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One Hunter's Bullet

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One Hunter's Bullet

Note from Rick: “Thanks to all of you for the strong response to my first post about the impact of hunting on wolves. This is a testimony to how we see the similarity between the family bonds of wolves and those of coyotes. I believe that the social structure of a wolf or coyote pack is like that of an extended human family. Hunting wrecks that family. Because the story just begins when the first wolf dies, I’m going to cover the story over the long term.”

This post continues the tragic tale of the impact of one hunter’s bullet on one wolf pack. The black wolf in the picture is a daughter of 06, the famous alpha female of Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon Pack. The gray wolf is her new mate. Hidden inside the black female may be developing pups, the hope that there will one day be another Lamar Canyon Pack.

06’s once-eleven-strong Lamar Canyon Pack disintegrated fifteen months ago when a hunter killed her in a legal wolf hunt outside the park. As I described in a previous post, 06’s alpha male—the father of all the pack’s females—left his family outside the park and went looking for a new mate; he has still not created a new pack.

After her father left, 06’s daughter paired up with this gray male who came from south of Cody, Wyoming. The pair returned to the Lamar Valley where they were recently collared. The black female is now called 926F; the gray male is 925M.

These two wolves have been seen most often in a territory that contains the den in which the female was born. Some wolf watchers believe that she has come home to give birth in that den. If they have pups, and the pups survive until December of 2014, Yellowstone may once again have a Lamar Canyon Pack. Meanwhile, the two wolves are referred to as the Lamar Canyon Pair.

The pups’ and the pack’s chances of survival are not good. Having only one other adult wolf by your side presents life-threatening problems. The mother must stay in the den to feed and care for the pups, so her mate must hunt by himself. A lone wolf will bring down less prey and lose more of it to ravens and other scavengers. As a result, he will bring the nursing wolf less food. This may create nutrition problems for the mom and pups. Pups growing up in smaller packs have less chance of surviving in general. Wolves—regardless of their age—in smaller packs are more likely to die from mange. For reasons such as these, a smaller pack has less chances of staying together.

The results of legal wolf hunts are presented to the public as palatable statistics. In the 2012-13 hunts outside the park, for example, twelve Yellowstone wolves were killed. Six were collared wolves that—when alive—provided valuable research data. One of those collared wolves was 06. Statistics don’t begin to tell the whole story of the impact of one bullet. The death of a wolf—especially an alpha—throws the delicate social order of a pack into life-threatening disarray, forcing many wolves to choose new leaders, new roles, new lives.

To read more about Yellowstone’s wolves and coyotes, check out my best selling new book, In the Temple of Wolves, on Amazon at http://amzn.to/Jpea9Q

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