We spent last weekend in Yellowstone (during the government shutdown; thankfully they left the parks open) guiding a group of photographers and wow, what a trip! 1 day out of West Yellowstone and a day and 1/2 in North Yellowstone, the Lamar Valley. Wolves are always high on everyone's list to see and usually you are watching them through a spotting scope about 2 miles away. Even that, is thrilling. But, when you have the opportunity to see them, across the river, hunting a pair of elk, words can not describe the giddy elation felt by everyone in our group. The howls of the wolves resonated through you, they were just above us on the mountain in a stand of trees and you could hear various pack members calling to each other as they gathered together. One wolf, appeared on the road behind us and quietly slipped into the forest to join the others.
The Wapati Pack, led by a stunning white alpha female made their way through chest deep snow along the riverbank before heading almost straight uphill to the elk. They worked in unison to surround them; making their presence known at times and then slipping away without a sound before erupting into howling again. I can only guess they were trying to make the elk break ranks and run but the elk stood their ground. After circling and goading to no avail, the wolves slipped into the forest and we didn't hear another sound. We presumed they were waiting until later in the evening to hunt them again but from what we heard the next day, they had moved on.
And so did we, up to the North Entrance and into the park. Coyotes, foxes, big horn sheep, bison and moose were part of the next day and 1/2 adventure.
Sadly, just 3 days after witnessing this amazing display, we heard that one of the Wapati wolves, 1091 F collar was giving a mortality signal. They located the body and it had been scavenged pretty heavily, the assumption is that she dies from injuries obtained via a bison most likely as the Wapati's have been very successful hunting bison this winter. Her father was 755M, one of the first wolves we ever saw and identified in Yellowstone. RIP, 1091, we enjoyed our time spent watching you.