Middle Grey and her sister (the so-called “Black Lamar Female”) raided a coyote den yesterday. The distraught coyote parents yipped and barked and howled from a short distance away but they were no match for the two Lamar Canyon wolves.
Actually, a third member of the Lamar pack was also on the scene, a male called Big Grey. But mostly he sat and watched and kept the coyotes at bay. For a few comic-relief minutes a bull bison sauntered over and chased the wolves from the den, apparently lending support to the coyotes.
After an hour of digging like tunnel rats through roots and rocks in what was obviously a tight place (the wolf would disappear underground completely from view) three pups were dragged out one at a time and quickly dispatched.
It was a dramatic scene, and even Dr. Doug Smith, the biologist responsible for the reintroduction of wolves back into YNP since 1995 was in attendance. He told me that since the den was located smack in the middle of Lamar Valley, the home turf of the Lamar Canyon Pack, this killing was probably not food related so much as the asserting of territorial rights by wolves whose typical prey preference somewhat overlaps that of the coyotes.
Even so, we watched the wolves eat at least one coyote pup on the spot, and then the Black Lamar Female trotted the mile or so back to their den with a dead pup in her mouth. (Her sister, Middle Grey, has a litter of pups up in the hills.)
All three of the Lamar wolves split up and were returning to their den via circuitous routes, apparently to confuse the coyotes. I lost track of two of them but was snapping pictures of the Black Female with her prize as she made her way home, stopping every few minutes and dropping her bounty to rest and look around.
Suddenly not twenty yards from me out of the corner of my eye I caught a rush of movement. Still peering through the viewfinder I whirled and started shooting, everything unfolding so fast that it wasn’t until later looking at the images on a computer that I could figure out what happened.
Middle Grey darted by lickety-split.
Note that the coyotes are drenched from having just chased Middle Grey through the fast-moving Lamar River.
🙂 🙂 🙂