On my way in I stop at various places in Mammoth to listen for Canyon howling but no luck.
No one is scoping from the S curves but when I top the hill I see Linda & Larry at the Nature Trail lot, so I join them.
Richard, Des & Colleen join us. We see birds, including an eagle in a tree and coyotes which makes us suspect a carcass.
I have trouble with my hands being cold today so I try those chemical pack hand warmers for the first time. Hah. They work!
C & L tell us that Rick has 755’s signal in Lamar. We head east. Stop at Hellroaring – very beautiful but nothing moving.
Then we join Bob L at Elk Creek. He tells us he will be showing his film on the 06 at Coleen’s New Year’s Eve party.
We finally find 755 on the north side of the road. He is only visible from one spot at Dorothy’s but it’s a better view at the Institute. Story & Dave are here and we watch together.
I am so happy to see my favorite male wolf, 755. He is almost completely silver gray now, very handsome. His color reminds me of my favorite wolf of all time, 42F.
There is a bit of a buzz about Big Gray to the east, so I drive on. I arrive at Footbridge just in time. Big Gray has crossed the road from the south. I see him on the north side, where, apparently the Black female has been all day, bedded out of sight. To my delight, she appears from the trees and I see them greet each other sweetly.
She jumps on him, twirling in her excitement. She is too much! You might remember that she was one of the “flying black yearlings” I watched in July 2011, when the 06 was still alive.
Big Gray leads her uphill in the direction of the den forest. She sometimes takes the lead, other times she lets him go first. They are a well-bonded couple, but of course, we all wonder what happened to her older sister, sweet Middle Gray.
Once they are out of sight I head west again. I can tell from radio chatter that something is going on at Slough.
Here is what I was able to piece together. Calvin & Lynette were behind me heading east. When they came through, they saw 889 close to the road. She is very recognizable because 1. she is black 2. has a white-box GPS collar 3. she has a nearly useless front leg, and limps considerably.
Because of her GPS collar, we know she was outside the Park for a brief time and when she returned she could not use her front paw. There was a hunter report of a black wolf shot but not killed and her GPS record places her just outside the Park in that hunting unit on the day that incident occurred.
So, it’s possible she was the wolf that was shot. Many times when we see animals that have injured themselves naturally, they still use their injured appendage in some way. Her paw just flops.
Thank goodness that hunting unit is closed now.
She is a strong and game wolf but now she cannot hunt for herself so we hope that a male will take up with her and help her.
Anyway, while C & L were watching her cross the road, they heard howling from Slough (north). So once 889 was out of sight, Calvin went out to Bob's Knob, while Lynette climbed up Dave's hill.
I park at Slough and walk out to join them and I’m glad I did, because I get myself a three pack day. Looking west/northwest from the Knob, we see a gray bedded just past a tree and a black bedded at the bottom of a snow slope, plus three wolves, two grays and a black, bedded at the top of the berm. Eventually I see 8 Junction Butte wolves: 3 black and 5 gray. And best of all, they have a carcass in the river bed. Alas, 869 is not one of them.
(At this moment in time the alphas are 870F – restored - and 890M.) 870's sore neck seems much better. 890 is big! There is another gray with a half-mangy tail.
While these five are sleeping, another gray comes in from the west. He greets the black at the bottom of the hill, then walks up the hill to greet the alphas. Once that is done he moves to the gray on the left and stands over him/her, playfully dominating that wolf. The submissive wolf rolls on his/her back, legs in the air.
This activity gets 870 up and she travels along the top of the berm to the left, then down the slope. While she is up there, the black at the bottom gets up and moves to the carcass for a snack. Both wolves walk through the flats until one spot along the creek bed where they jump down and disappear.
Eventually another gray and another black appear in the area, making a total of 8. One by one they all disappear in to the gully by the line of willows. My phone works here so I call C & B to let them know.
I head east around 12:30 to check on 755 again. While I was watching the JB's at Slough, other folks were watching 889 make her way to 755. She went up Secret Passage and the two wolves were on a path of convergence when they went out of sight. Although we can’t help but hope that these two wolves might become a couple, I have to be realistic. It would be very good for 889 but not so good for 755 unless she recovers.
Marlene and I head back to Bob's Knob. From various indications, we can tell the wolves are still feeding, just out of sight. Travis and Mary come out, too.
The weather begins to deteriorate, with a thick snow squall coming in and lots of wind. We do manage to find the mangy-tail gray, then a black, then another gray. The snow gets thicker. After a while, it is obvious we are not going to see much more due to the thickly falling snow. So we leave around 3PM.
As we head west the snow falls more thickly. B & C drive slowly so I can keep up with them.
It’s far less snowy in Mammoth (as usual) so we stop at McMinn to watch sheep for a while.
It’s still snowing when we pull in to the Super 8.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, 11 wolves in three packs; 755 (currently a loner), 2 Lamar Canyon (Black female & Big Gray) and 8 Junction Butte wolves (870F, 890M, two more blacks and four more grays) and the spirit of Allison