Eight is enough

After losing their father to an illegal shooting outside of Red Lodge, Mont., eight wolf pups and their mother are in a holding pen in Yellowstone National Park. After some agonizing over the decision, federal biologists decided to move the single-parent family to the one-acre enclosure. For now, the mother receives fresh elk, deer and moose meat twice a week, says Joe Fontaine, leader of the federal wolf-recovery project. The menu consists of "carcasses, roadkill, anything that falls over," which biologists drop into the pen for the mother to retrieve. The mother, who is lactating heavily, continues to nurse the pups. On June 5, when they were six weeks old, the pups already weighed as much as seven pounds. Life for them has been simple so far, says Fontaine, who has observed them "playing with bones, chewing on hides, doing what pups normally do."

Adding to the family, but on the outside, is the mother wolf's yearling daughter who has been hanging around the pen. Fontaine hopes she'll "join mama and help raise the little pups. They'll need it." Life after the release as early as July will likely be mobile; Fontaine anticipates the mother moving the family "from kill site to kill site, going to where the food is."

* Shea Andersen