backlighting of the early morning sun. Many people wonder how or why wolves would kill a bull elk in June, when presumably bulls are almost invincible, but Dr. Doug Smith of the Yellowstone wolf team told me they examined the bull's carcass and found that the elk had some arthritis, which might explain why it was so low when most elk have moved to higher elevations. He also said that almost every elk left in the Lamar tends to get a very close look by the wolves, who will soon likely leave the area to follow the elk up to summer pastures. Late that afternoon, an adult grizzly claimed the elk carcass and was seen by hundreds of people as it fed on the carcass, which laid in Soda Butte Creek. More surprisingly, soon a lone gray wolf approached the bear and the carcass and cautiously began to feed along side the bear. The grizzly was not pleased, and the bear chased the wolf (Druid 106F) several times, but each time she came back, and after about a half hour the bear was chewing on one end of the elk in the creek and allowing 106F the other. Smith said the wolf's persistence in the face of grizzly's chases was unusual. The next morning I was fortunate to see five of the Druid puppies playing on a hillside meadow on Druid Peak. I was told 7 in all were observed the morning As mentioned, the Druids will probably soon leave the browning and increasingly hot Lamar Valley. They have already made long trips up the Lamar River, where Smith said he say hundreds of elk in the headwaters near the Mirror Plateau. Wolf watching currently begins at about 5:30 a.m. and ends at 7 a.m. Then it is renewed from 7 p.m. to sunset, although I was extremely fortunate to observe a large gray wolf on Gibbon Meadow, probably a member of the Nez Perce Pack, for about a half hour at 10 a.m. on June 29. ########## A note. I earlier reported that alpha female 42F had 4 pups and 103F of the Druids had three; but now it has been seen that 42F and perhaps other packs members have a total of nine near Druid Peak. 103's den is about 5 miles to the west, where she has three. Assuming no Druids have dispersed and no mortalities, the size of the pack could be 39! Hi folks, Here is some news on the non-YNP, Wyoming wolves, but I should add that there is news about the famous Druids. Many people have taken the time to write to me and I want to thank them. There are just 2 dens with pups, the traditional den of 42F and 103F's den. No. 42 has 4-6 pups and 103 has 3 pups. There was much speculation that 103F was receiving no help from the rest of this (huge) pack, but recently a number of Druids have visited her den. Ralph Call of the Wolf, Watchable wildlife draws visitors to Yellowstone in summer BY DAVID SIMPSON - Salt Lake Tribune Tuesday, May 22, 2001 YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo., -- The crackling of a two-way radio shatters the silence as dawn breaks just after dawn in Yellowstone National Park's Lamar Valley. "We've got a gray wolf heading north on the bench behind Hitching Post," Rick McIntyre says into the radio. "He's moving toward the road and it looks like he might try to cross. Can you see him from where you are?" Erin Cleere, on the receiving end of the message, peers through her spotting scope. "We can see him," she answers through her radio. "We'll keep you posted.'' Cleere is stationed on a hill above a pullout on the Lamar Valley Highway about a half mile from the spot where McIntyre is watching the wolf. As biological technicians for Yellowstone's Gray Wolf Restoration Project, McIntyre and Cleere keep track of wildlife and the people who stream into the country's first national park every spring to view the abundant wildlife from areas along the road. Most are well equipped with binoculars or spotting scopes. Since a wolf was hit by a vehicle and killed last year on the Lamar Valley road in the northeast section of the park, Cleere says the radios are used to simultaneously monitor the movements of animals and warn traffic if they head for the road. Veteran wildlife watchers have learned that anyone, such as McIntyre and Cleere, holding a radio usually knows where the viewable wildlife is located. Many choose the Lamar Valley specifically to see wolves and grizzly bears, which along with black bears and bighorn sheep are some of the more reclusive wildlife that can be seen in late spring and early summer. At this time of year, the animals' food sources draw them into more visible habitat, joining the ubiquitous elk, antelope and bison. Wildlife watching is also popular in other parts of the park. Last week people gathered at a pullout along the Yellowstone River in the central area of the park to watch a grizzly bear devour a bison carcass on the opposite bank of the swift moving river. But wolves are the most popular attraction. McIntyre, who has spent every spring and summer watching the wolves since they were reintroduced in 1995, estimates that more than 70,000 people have caught a glimpse of the animals. For the past five years, the Druid Peak Pack, with at least 26 members, has denned close to the Lamar Valley road making them the most visible wolves. "Yellowstone is probably the best