But, after a territorial confrontation with the newly released Druid Peak pack in May 1996, Crystal Creek alpha female 5F and a male subordinate 6M left Lamar Valley behind to make a new home, about 25 miles to the south, in Pelican Valley. In the summertime, the high-altitude interior of the park is plentiful with elk; however, elk tend to migrate to lower elevations during the winter months. To supplement their winter diet, the Crystal Creek pack was the first wolf pack in Yellowstone to hunt bison. In 2000, the Crystal Creek pack was renamed the Mollie's pack after the late Mollie Beattie, the courageous U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director whose efforts were so instrumental to wolf reintroduction. The lineage of big and strong males makes the Mollie's pack ideal bison hunters to this day.
1155M was born into the Mollie's pack to alpha pair 779F and 980M in 2014. At the age of 2, he dispersed with two brothers, 1014M and 1015M. The three ventured into the neighboring Wapiti Lake pack territory, where they met the white alpha female and her yearling daughter. The males joined the females, displacing 8-year-old Wapiti alpha male 755M (06s former mate) from his pack in the process.
In late November 2018, the Wapitis left their home and traveled north looking for better elk hunting opportunities. As the Wapitis crossed into the eastern portion of rival 8-Mile pack’s territory, they defeated the alpha male and other male members of the 8-Mile pack. Afterwards, 1155M remained with the 8-Mile pack alongside his brother, 1015M, who became the new alpha male of the pack.
During the 2021 breeding season, while searching for a mate, 1155M ventured outside of Yellowstone. The Montana wolf trophy hunting season was underway which meant the wilderness was a dangerous place for a wolf to be. About 20 miles north of the park, on a private ranch, a trapper had hidden a steel-jawed leghold trap beneath some dirt in hopes of catching an unsuspecting animal. When 1155M took a step forward, his paw inadvertently landed on the pan, causing the trap's spring-loaded jaws to snap together, crushing his foreleg, and holding him against his will. Although 1155M tried desperately to escape, the efforts to pull his leg free just led to more pain and suffering as the jaws cut deeper into his limb.
A trap is a barbaric, cruel and inhumane device; a wolf caught in one will endure immense pain and distress until they die from injury, starvation, or the trapper eventually arriving to kill it. A wolf may even attempt to chew off his or her trapped limb out of desperation to escape. More than 100 countries have banned or heavily restricted the use of these traps; however only a small number of states in the U.S. have banned or restricted their use.
Immobilized by the trap, 1155M was helpless and vulnerable. On Feb. 15, 2021, Greg Gianforte, the newly elected governor of the state of Montana, was the trapper who approached the desperate wolf. Surely, the large radio collar fitted around 1155Ms neck was visible to Gov. Gianforte and he recognized the wolf as important to the scientific research conducted in nearby Yellowstone National Park.
While Gov. Gianforte could have chosen to release the trap and set 1155M free, instead he opted to kill him. “I put a lot of time in over many, many years and not every sportsman is fortunate to ultimately harvest a wolf,” said Gov. Gianforte, who later added that he planned to mount it on his wall. The term “harvest” is a euphemism that sugar-coats the killing of animals. Crops are harvested. Wolves are killed.
Yellowstone's wolf tourism has a positive economic impact on Montana's economy and supports the livelihoods of local business owners in the communities surrounding the park. 1155M was valuable alive to a wide range of Montana's residents and visitors alike and to science and research; nevertheless, the Yellowstone wolf is another dead wolf, killed for the sake of one individual — not for sustenance — for his trophy.
Photographer Argyle discusses the struggle wolves have to survive in the wild and even more so in a world where people set out to exterminate them. She explores what it means to be a wolf in Yellowstone through stunning photography and personal observations about the Wapiti Lake pack and other notable wolves. Argyle also includes information about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone and the ongoing concern of wolves no longer listed as an endangered species. 2022
The epic story of 21M and 42F is documented, with footage and production by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Bob Landis. Popular Yellowstone wolf 302M (Casanova) makes an appearance in this film.