To the Editor:
For the past two years the lure of newborn wolf pups has drawn me to Yellowstone in the month of May. Neither time was I disappointed. I saw lots of pups — and I learned a lot, too. What impressed me most was the easily observed fact that wolves are devoted to family, especially their pups.
I remember holding my breath one morning when two coyotes suddenly appeared outside the Prospect Peak Pack’s den at Slough Creek. Alone inside were the pack’s 1-month-old pups. Because coyotes, bears, and mountain lions pose a danger to wolf pups, the pack usually leaves one or more babysitters to watch over them while the rest of the pack hunts for food.
When one coyote stuck his head inside the den, I feared the worse. Suddenly, a yearling babysitter hidden from view behind some rocks on the slope above the den sprang into action. Lightning fast, she bounded down the slope. The coyotes, being only a third the size of the yearling wolf, ran for their lives. Thanks to the vigilant babysitter, the Prospect’s pups were saved.
Earlier in the week I had seen a grizzly approach their den. The pack immediately encircled the bear, making it clear he wasn’t welcome, then proceeded to escort him out of the area.
Wolf families like the Prospect Peak Pack are extremely social, with each adult member playing an important role in assuring the family’s safety and survival. All help in the rearing of the pack’s pups and in teaching them to hunt. That sounds much like how functional human families interact. Pretty impressive!
Many pregnant wolves have been observed in the park this spring. In anticipation of a large crop of pups this year, the excitement steadily grows among wolf families and wolf-watchers alike.
Yellowstone, here I come!