place in the world to see wild wolves," he says. "So for anybody with that goal, this is the place to be." McIntyre says most watchers who visit the Lamar Valley are generally respectful of the wildlife and obey the rules, like not leaving the road to approach the animals. As a park employee, "that's a very pleasant situation to be around," he says. Keeping tabs on wildlife watchers is not hard. Like the wolves, they tend to gather in packs. Many times the way they find the animals is to look for a parking area full of people all looking in the same direction, says Yellowstone spokeswoman Marsha Karle. As recently as the early 1990s, the Lamar Valley was a "sleepy" corner of the park, she says. It was the wolf reintroduction program, which increased the area's popularity. Karle says it is difficult to say how many more people visit the Lamar Valley now compared to 10 or 15 years ago because the park does not track visitors to specific regions of the park. While the Lamar Valley still is not as busy as many other destinations in Yellowstone, Karle says it's obvious that visitors to the northeast part of the park have increased substantially. To accommodate the growing numbers, the park repaved the road last year, built some new pullouts and enlarged and paved existing ones. Bill and Jessie Johnson of Boise have been visiting Yellowstone on and off since 1969. For the past three years the couple's excursions have targeted the Lamar Valley. "We feel quite lucky to be able to [travel] eight hours and see something like this," says Bill Johnson as he uses binoculars to follow three wolves. "We enjoy coming here because of the variety of animals and because it's relatively easy to see them," he says. Rich Kirchner, a freelance wildlife photographer from Bozeman, Mont., has been visiting the Lamar Valley for 28 years and has noticed the area's mushrooming popularity. He says he does not take as many photographs as he used to because of the crowds, but it does not bother him. "I'm a firm believer that unless people can see and experience wildlife firsthand, it's hard for them to get behind preservation and conservation," he says. Anne Whitbeck, a retired Boulder, Colo., resident, has been visiting the Lamar Valley every year since wolves were reintroduced. Wildlife watching is such a passion for her that she moves to nearby Cooke City, Mont., for about two months in the spring. She shows up at the roadside turnouts early in the morning and again at dusk which are the prime times for wildlife watching. She has become so popular and frequent, the biologists have even given her a radio so she can help wolf project workers keep tabs on the movements of wildlife and the watchers. She also offers some tips to people who are new at spotting animals. One recent park visitor from France spent four days looking for wolves, she says. On his last day he still had not seen one. "I said 'get in your car and follow me, I'll find you a wolf.' " Pointing to her radio she says, "I'm cheating.'' Druid wolf pack survives winter By JEFF TOLLEFSON - Billings Gazette Yellowstone National Park's famed Druid Peak wolf pack has surprised scientists yet again, surviving a mild winter without any losses despite having 20 hungry pups to feed. At 26, the Druids are the largest pack in the park. They dominated the Lamar Valley in northern Yellowstone this winter, expanding their territory to feed all those mouths. The yearlings still came in underweight. "They were among the lightest pups we've seen in six years," Yellowstone Wolf Project Leader Doug Smith said Friday. "But they survived." Winter, when prey animals are run down by cold and an endless search for forage, is actually the wolves' best season. The relatively poor condition of the wolves shouldn't be surprising, however, because it's never easy finding food for 26 wolves, Smith said. And it could be a long summer for the Druids. Once young calves grow strong enough to run with the herd, summer becomes an easy season in which elk and other ungulates grow and regain their strength. It can be a tough season for wolves. "We already think the pack is going through some stress," Smith said. "We think four wolves were impregnated, but we think two of them have already lost their pups." Smith attributes the possible litter losses to poor body condition. With so many wolves, he said, the social dynamics also start to break down. "Something has got to give," Smith said. "The pups last year are now yearlings, and I think some of those yearlings are going to disperse, and I think some of them are going to die." That said, the Druids have been known to upset predictions. The Druids took everyone by surprise last spring with a record three litters and 21 pups. One pup disappeared and presumably died last summer. Conventional knowledge had it that the alpha male and alpha female of a pack produce the only litter each year, but the Druid alpha male bred with two other females besides the alpha. Several Druid females bred again this winter; the final results are still out. Wolves stick close to their dens when they have young, and researchers try to give them a little extra room. If Yellowstone's