Remembering Limpy’: The Life and Death of Wolf 253


Limpy – Wolf 253

On March 28, 2008, almost seven years ago, a cherished Druid Peak pack wolf named Limpy,  was shot dead outside Daniel,Wyoming.  It happened on the day wolves, in the Northern Rockies, lost their ESA protections for the first time, by the then Bush Administration. 

“He died for nothing”  said Lake City resident Marlene Foard.  A senseless death for a beloved wolf.

RIP Limpy – we remember and miss you!

Here is Limpy’s story told  by the and Earth Justice.


The life and death of wolf 253

Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2008 12:00 am


A wolf died the other day in Wyoming. Along with three others, it was shot and killed on the first day that wolves in most of the state lost the protection of the Endangered Species Act. These were legal kills made by people simply because they could. Nothing more was required of them but to report the kills to state officials – no license, no fees, no restrictions.

For sportsmen, one of the proudly held rules is: “Know Your Target.” What did these hunters know about their targets?

One of the four dead wolves was a female that may have been pregnant. Two of the males were unknown and will be remembered simply as body count numbers in the West’s war on wolves. But one wolf has a history known to many throughout the region. To some he was “Limpy,” to others he was “The Wanderer.” Officially, he was 253M, the 253rd wolf to be radio-collared in the Greater Yellowstone area since wolves were reintroduced in the mid-90s.

253M was born in April 2000 into the Druid Peak Pack, whose territory encompasses Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar Valley. His father was likely 21M, a leader of renown and a story unto himself. 21M was one of the first generation of wolves born in Yellowstone in more than 60 years.

253M was black, as are nearly half of Yellowstone’s wolves. Before he was two, he was injured defending his territory from intruders from a nearby pack. Although the Druids held their territory, 253M’s left hind leg was injured, causing a life-long limp distinguishing him from other wolves.

In the fall of 2002, he left his home territory, typical behavior for wolves of that age. Later that fall, on Nov. 30, 253M was accidentally caught in a trap set for coyotes about 20 miles northeast of Salt Lake City, making him the first confirmed wolf in Utah in more than 70 years. Tracks around the site suggested that he was traveling with another wolf – perhaps they were a pair exploring for a place to begin a new life.

253M was taken back to Wyoming and released three days later by a federal biologist south of Yellowstone Park. He made his way back to the Druid Pack before Christmas, surprising the “experts,” who thought he would immediately head back south.

This second time around, he remained with the Druids for nearly two years and rose to the level of second-ranking male – subordinate only to the now-famous, but aging, 21M. In the summer of 2004, 21M died, and most observers thought that 253M would take over as leader of the Druids. But again, he managed to fool the experts and waged only a minor battle with “New Black,” as the victor and new Druid leader came to be known.

Immediately after New Black assumed his alpha status, 253M broke from the pack and began wandering about Yellowstone, mostly undetected, only to unexpectedly appear on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole – 90 miles south of his birthplace – alone, but looking healthy.

It was in early 2005 that 253M may have fathered his only offspring. He was observed with another male and female, and 5 pups, forming the new Flat Creek Pack. But within a year, 253M again headed south, and the Flat Creek Pack dissolved. The cause of the sudden disintegration of this new pack will never be known. Was 253M simply living up to one of his names, The Wanderer?

Meanwhile, the Daniel Pack, which roamed across a mix of ranching and wild lands 60 miles southeast of Jackson, was implicated in cattle depredations and thus under constant surveillance and control. Sometime in the next year or so, 253M found his way into this persecuted pack.

During his eight years of travel across thousands of miles and at least two states, 253M was never accused of any destruction of human property. He was a “good wolf” – one who adapted to his human-dominated world. The kind of wolf we should be able to live with.

But on the morning of March 28, his luck ran out. Not because of anything he did, but because of what a minority of people in Wyoming wanted – to take all protection off wolves in 88 percent of the state, where anyone can now kill any wolf by any means at any time. 253M and three others were killed for nothing more than being wolves in Wyoming’s politically designated predator zone.

253M and other wolves are now dead in Wyoming because some don’t want wolves in the Equality State.

Now we “Know The Target.” What have we learned?

Franz Camenzind is executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance.


Uploaded April 2009 DOW


Limpy: The Story of Wolf 253

Wolf 253 was one of the first casualties as the federal government stripped Endangered Species protections for gray wolves in the northern Rockies. But this particular wolf was unique.

He was known by the nicknames of “Limpy” or “Hoppy,” depending on who you talk to; the name comes from an old injury that left him crippled for life. His official designation was Wolf 253, part of the wolf population brought back from the verge of extinction in the northern Rockies, and one of 1,500 gray wolves that lost federal protections in March when the federal government “delisted” wolves from the Endangered Species Act.

And on March 28, 2008, he was shot dead.

Limpy wasn’t just any old wolf. His distinctive gait, walking on three legs, made him one of the more easily recognized wolves in Yellowstone. Among his pack, too, he was unique: he was taller than Wolf 21, his father and the alpha male of the Druid pack that roamed the open fields in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley.

