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Field Journal: Gray Wolves of Yellowstone


Wednesday, November 13, 1996

Track station set-up
Reported by Chris Lucash

When John and I got to the Elkmont area on Tuesday, we decided to look for pup tracks to see if the pups are moving with 565F. The pups don't have radio collars yet, so we needed to search for evidence.

As we searched through the rendezvous area, we quickly realized that finding pup tracks would be nearly impossible. The forest floor was covered with a thick layer of fallen leaves and pine needles. The areas blown clear of leaves were too rocky and hard to show tracks.

We caught a glimpse of the Elkmont male 538M several times as he skirted around us through the trees. I tried to locate 565F by radio signal but heard nothing. John and I both thought we heard the footsteps of more than one wolf coming from 538M's direction, but the thick foliage of the evergreen rhododendron trees made it impossible to see.

We decided to drop the carcass of a road-killed deer at the site to draw the pack out of the forest. We selected an area of soft, sandy soil, and we raked the leaves and rocks clear and smoothed out the dirt around the carcass. When the wolves come to investigate the carcass later, they will leave footprints in the soft dirt. John or I will come back tomorrow and check the tracks. This method of documenting the occurrence of animals is known as a "track station." It may be difficult to tell how many wolves will have been there, but if pups come to the carcass, their smaller tracks will be easily distinguishable from their parents.

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