Growing Pains for the Lamar Canyons

Lamar Canyon pup howling on a hill
Lamar Canyon pup howling on a hill
Mama makes her way along Soda Butte Creek
Mama makes her way along Soda Butte Creek
Snow is pelting the car, falling from sunshine on the clouds.  Blue sky hovers about and mountains come and go.  The wind howls and the cold cuts through the folds of many layers, straight to the bones.
A wolf howls.  And howls and howls.  Non-stop for hours now we have listened to this wolf howl for his family.  Slinky, I call him, the male runt of the family.  He wants mom, he wants food, he wants family. His brother, 967 howls back, bidding Slinky to come his way but their siblings are chewing on the bones of an old bison carcass, across the way.  Mom is no where in sight and unbeknownst to the pups, she has been feasting on a deer carcass.
926 feeds on a deer carcass while her pups search for her
926 feeds on a deer carcass while her pups search for her
Road kill from last night when the deer ran into the road and hit a car.  With severe injuries the rangers came out into the dark and put the animal out of her misery.  Somehow, though about 3 miles away, 926 found the deer and began eating.  Mom left the kids in disarray on one side of the road or the other.  She ditched all six and isn’t telling anyone that supper is on the table.  Or, in this case, breakfast.  Mama Lamar is feeding new pups now, the ones growing inside of her and from all appearances she has abandoned the others to care for herself.  Hopefully that isn’t true.  Hopefully 926 just needs some food and energy so that she can get out and do what needs to be done.  I can’t imagine her giving up.  But, can imagine her giving some tough love and letting the youngsters know that they must grow up before their time.  No more puppy time – the real world came calling when daddy was killed.
The Lamar Canyons have traveled some together, since the death of 925.  They returned to the den for a few days before embarking on another journey to the west, seemingly following the tracks of the Prospect wolves that killed her mate.  On the way back east 926 did get a carcass and so everyone had food but that was a week ago now.  Eventually, some of the kids returned to the den area alone, but mama and the others followed a few hours later.
And then the family was back together once again but the Mollies pack was just across the way, up high and life for the Lamars was more uncertain than ever.  The following day, I am told, five of the Lamar pups decided to go kick butt on the Mollies pack of 12 but, luckily, a high cliff stood in their way.  Once again Mama got the pack together for the remainder of the day.  But, the following morning she took half of the pups and went in the direction of the Mollies, leaving the large male pups behind.  She was gone two days before returning in the night, for another day of being hidden in the den area.
After another day of rest, 926 led the pups back to the old rendezvous site and the winter kill bison carcass from November.  All during the day the family chewed on bones and the skull.  Some were at the carcass more than others.  When done they all bedded well out of our sight but we could hear howling from time to time – howling that the pups did not pay any attention to.

Pups on old bison carcass while mom eats fresh deer carcass
Pups on old bison carcass while mom eats fresh deer carcass
And then the road kill deer and mama feasting while the others chewed on bones and howled their little hearts out.  We can only watch, wait and see what happens next but it would be foolish to lightly say, Oh, they will be okay.  We don’t know if the animals will get food, if the pack will work as a team, if some will be killed, if some will wander off, never to be heard of again, or if the pups Mama is now carrying will survive.
But, then, none of life is guaranteed.  We only have each moment that comes.  And, if the next minute doesn’t arrive, then we had what we had.
(See below for numerous images of the Lamar Canyons taken during the past few days.)
The Story of Big Grey
Big Grey before the collar
Big Grey before the collar
925’s Story – “He Died a Hero”
“He died a Hero”Now he lives forever free and wild in the sage above the Lamar River. And, his heroism lives on in the beautiful pups that he sired and the love that he left behind.

She went to see him one last time…

A little story from Rick M. and his interpretation of events, along with today’s details.

First of all, my heart goes out to everyone who feels the loss of 925 and to his brave pack who must go on without their dad and love. I know that those with the wolf project took 925’s loss very hard, as did those of us who watched him daily and knew him well. But, I almost think it is harder for those of you who can’t be here at all or not as much as you would like. We all hope for one last time to see an animal, or to see it just once, especially the leaders of the famous Lamar Canyon Pack. I will wait until my heart and thoughts have settled some to write my final words for 925 – he was important to us and I want to choose my words carefully. But, as always, the story will come from my heart.