brief experience with reintroduced wolves offers any insight, the Druid Peak wolf pack is headed for a sharp decline. Smith said the average pack size for wolves that prey on elk is about 10 wolves. As it happens, the Rose Creek pack, which once had the run of northern Yellowstone with 24 wolves, now numbers only 10. Rose Creek has now become two groups of five although only one group had a litter this spring. As the Rose Creek population declined, so did its authority among other wolf packs. The Druids moved west and took over a healthy swath of Rose Creek territory this winter. "They were that big one winter, and they immediately began declining," Smith said, noting that three or four Rose Creek wolves died, and the rest simply left to find a new life. "I think that's a good prototype example for what is going to happen to Druid Peak." Hi folks, I recently reported that the Druid Peak Pack had an incredible 4 dens, but Doug Smith leader of the Yellowstone wolf team tells me, the situation is complicated and not clear. All four of the adult female dug separate dens. 105F denned first and her den was the focus of much pack activity. Soon afterward 42F denned in the pack's traditional den and that too became a focus of wolf activity, and still is. 106F denned, but no other wolves visited it and neither does 106 anymore. 103F denned last and that den is now the main focus of activity. So it is possible that only 2 litters of pups were born, or only two survived. A lesser possibility is the pups were born and moved to the traditional pack den on Druid Peak, to mingle with 42's pups. The idea that 105, and maybe 106, brought pups to the traditional den is not particularly likely because pups are not usually moved at such an early age. If 10 or 15 pups show up at a rendezvous site later this spring the question may never be answered. It will, however, if only 4 or 5 show up and also if 20 or so pups appear. Ralph A WOLF PACK WINTERS IN YELLOWSTONE or ANOTHER HO-HUM DAY IN PARADISE by Meredith and Tory Taylor It's now winter in Yellowstone and what a glorious time to witness this frozen wonderland with it's wide diversity of wildlife playing out their lives. When we arrived in Lamar Valley last week at dawn the temperature of minus 17 degrees F was penetrating and bone-chilling. Yet, there were the hundreds and hundreds of elk grazing placidly on the slopes, coyotes pouncing on mice under he snow, bald eagles soaring overhead and watching great bison sweep the snow with their shaggy heads, and the Druid wolf pack curled up, taking their nap on a knoll above the valley. All of Yellowstone's inhabitants, including we two-leggeds, were taking it all in stride like any normal day. But then, it WAS a normal winter day in Yellowstone. We waited patiently along the Lamar Valley for the Druid wolves to arise while we visited with numerous wolf watchers, biologists and photographers. The wolves seemed unaware of their expected presentation to the world as they zzzzzed away the day on a bald, snow-covered knoll in the sunlight. We retreated for a few hours midday to crosscountry ski near Hell-Roaring Creek where we heard another wolf gathering across the Yellowstone River. The Rose Creek pack? Later, we skiied over fresh wolf tracks along the river. Obviously other wolves besides the Druids were travelling in the area. We learned from our fellow wolf groupies that the Druid Pack had recently returned to Lamar Valley from a three week circumnavigation of the Sunlight Basin country east of the Yellowstone. Risky business for a wolf to leave the protection of the park, but the Druids had itchy feet. Now home, they settled into their normal routine of eating, sleeping, and playing comprised of mock battles and much wrestling. With 21 pups born to the Druid pack last season (an unheard of biological phenomenon), the pack is heavy with the young energy and puppy inexperience. Upon our return that afternoon to Lamar Valley, the wolves arose from their long winter's nap to romp and play amid much tail wagging, rolling in the snow, and expressing their joy to the world. But the alpha female, F#106, a svelte petite gray, had many mouths to feed and dinner on her mind. She started off down the snowy slope in the waning light of the setting sun with her pack strung out behind for a quarter mile. They bounded along the ridgeline silhouetted against the bright light at their backs. The primal scene before us had been played out for millenia in the historic balance of predator and prey in wild places like Yellowstone, but not often observed by humans. The 23 wolves barrelled off the slope, snow flying at their heels, pups still playing tag until they regrouped in the dark timber along the valley floor. Reassessing their strategy, the alpha female again took the lead and trotted out toward the rapidly retreating elk herd. Steam rose from the bellowing lungs of the elk now thundering away. The Druids took in the scene and went into a ground-eating trot. But life is not always what it appears and surprises occur. From our spot across the valley, it looked like the classic predator pursuit of their prey when all of a sudden