The Gros Ventre Wilderness lies just east of Jackson in western Wyoming. The name “Gros Ventre” is French, meaning “big belly”. It is roughly bounded by the Gros Ventre River to the north, the Green River to the east, the Hoback River to the south and the National Elk Refuge and Snake River to the west.
Ken Mills, biologist Wyoming Fish and Game reported that outside Yellowstone National Park, the Gros Ventre is typically the most wolf-dense landscape in Wyoming. Yet the large carnivores and the sign they leave behind were nowhere to be seen last Thursday.
What he did find– was a dead wolf and after inspecting the carcass he determined it had been killed by another wolf. GPS data suggests that 1037F’s misfortune was a run-in with the Slate Creek Pack, which has controlled the western side of the Upper Gros Ventre since forming in 2015.
An offshoot of the National Elk Refuge’s Pinnacle Peak Pack, the Slate Creek wolves numbered 14 when assessed a year ago, enough to make them the biggest pack in Wyoming outside Yellowstone at the time. Mills notes that he thinks they are acting like Yellowstone wolves right now.
Fewer elk now in February 2018 after the ungulate game hunting could be a factor. Biologists believe that fewer elk in the Gros Ventre is due to a behavioral shift.
The Slate Creek wolves had also set themselves up for a run-in with the Pinnacle Peak Pack, a formidable group of wolves that claims a valuable winter prey source: the National Elk Refuge’s thousands of ungulates.
Going back to December 15, 2015, when wolves were still listed they had the highest number of elk since 2003. The state ought to be thanking wolves instead of delisting them. Further proving that the wolves are not to blame when elk population drops plus we continue to see more hunters and hunting licenses being sold. The Jackson Hole elk populations were thriving. Hunters said that the bad news was that too many had decided to winter on the National Elk Refuge instead of the Gros Ventre River drainage, which means that not enough elk consider public land home.
At least for the time being, a clash is not imminent between rival wolf packs. Both packs’ whereabouts was another twist in what’s proving to be a weird winter for the Gros Ventre and its lack of wapiti and wolves.
“Wolves are overlapping at the moment,” Mills said, “and there’s a lot of shifting going on because of elk distribution.