I had the chance to speak with Rick today, while we watched the Lamar pup I call Patch. She is a mottled brown/black female with a patch type spot on her chest – and most likely my favorite because she takes care of her brother – the slinky one. I think she will be the babysitter.

Rick told me a couple of stories, one about the unusual situation that we now have, which I will relate in another post, and the other was about the attack on 925 by the Prospect Peaks.

He told me that 926 was the first to realize the danger and that she took off running at high speed, which prompted the pups to do the same, even though they did not fully realize what was going on. Rick said that Big Gray just stood his ground as the Prospects descended upon him – that he could have run and possibly gotten away but he stood and waited for the attack, or so it seemed. Rick said that it wasn’t until the final seconds that BG ran but by then it was too late. Once Little Gray and 967 realized what was happening they turned to help. Little Gray ran into the mix and took off running, with 1/3 of the Prospects chasing him while the other 2/3 continued their attack. Apparently it was a close call for Little Gray and he almost did not make the getaway. Meanwhile, 967 ran in and distracted another third and they took off after him. About that time the other Lamars began howling and that distracted the final third of the Prospects that were attacking 925 and they took off running to do more battle, leaving him to die. Rick thought that BG was surely already dead because the attack had gone on a long time. After running off and not getting any of the others, some Prospects returned to finish off BG but found that he was not there. That was when Rick noticed he was gone and so they began looking for him. BG was walking away and one Prospect pup was following him and even bit his leg. BG, brave right until the end turned and gave that pup hell.

Rick believes that Big Gray stood his ground and took the attack because that is what alphas do for their packs – they protect them – and that his actions likely saved the others. Some anyway.

“He died a hero,” Rick told me.

We talked about how happy we were that BG got up, walked away and chose his place to die because he did so with dignity and the way he wanted to go.

Big Gray’s final resting spot was bare earth under some tall sage with a long branch reaching out over the top of him. I saw a photo and it was as if he chose a comfortable cave in the sage. Around him were two to three sets of wolf tracks and it is believed that 926 went to visit him one last time because one of the crews had very strong signals on her in that area the night of the attack. And, 2 of the pups were separated from the others so it sounds as if one or two pups also said goodbye. Obviously they knew that dad would not make it and so they did exactly what he would have wanted and went home to safety.

Apparently, BG did not look too torn up – he had some bite marks on his head and other wounds, along with hemorrhaging on his stomach. It is possible that he died of internal injuries, I was told. Because they knew what killed him, they did minimal processing and relieved him of his collar before leaving him in peace, in his final resting place.

RIP big boy, you did well and are credited for saving the Lamar Canyon Pack twice now, once for showing up and fathering those beautiful pups, and a final time for sacrificing yourself so they could continue to live. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten – you died a hero.


Images of the Lamar Canyons since Big Grey’s death
Under the tree
Under the tree










The Way they Were

Lamar Canyons on Ranger Hill
Lamar Canyons on Ranger Hill



4 thoughts on “Growing Pains for the Lamar Canyons

  1. Thank you for sharing the story and your fantastic pictures of this familiy. Last summer we had the chance to watch them in the beautiful Lamar Valley when visiting Yellowstone and I have to say a dream of a lifetime came true. Since then we follow the life not only of this pack but the other packs in Yellowstone too. But as we watched these wolves by ourselves we feel for them much more and so we were (and still are) very sad about the death of Big Grey. We know that this is the way nature is but we hope and pray that Spitfire and her nearly one year old pups will survive and stay together so that there will be a next generation.

  2. Thank you for sharing…my heart is still breaking for this family. I hope they find a way to survive and stay together. But, only in time will we know.

  3. So, this is depressing. I hope Mama comes back. This Pack needs to survive. What a blow the death of Big Grey is and I’m sure 926 is feeling his loss. Hopefully… she can protect and feed the pups she has, but who knows how strong the calling is to nuture the unborn. But if this Pack fragments, the unborn ones will never survive. At the very least, this is my humble opinion.
    Thank you for keeping us informed

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