Associated Press No. 9 was first to give birth

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK (AP) - Wolf No. 9, the first of Yellowstone National Park's transplanted wolves to give birth and one of its most prolific breeders, may have been deposed yet again as the lead female in her pack.

Recent observations suggest the female wolf, one of the original transplants to Yellowstone from Canada in 1995, has been supplanted as alpha, or dominant, female of the newly formed Valentine pack by No. 153, a younger black female.

Biologists earlier had speculated that after No. 9 had left the Rose Creek pack that she had long headed in Yellowstone, she would die alone, as many older wolves do.

But she surprised them by joining up with three other wolves to form the new Valentine pack east of Yellowstone. She was observed in mating behavior with one of the males, leading to speculation she had become the pack's alpha female. Typically, only the alpha female breeds.

However, Tim Eicher of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who is tracking the pack, said more recent observations peg No. 153 as the dominant female.

Older wolves often lose their place in the hierarchy of their pack and either leave on their own or are driven off by other pack members.

No. 9 was the first Yellowstone wolf to breed, giving birth to a litter of pups near Red Lodge in early 1995.

After her mate was shot illegally nearby, biologists moved No. 9 and her pups back to Yellowstone, where they formed the nucleus of the Rose Creek pack, one of the most enduring and productive of the roughly 10 packs now roaming in and around Yellowstone.

No. 9 has produced five litters in Yellowstone.

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