After an international journey, nine weeks in a chain-link pen, a trek over Montana's Beartooth Mountains and the loss of her mate, a female wolf brought to Yellowstone National Park in January delivered pups near Red Lodge, Mont.
"All of a sudden I heard a whimper, kind of
a squeal, and there they were," " said U.S. Fish and Wildlife
biologist Joe Fontaine, who stumbled across the litter May
Fontaine was tracking signals from the adult
wolf's radio collar, looking for signs of a
Although the black female ran off as
Fontaine approached, her seven or eight pups - blind, deaf and
about the size of a human fist - wriggled in a depression
underneath a spruce tree. After counting the litter, Fontaine left
the animals alone.
No more than a week old, the
pups were born into the Rose Creek wolf pack about the same time
their father was killed illegally, authorities suspect. Only his
radio collar has been found.
The U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service and nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife have offered
rewards totaling $6,000 for information leading to a
The parents were roaming east of
Yellowstone, perhaps on a den-seeking expedition, when the male
vanished near Red Lodge. Biologists guess the female, while waiting
for her missing mate, had no time to prepare an underground den
before giving birth.
It was the first sure sign
of reproduction among wolves shipped from Canada to Yellowstone
under a federal plan to repopulate America's first national park
with its leading predator. Biologists had not counted on any pups
this year and were elated that one of the three park wolf packs had
launched a family so soon.
"It's a great,
promising sign that the process has worked so far," " said
Yellowstone Park biologist Mike Phillips.
find was not without its drawbacks.
managers feared for the pups, born some 40 miles from Yellowstone
Park, without a father, on private land and near the homes of Red
Lodge, population 2,000.
Since the female wolf
has no pack to bring her food while she nurses, biologists will
fill in by hauling meat to her. They must also try to earn the
support of local residents. Landowners have been cooperative so
"It would be nicer if it were in the park,
but this is reproduction and that's part of what we're trying to
do," " Fontaine said.
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