Photo Essay

Winter in the Lamar

Working the weary bull.

Since wolves were returned to the Yellowstone area in 1996 they have reoccupied the "Serengeti" of North America (the Lamar valley) so called because it is the home to thousands of the Park's non carnivorous wildlife. In winter though, pickings are much tougher for the resident wolves than in the spring when large herds of buffalo and elk along with the spring's young, are everywhere in great number. Tough older bull bison and elk are about the only residents you see at this altitude in February. Those who remain must work very hard to scratch out a living beneath 1 to 2 feet of snow and sometimes more. When times become too tough, with subzero temperatures and deep snow, the elk and buffalo expend more energy than they gain in the quest for nourishment, and weaken. Before the return of the wolves it was not unusual to see dozens of dead or dying animals littering the landscape during and after an especially tough winter. The Druid Peak pack are found in the Lamar. They number 26 wolves and I have seen as many as 13 at a time congregating around a fresh kill. Wolves are extremely opportunistic and canny. They do not risk injury with a frontal attack on a healthy bull of either species, but they will watch patiently and identify the weak, the young or the injured and will work it until they can, with incredible teamwork, safely dispatch it. It is cruel, it is nature, and it is beautiful . . . all at once.

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1 response

  • Lois Martin

    Lois Martin gave props (6 Feb 2009):

    Beautiful set of photos,especially the elk. Being a 3rd generation Montanan as well and knowing a lot of ranching folk I have mixed emotions about the wolves.

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