Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Good Place to Die

Unrelated to everything which follows in this post, here's a good ecology article about the dwindling future of the whitebark pine and what that might mean for many species.

I still owe you a post on Shoshone Lake, but tonight I went on a group trip to Lamar Valley which was planned as a wildlife watching trip. During the day, we got news that the alpha female of the Lamar Canyon wolf pack had injured an elk and that became the sole focus of our trip. There were about 140 people watching when we arrived at the scene.

Here, author and wolf researcher Rick McIntyre demonstrates telemetry equipment after providing us with a history of wolves in the immediate area and a recap of the events of the day.

He'll also be speaking at a hike I'm making in a couple weeks to the site of a wolf pen from the time of the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone.

Some of the folks at the site had witnessed and even videotaped the earlier chase of elk and wolf. In such a case an elk will try to head for deep water, because with longer legs the elk can stand while the wolf has to swim thereby losing much of its ability to attack. After being bitten on both sides and then being left alone by the river, the elk attempted to get away by walking toward the road. The wolf crossed the road out of the elk's sight, circled around all the people watching from a hill on the other side of the road, and reappeared in front of the elk which returned to the riverside and lay down, bleeding and waiting for the end. Which is where we found her--she didn't move while we were there, and we didn't see the wolf, but we did hear radio signals from two of the wolf's approaching pack members. Back at the den, four pups awaited food as evening fell, Venus rose, and we got back in the van.

This is a terrible long distance photo, but you can see the elk's head in front of the boulder on this side of the river. If I'm going to tell the tale, her image belongs here. The wolves were out of sight on the other side of the river. All waiting for the darkness to come.

In the morning, there will be one less elk in that spot. I hope she enjoyed her last sunset, and with luck, bled to death before the wolves made their final approach.

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