several wolves stemmed from the main pack, kicked into high gear, and pounced on a very unlucky coyote. The coyote was unwittingly in the wrong place at the right time and was instantly shredded and devoured. Wolves eat coyotes? It rarely happens apparently, but this little song dog had yipped its last chorus. After this brief detour for a coyote appetizer the wolves regained lost ground toward the elk and were soon on an open bench with the alert elk herd. The female #106 trotted right past about 25 elk as if she had already picked out her target in a larger band of elk trotting away toward the setting sun. The 25 elk seemed to understand this and watched the entire packed move past them with complete indifference. The first five Druids caught up with the large band of elk and lunged right through the herd. Female #106 is a world-class sprinter, perhaps her claim to the throne as alpha female, and she blurred away from her followers as if they were standing still. Singling out a cow that F#106 cut out, the other lead wolves pursued this elk over the crest of a hill and just out of our sight, then made the kill. RATS! We were now the ones in the wrong place at the right time in order to see the climax of the hunt. Sooo... from the ensuing rush of all the 23 wolves to the killsite and the occasional wolf emerging to the ridgeline, we saw only a bit of the feeding in the glare of the sunset. The glowing red orb blinded all cameras, binoculars and spotting scopes as if the wolves, even at that distance, disdained the unwanted publicity. Hearing the wolf howls and seeing the occasional puppy play told us that the wolf watching was over for the day. The wolves would feed on this meal for the night and then repeat their pattern of sleeping again before awakening to check out the local ungulate population for any sign of a weakness that would make them the next offering. As the full moon arose just after sunset, the wolf howls reminded us of the primal scene that only such a special place as Yellowstone can provide. It was a good day to be a wolf - and a wolf watcher - in this very special place in the world. We hope that Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, who visited Yellowstone two days later to celebrate his role in this wolf success story, also witnessed such wild miracles. The mystery of Wolf 40 By Michael Milstein, of Montana Lee Newspapers YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. -- A natural drama unfolding among the wolves in the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park over the last month contains all the elements of even the most sensational soap opera. There's a tyrannical matriarch, adultery, child-snatching, revenge, a coup d'etat -- even murder. And then, recently: a tragic car accident. "The whole story of the Druid pack is developing into a very unique one -- the kind of story we have never seen before and perhaps would only have a chance to see in a place like Yellowstone,'' said Yellowstone Park wolf biologist Doug Smith. Even biologists familiar with wolves' complex social structure and penchant for mate-swapping say they are amazed by the strange succession of events that has played out within the Druid Peak wolf pack and within viewing distance of visitors along Yellowstone' s northeast entrance road in May. The events suggest that the personalities and habits of individual wolves may influence a pack's fate as much as biological factors such as prey and habitat. The Druid Peak pack was among the second group of wolves transplanted from Canada to Yellowstone in 1996 as part of the federal wolf recovery program. The pack got its name from the peak that towers over its home in the Lamar Valley. Soon after the pack's release in Yellowstone, its wolves earned a reputation as a kind of roving gang of thugs because of their tendency to kill other wolves that strayed into their territory and even to make forays beyond their territory to strike at other packs. At the same time, though, the pack grew popular among park visitors after taking up residence along the northeast entrance road, where visitors could easily watch the wolves enter and leave their den, pursue elk and feed on kills. It was a common sight to see Number 40, the pack's domineering alpha female, snapping at and forcing other wolves in the pack to the ground, reinforcing her control over the pack. "She was a very aggressive, dominant wolf,'' Smith said. "She ruled with an iron fist, which is fine as long as you keep the upper hand.'' But she may have been losing the upper hand. Biologists first realized this spring that not only Number 40 but also two other female wolves in the pack -- Number 42 and Number 106 -- had bred with the pack's alpha male and given birth to litters of pups in their own dens. The dens were separated by a few miles. It's common for more than one female in a wolf pack to produce a litter, especially in a place like Yellowstone where prey is plentiful and there's plenty of food to go around, said David Mech, a wolf biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division. But it is somewhat unusual for an alpha female as tyrannical as Number 40 to