Wolf-watchers in the northern Rockies say Limpy grew up charging after elk at the same speed as the rest of his pack, despite the injury that hobbled him as a pup. He played an important role in the Druid pack, tending to pups and defending the pack’s main den from bears.

As a young male, Limpy left the safety and security of the Druid pack and struck out on his own. He trotted south out of Yellowstone Park, and traveled across southern Wyoming until he crossed the Utah border. A trapper chasing coyotes in the mountains 20 miles from Salt Lake City caught Limpy in one of his traps. It was November, 2002, and the first confirmed wolf sighting in Utah in 70 years.

Once, hundreds of thousands of wolves roamed the great expanse of the northern Rockies. Decimated by decades of unregulated slaughter and persecution, gray wolves were pushed to the brink of extinction. In 1973, gray wolves became one of the first animals to appear on the Endangered Species list. With the help of legal protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act, wolves in the northern Rockies had begun making a comeback when Hoppy arrived.

The wolf trapper called the US Fish and Wildlife, who sent a man down from Wyoming to fetch Limpy. The injured wolf was loaded in the back of a truck and driven to the far northern stretches of Grand Teton National Park, where he was released back into the wild two days later.

“He was a hell of a wolf,” recalls one veteran wolf-watcher. “After he was released with a hurt foot from the coyote trap, he crossed the territories of probably four hostile wolf packs in order to rejoin his old pack in Yellowstone Park.”

No one witnessed Limpy’s reunion with the Druid pack; it happened under cover of darkness. But the next morning, when one avid wolf-watcher and local photographer spotted Limpy back with his former pack, he was stunned.

“He was in bad shape,” recalled the photographer. “Must’ve been down to two and a half legs.”

Survival is a strong instinct, and so is the natural inclination of wolves to live in close-knit families and packs. Limpy was welcomed back to the Druid pack, and resumed the life he’d known years before.

Eventually, Limpy left the safety of Yellowstone and headed south again. He spent a year near an elk refuge near Jackson, then moved on toward Pinedale, feeding on elk, an occasional deer, and probably a smattering of jackrabbits and mice.

Limpy must have known that elk could be found around man-made feeding grounds, where elk are concentrated and disease is easily transmitted. Limpy was one of many wolves who preyed on elk grazing the land, helping keep the populations in check and thinning the herds of the sick and weak.

Limpy had, however, crossed into Sublette County, where local grocery stores sell bumper stickers that read “Wolves — Government-sponsored terrorists!” Some ranchers and farmers don’t hold much love for wolves, which they see only as predator… despite the fact that many animals are, by their very nature, predators. It’s a brutal fact of nature. It’s how they survive.

In the end, Limpy’s venture outside the safety of Yellowstone Park’s official boundaries proved fatal. After eight years spent traveling over thousands of miles, he was shot — along with another male and a female wolf — near the elk feeding ground a few miles outside Daniel, Wyoming on March 28, 2008. He became one of the first casualties in a resurrected war against wolves that began the day the federal government stripped Endangered Species protections from gray wolves across the northern Rockies.

Limpy’s death was reported to the state, as required under new Wyoming wolf rules, and word of his killing quickly spread across the Internet. The Salt Lake City Tribune picked up the story, and talked with several people who were fans of the old wolf with the bum leg.

“He died for nothing,” lamented Salt Lake City resident Marlene Foard. “If there was a reason to kill him, I could live with that. But there wasn’t.”

Another reader wrote in an e-mail, “I think they have no idea what they have done by killing this particular wolf.”

And Franz Camenzind, executive director of the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, said people knew wolves had been hanging around the feeding ground, but none had been seen attacking cattle herds or destroying human property. As Camenzind told the Salt Lake City Tribune, Limpy was “a good wolf. He covered thousands of miles and didn’t cause any trouble.”

Come fall, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana expect to approve formal, legalized wolf hunts. Right now, except for a small area just outside Yellowstone in Wyoming, all you need is just a gun and a steady aim to legally shoot a wolf.

But there’s still hope for the rest of the wolves in the northern Rockies. In the past, Earthjustice has opposed several previous versions of Wyoming’s plans to declare wolves enemies of the state, and this time around we’re heading back to court to press for reinstating ESA protection for gray wolves in the region.

Our goal is to get the federal government to come up with a more realistic wolf recovery plan… something that recognizes recent science findings about a species that fought for 30 years to recover from nearly a century of devastating slaughter. The current plan could allow Idaho, Wyoming and Montana to hunt down wolves far and wide, and reduce a population of 1,500 wolves across three states to a mere 300 survivors.

Sadly, Limpy won’t be among their numbers.


Photo: Courtesy Steve Justad

Posted in:  wolf 253,  Endangered Species Act,  Wolf wars

Tags: Endangered Species Act, wolf intolerance, Limpy, Wolf 253, Druid Peak Pack, RIP Limpy

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