“06 Female” and the Lamar Canyon Wolf Pack, Yellowstone
“06 Female” (06F) is the designation given to a remarkable female wolf in Yellowstone National Park. She is known as an extraordinary hunter and lately a good mother. 06F can track, corner and take down an elk on her own without any help from other wolves – a rare skill. She was born in 2006 to the Agates Pack and reached adulthood in the Lamar Valley. When I first photographed her in 2009, she was solo, not attached to any pack, and she already had a reputation as a formidable hunter.
It was our last morning in Yellowstone. We decided to make one last pass through the Lamar Valley before heading home to Silverthorne, Colorado in February 2009. As we drove past the Blacktail Plateau, we saw a group of photographers at the edge of the road. It was 06F! She was trotting parallel to the road, not more than 150 feet away and heading in our direction. She would stop every few hundred feet and howl. My lucky moment! I was able to quickly park, set up my 500mm lens and get a few memorable photographs of her as she walked past us.
06F on the prowl: (this photograph is being used by National Geographic Magazine to advertise Yellowstone National Park)
Is she calling for a mate?
We drove home with big smiles on our faces.
We returned to the park in February of 2010 and learned that the 06 Female had formed a small pack with 2 male wolves. Also we were sad to hear that the once famous Druid pack had totally dispersed and/or died off. Our trip was a disappointment in that I was not able to get close enough to photograph any wolves (see my post Coyotes of Yellowstone).
In March of 2011 we returned to Yellowstone with high hopes and learned that 06F had given birth to four pups during the summer of 2010. The Lamar Canyon pack was now seven strong. This time, while I was not able to get high quality images of the wolves we did witness and video-record a unique event. The Lamar Canyon pack (as it is now called), led by 06F, was sighted moving east along the Lamar Valley road and was predicted to cross the road near the Soda Butte rest area. We found a turn-out (along with a dozen other cars and wolf watchers) and watched with awe as the Lamar Canyon pack made its way up the valley and crossed the road about 250-300 feet away from us.
The four pups were in a playful mood as can be seen in this video:
It has been a very difficult winter for the wildlife in Yellowstone due to a snow depth that has not been seen in a decade. The wolves continue to survive, and the count has increased slightly over last year (although the 2010 count was down significantly from 2009). I last read that the 06 Female has mated and denned as of mid-April to prepare for delivery of a new brood of pups. The gestation period is 63 days.
We look forward to hearing about new pups in June and the continuing expansion of the Lamar Canyon pack.