allow other wolves in her pack to raise litters of pups that might ultimately compete with hers. Indeed, biologists suspect that Number 40 last year attacked Number 42, raided 42's own den and killed her litter of pups. `` After 42 got beat up, she quit being faithful to her den site'' -- as she would if her pups had been killed by Number 40, Smith said. Number 40 was last seen 0 one night early this month headed in the direction of Number 42's den, tended by 42 and two other female wolves. When biologists next saw Number 40, she was badly injured, apparently beaten and battered by other wolves. She died soon afterwards from a ruptured jugular vein sustained in the attack. "They didn't just kill her, they mutilated her,'' Smith said. "I could bury my finger up to the knuckle in the wound.'' Tracking records show that no radio-collared wolves from other packs were in the area when 40 was attacked. "Our best hypothesis is that she was going after 42's den and 42 and at least one of the other wolves jumped her,'' Smith said. "They had had it with her and at the first sign of weakness they let her have it.'' Up-and-coming wolves often test the leadership of their pack' s alpha male and female and sometimes even overthrow the alphas, but usually let the alphas remain in the pack as a subordinate member. An unseated alpha wolf may also simply leave the pack. Smith does not know of any other recorded instance where a wolf pack has killed its own alpha female in the kind of fatal coup d'etat the Druids carried out against their leader. But that's not all. In the days after Number 40' s death, visitors saw an astonishing spectacle: Number 42 and Number 106 carrying their pups, one-by-one, to join the pups of the alpha wolf that had just been killed. The wolves of the Druid Peak pack are now apparently all caring for three litters in Number 40's original den. Biologists don't know how many pups may be in the den, but Number 40's carcass had 10 placental scars, suggesting she gave birth to 10 pups this spring. If the typical five or six of those pups survived the first few weeks and Number 42 and 106 each carried at least a few of their own pups to the den, "there could be 10 to 12 pups or even more in there,'' Smith said. If the other wolves have adopted 40's pups as it appears they have, it would be a remarkable show of com passion for the offspring of a matriarch that had once made their lives miserable. "Losing 40 is a key blow, but when you look at the pack, you can't say it has had a real negative effect,'' he said. "In many ways it seems to have reunified a pack that previously had been held together by force.'' There are no other accounts in scientific literature of a wolf pack killing its own alpha female and then caring for her litter. "This is by far the most complicated case anyone's ever heard of,'' Smith said. On the heels of that development, another blow shook the Druid pack last week: a subordinate male wolf was struck and killed by a car late at night along the northeast entrance road. Although the wolf was still too young to be an important player in the pack, he could eventually have taken on a leading role in a pack that remains dominated by female wolves, Smith said. "The Druid pack, despite their reputation, has not had an easy time,'' he said. "They are known as a strong, aggressive pack. Now we'll find out if they stay together without that force that Number 40 exerted on the rest of them.'' THE DRUID PEAK PACK Named after a prominent peak near the Rose Creek pen- In early April, the National Park Service began to open the doors on the pens and the delivery of food was halted. On April 2, the door to the Rose Creek pen was opened. It took 12 days before the pack came out! To avoid confusion with the Rose Creek Pack of 1995, the pack released from the Rose Creek pen in 1996 was named the Druid Peak Pack. Druid Peak is a prominent peak just east of Rose Creek. Druid Peak from Soda Butte Creek. Photo by Ralph Maughan The Druids change from caution to bold aggressiveness- Even after leaving the pen, the Druid Peak pack did not quickly explore the surrounding area. Nevertheless, it has proven to be a very aggressive pack. They killed the alpha male of the Crystal Creek Bench pack and a yearling from the Rose Creek Pack. They may have also injured the alpha female of the Crystal Creek Pack and killed her 1996 litter of pups. The Crystal Creek female (no. 5F) denned, but no pups were ever observed, Number 5F abandoned her den shortly after the Druids killed her mate, and she was seen limping with her tail held low for a while. These two confirmed kills of other wolves came in separate fights. Rick McIntyre has written a fascinating eye-witness account of the fight <fight.htm> between the Rose Creek and Druid Peak packs which took place on June 18, 1996 in Slough Creek. <slough.htm> Finally, the Druids may have killed wolf 19F in April of 1997 with the result that her 4 pups perished too. The pack retained its reputation of ferocity. I learned recently that in the fall of 1996 they almost got wolf 34M, although surprisingly, they allowed his packmate no 31M to join the pack. The difference