Yellowstone white wolf

The 12-year-old alpha female wolf of Yellowstone’s Canyon pack, photographed here in January, was found severely injured and was subsequently euthanized near Gardiner, Mont., on Tuesday. Park officials are investigating the events leading up to her death.

The well-recognized white alpha female wolf that led Yellowstone’s Canyon pack for nearly a decade was found severely injured and was euthanized by park officials earlier this week.

Although the 12-year-old wolf was discovered and put down Tuesday, her demise wasn’t well known until Friday, when Yellowstone National Park officially put out word.

Longtime Yellowstone wolf-watcher Laurie Lyman said that, leading up to her final days, the alpha female was acting unusual, almost as if she had a canine version of dementia.

“She was doing sort of these erratic things, and she was by herself a lot,” Lyman said. “It was almost like she didn’t know what she was doing or where she was going.”

Yellowstone officials have shared few details about the circumstances of the wolf’s death, but have said she was “in shock” and “dying from the injuries.”

Hikers near the town of Gardiner, Montana, discovered the ailing animal, and park staff who investigated believed the famous wolf could not be saved and ended her suffering.

Yellowstone officials are seeking tips about the incident, which can be phoned into 307-344-2132 or emailed to Yell_LEO@nps.gov.

Park spokeswoman Linda Veress said the call for information does not necessarily indicate the wolf’s injuries are suspected as human-caused. A necropsy of the animal occurred, but results are not yet available.

“We put that out there just in case there is information,” she said. “We don’t know what happened to her.”

Lyman said the white wolf had been spending time right around Gardiner and was habituated. She speculated that the old female had been struck by a vehicle.

Born into the Hayden Valley pack in 2005, the white wolf was atop the Canyon pack for over nine years, tied for the longest alpha tenure of any wolf since the large canines were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. She shared that title with wolf 712M, her longtime mate, whom she was with the entire time. Together they gave birth to at least 20 pups, Veress said.

Lyman remembers the Canyon pack alpha female as a “great ambassador” for Yellowstone wolves, and probably the most reliably visible wolf in the park over the last decade. Unlike some other famous wolves, the white wolf didn’t have a big personality, Lyman said, but she was always around.

The wolf was one of only three known white wolves in Yellowstone, and she was only the third lobo in park history to exceed a dozen years of age.

One of the other 12-year-olds, the white wolf’s mate, hasn’t been seen since February and no longer wears a functional tracking collar, Lyman said.

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, env@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGenviro.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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