As I mentioned on Friday, I wrote about wolves at the Samhain blog. In particular, the Druid Peak pack in Yellowstone Park. Wolves were reintroduced to that park in the 1990s, and it’s been a great opportunity to watch wolves and their social dynamics. I posted the story of two sisters. I thought it interesting.
You might want to read that blog before you read further here, as this post will then make more sense. One thing I didn’t write much about was wolf 21M (21st wolf tagged, male). The biologists didn’t want to give them names (though obviously Cinderella—42F—was an exception). They felt numbers would allow them to be more objective observers.
So 21M started off with a brief liaison with 39F after she was kicked out of the pack by her daughter 40F*. However, when that same pack’s alpha male was shot illegally, 21M left 39F to take the helm of the pack and paired with 40F. That alpha couple lasted a number of years. However, during this time, 21M also may have been mating with beta females. I’m not entirely sure if this is unusual or not, or if this would have fueled 40F’s aggressiveness or not. (She killed other females’ pups.) Certainly I’ve read that only the alpha couple mate usually, although that might be when resources are more scarce than they were at Yellowstone Park.
After a while, the beta female 42F, 40F’s sister, rebelled at her pups being killed, and she rebelled in a big way—by killing 40F. 42F became alpha female of the pack, pairing with 21M**. I have to wonder what his perspective on this all was. There wasn’t much mention of him mourning 40F’s passing, although there is only so much observers can know about what goes on in a wolf’s heart.
Yet four years after 40F was killed, 42F was killed by wolves from another pack, and it seems that 21M’s behavior indicated he was seriously grieving. The pair of them, 42F and 21M, had apparently been inseparable. When Cinderalla aka 42F was killed:
“He howled his guts out,” Smith said. “People say they heard him howl more since she died than he did in the five years before that.”
Was 21 in mourning?
“I can’t say that wolves mourn,” Smith said. “I’m a scientist and that’s not a scientific thing to say. But I do know he acted differently than he ever did before. You can draw your own conclusions.”
21M died a number of months later, apparently while hunting.
*There was a 41F who lived just slightly longer than her sister 42F. She, too, was run out of the Druid Peak pack by her other sister 40F (many years ago, before the coup).
**After 40F was killed by 42F who took charge, all the pups were raised that year and the pack number increased dramatically.