may have been that 34 was seeking to pair with a female and 31 was seeking to join the pack as the beta male. The beautiful, white alpha female leaves the pack for six months- In late July 1996, no. 39F, the "white wolf", alpha female of the pack, suddenly left Yellowstone National Park and took a long "tour" along the north edge of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. She traveled north of Red Lodge, Montana, and then west to the vicinity of the larger town of Livingston. In October she was located in the depths of the Absaroka Mtns. about 20 SE of Livingston. In November, she had moved about 50 miles to NE, crossed the Yellowstone River and part of the plains of Montana, to take up residence on the east slope of the Crazy Mountains, a rugged outlier of the Rockies. During the winter, she returned to the Park, but did not rejoin the Druid Peak pack immediately. However, she did spend from April through October 1997 with the Pack. It was assumed that no. 41F became the alpha female in Druid Peak with no. 39 absent, but things changed in the fall of 1997 and number 41 was driven from the pack, and no. 39 left again too. Number 31M from the Chief Joseph Pack joins the Druids- Although the Druids lost no. 39F, as I mentioned above, no. 31M, released with the Chief Joseph Pack (see its history below), joined the Druid Peak Pack in the fall of 1996. He remained a subordinate member of the pack, the only other adult male, for the rest of his life which ended with an illegal kill in late 1997. Five pups for 1997- Number 38M seemed to typify the aggressive and unusual character of this pack. In fact, he may have been the source of the pack's aggressiveness. During the winter of 1997 he was observed mating will all three females in the pack. Usually only an alpha pair mates. There were expectations of a very large number of pups. However, when all the pups were accounted for, there were but five -- the average number for a pack, and certainly a manageable number. It is believed that all five were whelped by no. 42F. The den site was in deep timber on Druid Peak and could not be observed. During 1997, the Druids, eleven-strong, dominated Soda Butte Creek and the upper Lamar Valley; and, for the year, they became the Park's most visible pack. All five pups survived the summer and autumn of 1997. They were almost as large as the four adults in the pack. Two of the pups were captured and radio collared in Jan. 1998. One pup (no. 104M) weighed 105 pounds! The pack's males, number 38 and 31, are illegally shot dead- In late November 1997 the pack suddenly moved eastward over the crest of the Absaroka Range into the rarely-traveled North Absaroka Wilderness. Despite the paucity of people in this mountain fortress, someone shot both 38 and 31 in Crandall Creek. Number 31 died quickly but the alpha male, no. 38, lingered for eleven days, dying finally in Hoodoo Creek. Doug Smith, head of the Yellowstone Wolf Team dropped food to no. 38 a number of time. Big 38 did climb out of gorge of Hoodoo Creek, but he died near the ridgeline. One of the original Rose Creek pups joins and leads the Druids- No. 21M was one of the last of famous number 9's original Rose Creek pups to disperse, but when the Druids returned from their lethal encounter in Crandall Creek, no. 21, now in his second year, approached the pack and was accepted. The acceptance ritual lasted six hours and was filmed by cinematographer Bob Landis. It is believed to be the only such filmed ritual on record. No. 21M is the lone adult male in the pack, and he immediately became its alpha male, replacing slain 38M. He had been traveling with the "white wolf," no. 39F, but most have seen a better opportunity in joining the Druids. Interestingly, no. 21's brother, no. 20 was killed by the Druids in interpack fight in June 1996. The replacement of 38M and 31M with 21M seems to have lessened the hostility between the Druid Peak pack and the Rose Creek Pack. After no. 21 came to lead the Druids, hostile encounters with the Rose Creek Pack ended until fall of 1998 when the Druids caught a Rose Creek female alone in their territory. The Druid alpha female, no. 40F led the attack, and pack tore the intruder apart. Just two pups in 1998- As in 1997, it was believed that both adult females had pups. Once again they denned in the dense timber on Druid Peak, where the pups remained unobservable. Numerous pups were expected. However, much to the surprise of everyone, just two pups came down from the mountain when they were finally observed. Only one survived into the winter of 1998-9. However, upon capture for radio collaring, he has big (110 pounds) and healthy. Throughout 1998 the Druids remained very visible, causing "wolf [traffic] jams" along the roadway as people watched, or hoped to watch them roam the Lamar Valley. They are clearly the most observed wild wolf pack in the world. NATURAL DRAMA Wolf pack's activities like a soap opera By MICHAEL MILSTEIN - Gazette Wyoming Bureau YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - A natural drama unfolding among the wolves in the northeastern corner of Yellowstone National Park over the last month