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The Alpha Female

In a previous post I explained the differences between prey, defense and fight drive as I observe them. I was delighted to see this post by Will Stenberg confirming my observation as he explains the difference in killing approach between the alpha female (pictured above), and typical prey behavior of wolves;

"You may have heard of the 06 Female. One of Yellowstone's most famous wolves, she has been the subject of numerous books, podcasts - even songs and poems.

She was the granddaughter of the great 21 and his first mate in the Druid Pack, 40 - the tyrannical and infanticidal queen who was overthrown by her sister, 42, who would lead the Druids to greatness alongside 21.

So the 06 Female came from royal lineage. But she began to attract attention in Yellowstone because, for years after leaving her natal pack, she chose to be alone. A popular cliche, lone wolves in reality are extremely rare. Male or female, a wolf's first priority upon leaving home is almost always to start a family.

The 06 Female seemed to have no interest in this. Unusually large for a female wolf, she was also distinctly beautiful, and was courted by all of the biggest, most high-value potential mates in the Park. In one mating-season she had 5 different suitors, which expert observers declared a record.

She turned everyone down - and if they persisted, she beat the hell out of them.

Part of the reason lone wolves are so rare is that life is hard for wolves even in packs - alone, it's almost impossible. A typical wolf hunting party is 4 wolves, with yearlings chasing down, exhausting, and routing prey before a big male delivers the killing bite.

Even then, wolf hunts only succeed about 15% of the time.

The 06 Female? She did all of this by herself, bringing down 700 pound elk regularly - once, 2 within about 10 minutes.

But her method was equally extraordinary. Wolves typically chase their prey. She liked to fight them. In other words, she would face off with an enraged elk as it attempted to rear up and crush her, agilely dodging its blows before, finally, leaping into the air and crushing its throat.

This is atypical in every way: dangerous and cost-prohibitive. But she seemed to relish the battle.

When, in middle-age, she finally decided to mate, she surprised everyone again. Rejecting all the big bad wolves offering to start dynasties with her, she chose two male yearlings - basically, teenage wolves who didn't know their ass from their elbow - to be her mates. This went against tradition again in that wolves tend to be pair-bonded. She formed a trio.

Then, she taught these kids how to hunt.

Together, they started the Lamar Canyon Pack, and the 06 Female again shocked wolf experts by bringing all of her pups through their first year of life, a practically unheard-of feat.

Meanwhile, she mystified and amazed in another way. Doug Smith, the Park's most expert wolf darter - and possibly the best in the world - spent 3 years trying to dart and collar her. This is a good practice, unfortunately necessary for the protection of the wolf population, but Doug talks eloquently about how she would look him straight in the eye with an expression of total and complete disdain - and then, basically, disappear, using the terrain to make her impossible to target.

There are many more stories about her, which can be learned in books like American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee or The Alpha Female Wolf by Rick McIntyre. Her grandmother, 40, was a violent and unpredictable leader who started a war with a rival pack, a war that the 06 Female inherited. The story of how she saved her family from these rivals is epic.

Unfortunately, the story of how she lost her life is not. She wandered out of the Park and was shot.

Since wolves have been delisted, the GOP-led states around Yellowstone have declared open season, based partly on outdated and overblown ideas about their threat to livestock - in reality minimal, and easy to compensate for - and partly as a byproduct of a culture-war mentality that sees wolves as a negative essentially because they were reintroduced by people considered political opponents.

Ultimately, the value placed on the 06 Female's life was the cost of a wolf-hunting license: about $15."

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