Sisters Kill Three, Eat One!

Middle Grey and her sister (the so-called “Black Lamar Female”) raided a coyote den yesterday. The distraught coyote parents yipped and barked and howled from a short distance away but they were no match for the two Lamar Canyon wolves.

Actually, a third member of the Lamar pack was also on the scene, a male called Big Grey.  But mostly he sat and watched and kept the coyotes at bay.  For a few comic-relief minutes a bull bison sauntered over and chased the wolves from the den, apparently lending support to the coyotes.

After an hour of digging like tunnel rats through roots and rocks in what was obviously a tight place (the wolf would disappear underground completely from view) three pups were dragged out one at a time and quickly dispatched.

It was a dramatic scene, and even Dr. Doug Smith, the biologist responsible for the reintroduction of wolves back into YNP since 1995 was in attendance. He told me that since the den was located smack in the middle of Lamar Valley, the home turf of the Lamar Canyon Pack, this killing was probably not food related so much as the asserting of territorial rights by wolves whose typical prey preference somewhat overlaps that of the coyotes.

Even so, we watched the wolves eat at least one coyote pup on the spot, and then the Black Lamar Female trotted the mile or so back to their den with a dead pup in her mouth.  (Her sister, Middle Grey, has a litter of pups up in the hills.)

spitfire w. coyote pup

All three of the Lamar wolves split up and were returning to their den via circuitous routes, apparently to confuse the coyotes.  I lost track of two of them but was snapping pictures of the Black Female with her prize as she made her way home, stopping every few minutes and dropping her bounty to rest and look around.

Suddenly not twenty yards from me out of the corner of my eye I caught a rush of movement.  Still peering through the viewfinder I whirled and started shooting, everything unfolding so fast that it wasn’t until later looking at the images on a computer that I could figure out what happened.

Middle Grey darted by lickety-split.

middle grey Lamar wolfShe plunged rather unceremoniously into a briar patch.

middle grey Lamar wolfThen came the coyotes in hot pursuit.  First the male – and he was flying, legs barely touching the ground!

coyote chasing middle greyI had been told that this coyote suffered terribly from mange all winter and you can still see some bare patches on his side and tail.

Note that the coyotes are drenched from having just chased Middle Grey through the fast-moving Lamar River.

coyote chasing middle grey Then came the female.  She has just helplessly watched her den decimated and her three pups killed and yet she is in brave pursuit of an alpha wolf twice her size.

coyote chasing middle greyYes, Nature is “red in tooth and claw,” as Charles Darwin observed.  But if we refrain from moralizing and resist the urge to anthropomorphize, Nature regulates and balances herself just fine.

🙂 🙂 🙂

13 Replies to “Sisters Kill Three, Eat One!”

  1. Definitely tough to watch and read about, but you are absolutely right. There are no “good guys” and “bad guys,” just species trying to survive. Amazing photos!


    1. Thanks… Nature is what it is, and those who insist on viewing her through rose-tinted glasses will never be able to appreciate her true majesty.


      1. I hope not. I appreciate you opening up a window to the natural world that I don’t get to see. Nature doesn’t always show us “happy” scenes. If the animals that are there are all natives to an area – they all have a role to play. We have too many coyotes here and too many turkeys since we don’t really have any large predators left that would keep things in balance.


    1. Wild, yes! YNP is untamed, unfenced, amoral. It is not a zoo or a theme park. Yellowstone is a designated “wilderness area” and by definition that means a place where you can be killed by a wild animal. Interestingly, I’m reading a book (“Death In Yellowstone”) about all the ways people (foolish and otherwise) have died here.


  2. Finally found a quiet moment to read the story of the wolves raiding the coyote den. The pictures and the description of the sequence of events amused, amazed and inspired me. We get so much media psyching us up about the next catastrophe on Earth, and our children are indoctrinated from nursery school on up to make very certain that they are continually aware and frightened of the future world they will live in. How much healthier it would be to caution them to preserve and cherish Earth, and leave it at that, and then spend the rest of the time showing these fabulous pictures and telling a story of natural balance, wildlife thriving in America, healthy populations of wild animals acting just exactly as wild animals should act, and, guess what? not starving to death on the brink of extinction. We’d have happier kids and we’d be a little closer to natural honesty and truth of reality if we took a tack like that.


    1. Nicely put. I guess I’m a bit on the ‘wild’ side myself, and certainly getting closer and closer to extinction. “And there will be one child born to carry on…”


      1. Yes, inshallah there will be. The Qur’an actually says that when Jesus returns to us, Muhammad will be beside him, and all the great Prophets other than Muhammad will be there as well. I find that image so beautiful. And I hope this time the Jews find their long-awaited Messiah among them. The philosophies behind the great religions are inspirational and wise. It’s just the politics of humans which confuse, obfuscate and criminalize people from faiths not understood and respected. It’s learned ignorance, not wisdom that messes us up, I believe. Beautiful shot of dawn today, too, oops. Thanks so much.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s