contains all the elements of even the most sensational soap opera. There's a tyrannical matriarch, adultery, child-snatching, revenge, a coup d' etat - even murder. And then, last week: a tragic car accident. "The whole story of the Druid pack is developing into a very unique one - the kind of story we have never seen before and perhaps would only have a chance to see in a place like Yellowstone," said Yellowstone Park wolf biologist Doug Smith. Strange succession of events Even biologists familiar with wolves' complex social structure and penchant for mate-swapping say they are amazed by the strange succession of events that has played out within the Druid Peak wolf pack and within viewing distance of visitors along Yellowstone's northeastern entrance road in May. The events suggest that the personalities and habits of individual wolves may influence a pack's fate as much as biological factors such as prey and habitat. The Druid Peak pack was among the second group of wolves transplanted from Canada to Yellowstone in 1996 as part of the federal wolf recovery program. The pack got its name from the peak that towers over its home in the Lamar Valley. Soon after the pack's release in Yellowstone, its wolves earned a reputation as a kind of roving gang of thugs because of their tendency to kill other wolves that strayed into their territory and even to make forays beyond their territory to strike at other packs. At the same time, though, the pack grew popular among park visitors after taking up residence along the northeastern entrance road, where visitors could easily watch the wolves enter and leave their den, pursue elk and feed on kills. It was a common sight to see No. 40, the pack's domineering alpha female, snapping at and forcing other wolves in the pack to the ground, reinforcing her control over the pack. "She was a very aggressive, dominant wolf," Smith said. "She ruled with an iron fist, which is fine as long as you keep the upper hand." But she may have been losing the upper hand. Biologists first realized this spring that not only No. 40 but also two other female wolves in the pack - No. 42 and No. 106 - had bred with the pack's alpha male and given birth to litters of pups in their own dens. The dens were separated by a few miles. It's common for more than one female in a wolf pack to produce a litter, especially in a place like Yellowstone where prey is plentiful and there's plenty of food to go around, said David Mech, a wolf biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division. But it is somewhat unusual for an alpha female as tyrannical as No. 40 to allow other wolves in her pack to raise litters of pups that might ultimately compete with hers. Indeed, biologists suspect that No. 40 last year attacked No. 42, raided 42's own den and killed her litter of pups. "After 42 got beat up, she quit being faithful to her den site" - as she would if her pups had been killed by No. 40, Smith said. No. 40 was last seen one night early this month headed in the direction of No. 42's den, tended by 42 and two other female wolves. When biologists next saw No. 40, she was badly injured, apparently beaten and battered by other wolves. She died soon afterwards from a ruptured jugular vein sustained in the attack. "They didn't just kill her, they mutilated her," Smith said. "I could bury my finger up to the knuckle in the wound." Tracking records show that no radio-collared wolves from other packs were in the area when 40 was attacked. "Our best hypothesis is that she was going after 42's den, and 42 and at least one of the other wolves jumped her," Smith said. "They had had it with her and at the first sign of weakness they let her have it." Up-and-coming wolves often test the leadership of their pack's alpha male and female and sometimes even overthrow the alphas, but usually let the alphas remain in the pack as a subordinate member. An unseated alpha wolf may also simply leave the pack. Smith does not know of any other recorded case in which a wolf pack has killed its own alpha female in the kind of fatal coup d'etat the Druids carried out against their leader. But that's not all. In the days after No. 40's death, visitors saw an astonishing spectacle: No. 42 and No. 106 carrying their pups, one by one, to join the pups of the alpha wolf that had just been killed. The wolves of the Druid Peak pack are now apparently all caring for three litters in No. 40's original den. Biologists don't know how many pups may be in the den, but No. 40's carcass had 10 placental scars, suggesting that she gave birth to 10 pups this spring. If the typical five or six of those pups survived the first few weeks and Nos. 42 and 106 each carried at least a few of their own pups to the den, "there could be 10 to 12 pups or even more in there," Smith said. If the other wolves have adopted 40's pups as it appears they have, it would be a remarkable show of compassion for the offspring of a matriarch that had once made their lives miserable. "Losing 40 is a key blow, but when you look at the pack, you can't say it has had a real negative effect," he said. "In many ways it seems to have reunified a pack that previously