Wolves in the Neighborhood
There has been quite a bit of excitement here at Old Faithful since yesterday afternoon, when a lucky group of park visitors saw a group of wolves kill an elk in the Firehole River not far north of Biscuit Basin. I was on duty at the visitor center both yesterday and today, and so have not been out to view the kill myself yet. I got to see some dramatic photos taken by snowcoach and snowmobile guides, though, and all I can say is WOW.
It seems as though a group of four wolves, three grays and one near-white, took down a cow elk. She died in the river and the wolves expended a fair amount of effort yesterday trying to drag her carcass out onto the snowy riverbank. Though they moved the elk’s body over the the edge of the river, it was too heavy or bulky for them to pull onto land.
Visitors, guides, and at least a handful of park employees got to see the wolves feeding on the kill as the sunlight faded late in the afternoon. After eating, the wolves cleaned themselves up by wiping their bloody muzzles on the snow.
Today, the word was out, and it seemed as though all the guided groups stopped near the kill site to watch the carcass. A few groups saw wolves feeding. Many others saw scavengers, including ravens, coyotes, and bald eagles.
It isn’t clear which pack these wolves were from. The most likely candidate packs, based on range, are the Cougar Pack or the Canyon Pack. None of the individuals that visitors observed yesterday or today were collared. (As part of the Yellowstone Wolf Project, biologists try to get a radio collar on at least one wolf in each pack within the park.)
Though I haven’t yet been to the kill site myself, I did see wolf tracks in the snow near Scalloped Spring yesterday morning, while I was skiing the Upper Geyser Basin as part of my geyser prediction duties. They were the first sign of wolves I had seen in the Old Faithful area this season.
I’m looking forward to my day off tomorrow, crossing my fingers that I’ll see wolves, and not just their tracks! Even if I don’t see any of the big canids, though, I’m glad to know they’re out there.