We enjoyed some really fun wolf watching while I was in Yellowstone. The primary pack we observed is the Druid Peak pack (most of which are pictured, above) that controls the Lamar Valley. They hung around the same part of the valley for a couple of days, feeding on a bull elk carcass. This is the alpha female having a nibble.
The pack currently has 16 members, including the beta male, Wolf 302. As wolves are collared in the Park, they receive a number. While few have nicknames, 302, a big black wolf, is known as "Casanova".
Because he cannot breed within his pack (he's the beta, not the alpha, male, and many of the females are his kin - wolves actively avoid inter-family breeding), each spring he takes off in search of romance. When I was in Yellowstone last February, he was all the talk because he had managed to badly injure his leg while out carousing, and it was unclear if he would make it back to the Druids. I learned this year that he is back and better than ever).
It took 302 years to join the Druids, and it was only after Wolf 21 (the old alpha male) died, that he was welcomed into the pack. What goes around, comes around, and there are currently two lone gray wolves sniffing around, hoping to join the Druids. While the current alpha male doesn't mind them, and the puppies love them, 302 keeps running them off. Since they are 1-2 years old, and 302 is 7-8 years old, they don't have much trouble keeping ahead of him in a chase.
The little, light gray wolf was especially pitiful. Here he is curled up alone on a snowy hilltop, waiting for the chance to feed on the bull elk carcass being devoured by the Druids. (Ok, so it's not an award winning photo). The little gray has a bare stomach, and no one knows what has caused it. While it could be mange, he wasn't seen scratching. It could also be from scarring. Two days in a row we observed him curled up, hungry and apart from the Druids, and we all felt sorry for the little guy.
The final day we had had no luck spotting wolves; the visibility was poor, and it seemed that they had all gone farther into the hills. Then, at the end of the day, as we were driving past the part of the valley where the little gray had been, we spotted a lone black wolf pulling at another old elk carcass in a stream pretty near the road. Lo and behold the little gray was in the area too. Much to our delight, we were able to observe love blossom between the little fella and a good looking gal. It was fun watching them interact - approaching each other with tails wagging - but then separating again. Finally, the interactions increased as night was falling, and we could hear the little gray whimpering to her . . . . Then he started into a plaintive howling, and that finally won her heart. They took off together, playing and romping, and when last spotted, they had disappeared into the trees together.
Who knows if love will last, but we were all overjoyed that the lone wolf had found a friend.