had been held together by force." There are no other accounts in the scientific literature of a wolf pack killing its own alpha female and then caring for her litter. "This is by far the most complicated case anyone's ever heard of," Smith said. On the heels of that development, another blow shook the Druid pack last week: a subordinate male wolf was struck and killed by a car late at night along the northeastern entrance road. Although the wolf was still too young to be an important player in the pack, he could eventually have taken on a leading role in a pack that remains dominated by female wolves, Smith said. "The Druid pack, despite their reputation, has not had an easy time," he said. "They are known as a strong, aggressive pack. Now, we'll find out if they stay together without that force that No. 40 exerted on the rest of them." At 6 a.m. on Monday, May 8, a severely injured wolf was found bleeding heavily near the road in Yellowstone National Park. It was the reigning dominant female - the alpha - of a pack of wolves known as the Druid Peak Pack, which had been reintroduced to the park in 1996. She was the mother of a 4-week-old litter of puppies. Park officials struggled to save her, but within a few hours, she died. Since then park biologists have been trying to figure out what happened. By Kari Grady Grossman - Discovery.com 5/25/00 A necropsy report of the dead alpha female revealed that her jugular vein had been pierced; severe wounds and punctures all over her body were consistent with wolf bites. A highly territorial species, wolves are known to kill trespassers, but a review of radio telemetry reports from the collared wolves in the park proved there were no other packs in the area. "The best that we can figure is that her own pack killed her," says Douglas Smith, Yellowstone's Wolf Project leader. In 21 years of studying wolves, he's never heard of such a thing. Typically, a wolf pack operates as a cooperative unit, led by a single alpha pair whose sole mission is the survival of the pack. The alphas lead the hunt and they breed; the entire pack rears the couple's single litter of puppies each spring. But in Yellowstone, biologists are learning that wolf society may be much more complex. The Druids are probably the most-studied wolves in the world. Because the pack lives in the Lamar Valley, which has a road running through it, park biologists are able to catch a glimpse and document its movements daily. The alpha female was often seen disciplining the other female pack members. "She ruled with an iron fist and she was a cruel leader, to put it bluntly," says Smith. "She even kicked out her own mother." She was particularly harsh to her sister, the beta female, and last year visited a den the beta had dug and kicked her out, possibly even killing her puppies. Smith believes that this year when the alpha came to attack her den, the beta and two other females ganged up on her. "I think the feeling about her was widespread," says Smith. "It was revenge." The corpse also revealed 10 placental scars, meaning that the alpha probably gave birth to a large litter. For several days the alpha male attended the den, but eventually traveled to the beta's den and brought her back, showing her his problem. Over the next two days, the beta and other females carried their puppies one by one in their mouths for four miles, crossing the swollen Lamar River twice, to the pack's traditional den site. It now looks like the beta, a Cinderella of sorts, has become the new alpha. Wolves are known to dethrone an alpha, but usually tolerate them in the pack. Animals have strategies, honed through time and evolution, to maximize their own reproductive success. "This beta used a strategy that is very little used in the wolf world," Smith says. "Most wolves disperse by 3 years of age; she hung on, endured beatings and eventually took over the pack." "The real beauty of Yellowstone Wolf Restoration is their visibility," says Mike Jimenez, project leader for wolf recovery in Wyoming, outside the park. He's been studying wolves for 15 years and believes what happened may be more common than we know. "We just don't get to see it," Jimenez says. "I've seen alphas killed by other packs or a car and the rest of the pack raises the pups ... Killing their own pack member is not typical, nor is it unheard of. But the subordinates ganging up like that and then rearing her pups afterward is certainly unrecorded." Smith says it looks like four females - the alpha, the beta, another subordinate and the omega wolf, at the bottom of the pecking order - had pups at three different dens. Now, he says, it appears they have all brought their pups to the main den. Multiple den sites for one pack is unique in itself and a testament to the abundant food in Yellowstone. But was this alpha's behavior fracturing the pack? Did the Druids' survival depend on eliminating her? "We'll never get inside a wolf's head. That's the beauty of studying nature," Smith says. No one knows how many puppies are in that den or how many will survive. We'll check back with Smith in six weeks, when the new Druids emerge from the big den. ----------