She was the alpha female of Yellowstone’s Lamar Canyon pack, the most famous wolf in the world, with many names. The O6 female, collared wolf 832f, Rockstar but she was most commonly called O6, after her birth year. She was the granddaughter of the beloved Druid Peak Pack alphas, 42F and 21M. She was a legend.
From Notes From The Field:
“She left her family as a young adult and lived a colorful and independent life for the next few years. She became a master elk hunter, one of the best in Yellowstone, and was famous for killing elk by herself. In addition, 06 had scores of suitors over the years. During one mating season she bred with five different males. She left each of those males, however, and
continued to live independently sometimes in temporary association with a few other wolves, sometimes as a lone wolf.
When she was nearly four years old, in early 2010, 06 finally settled down. She ran into two yearling brothers who had just dispersed from their pack. They were later collared and given the numbers 754 and 755. At the time that 06 met the two brothers, they had already started a partnership with seven sisters who controlled a high quality territory. Their father, the
pack’s alpha male, had recently left the group and the sisters needed new males. Despite the brothers being in such favorable circumstances, 06 managed to lure them away from the other females and they joined her in establishing a new pack. That event said a lot about 06. The brothers judged her to be more valuable than seven females.
Being only yearlings, the two brothers had not bred while 06 had more experience. Perhaps due to the significant difference in their ages and experience levels, the brothers, with 755 as alpha male, were willing to let 06 be the undisputed leader of the new group they formed: the Lamar Canyon Pack. Both brothers bred with 06 a month later. She discovered an old wolf den near Slough Creek and prepared it for her pups. The site was centrally located in an area with enough prey to support her family. But it had one disadvantage: grizzlies were very common in the region. In mid-April, 06 had four gray pups in that den: two males and two females. Since the opening to the den was visible from the road, we often saw 06 nursing the pups and carrying them back into the den when they strayed too far away.
Fiercely protective of her pups, 06 frequently had to deal with grizzlies that approached her den. She would run at a bear, get behind it, bite the rear end, then run off in the opposite direction of her pups. The grizzly would chase her, but could not match her speed or agility. When the bear stopped, 06 would run back, bite it again on the hind quarters and draw it further away. In one case she spent twelve hours decoying a grizzly away from her pups before she felt it was lured a safe distance away and only then returned to the den. That fall, when the pups were old enough to travel, she led her pack a few miles to the east and resettled her family in Lamar Valley. That had been the territory of her ancestors, the Druid Peak Pack..”
Sadly, on a cold December day in 2012, her life came to a sudden and ugly end. Brought down by a hunter’s bullet, as she ranged outside the safety of Yellowstone’s boundaries, something she rarely did, the wolf who had come to mean so much to so many, was no more.
Now a book and film are memorializing her life. She is the ambassador for all wolves who’ve suffered and died due to the unnecessary delisting of gray wolves and speedy wolf hunts that followed in 5 states: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin with Michigan not far behind. UPDATE: On September 23, 2014, District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson reinstated ESA protections for Wyoming wolves, it is now illegal to kill a wolf in Wyoming.
I hope the film, along with celebrating her life, will confront why wolves are being hunted at all. O6 and thousands of other wolves, who’ve been brought down by hunter’s bullets, would still be with us today if they hadn’t been betrayed by Congress and the Obama administration. The infamous budget bill wolf delisting rider, passed in 2011, wiped out decades of wolf recovery and seriously weakened the Endangered Species Act. Now wolves face a USFWS national delisting, which would remove all federal protections for wolves in the lower 48, including areas where they remain listed, including western Oregon and Washington.
The movie and book are called American Wolf. Thank you Leonardo for taking on this project to tell the O6 story. It’s well worth telling and in the process will elevate the discussion of the importance of wolves. This could be a game changer!