** January 2015 **
Fall's golden colors fade as winter comes and goes in Yellowstone - an unexpected warm day and then a flurry of white changes the landscape in hours. Those in the Park almost every day of the year worry about a winter too warm with not enough snow. Then the temperature dips way below freezing and snow and ice glaze mountain tops and trees.
In just a matter of months, the wolf landscape changes too. The Mollies are back in Lamar Valley and Little America - all 16 of them - on their annual journey to the northern part of the park. In late summer the alpha male, 980M, was found dead, most likely from an injury inflicted by the elk found next to him. Now the alpha female, 779F, is in the market for a mate. This is a very cohesive pack, and at their large number, a formidable one. There have already been a number of scuffles between wolf packs and within packs, reminding us that the struggle for territory is not confined to humans.
The Prospect Peak Pack is seen frequently in their territory, the Blacktail Deer Plateau and Hellroaring.
Their nine adults and five pups, all healthy looking, seem to have withstood any wolf conflicts.
The Junction Butte Pack has shrunk to 14 or 15 wolves, and the Lamar Canyons are down to eight, including pups.
965M, who went back and forth between the Lamar Canyon and Prospect Peak Packs, has wandered away from both.
There are many ways to lose a pack member - conflict with another pack, injuries, dispersal.
Yellowstone is supernaturally beautiful, but it is not an easy place to survive.
At the beginning of breeding season, life in the northern range is about to get really interesting.
Christine Baleshta - January 2015
** Book Release **
Christine has collaborated with collage artist
Susanne Belcher in Looking for 527,
a book inspired by the alpha female of Yellowstone's Cottonwood Pack who was killed in Montana's 2009 wolf hunt.
The book combines Susanne's haunting images with Christine's essay and is available on Amazon.com.
All royalties are directly donated to The Yellowstone Park Foundation's Wolf Project.
Looking for 527 on Amazon