This morning I find a good deal of overnight snow on the car. But itís light and fluffy Montana snow, easy to brush off. And itís still snowing! I drive all the way to Lamar before stopping. The road conditions are much better than yesterday.
As expected, the Lamars have a carcass. We donít know if itís the bull from the river or the spike from the cliff, or some other animal. But neither elk we saw yesterday is visible today.
I set up at the Institute with Kathie, Chloe & Becky, Coleen and Des. Laurie found them early this morning at first light. They are south of south of the road in the river corridor, out by the cottonwoods. The carcass itself is in a gully, so we canít determine what it is but the good news is that it is far enough from the road for safe viewing and close enough for good viewing.
I watch 925M, worried that he might have taken a hurt yesterday, but he looks fine. The big black pup with the GPS collar and another black pup are the most visible. The bank is steep, and the wolves disappear below the edge when they are eating. They are also obscured but many willows lining the bank.
After a while the pups move off and begin to play and roughhouse together. It is sweet to see. These are grandchildren of the 06 and I am happy to see them looking so fit and healthy.
I move to mid-point and find itís a better view. 926F appears and starts to play with her pups, which is even sweeter. She is smaller than ALL of them!
As I drove here from the Institute I was shocked to see the temp gauge. Itís minus 6! Whew! Now I know why Iím so cold!
I watch 925M a while. He has lots of blood on his chest and shoulders from eating. Grays always show the blood, and as the alpha male, the biggest and strongest wolf in his pack, part of his job is to open a carcass for the rest, which also results in his coat getting bloody. I follow him as he walks across the frozen river and its snow-covered ice, taking care to listen and step carefully, so he doesnít crack through. By 12:45 the day has warmed to 13 degrees, above zero. The snow has finally stopped delivering the very first sunny day of this trip. Itís just beautiful!
Now that the wolves have bedded, itís time for the coyotes. We watch 3 of them approach the carcass area. At one point one of the coyotes runs at the birds, foolishly drawing the attention of the wolves. Several of them get up and the big black pup starts stalking. Several of his siblings follow him and eventually four of them run towards the carcass. The coyotes scatter and get out of there fast.
Of course, now that the coyotes have gone, the pups feel the need for another snack. They all disappear from view. Then one by one they come back out and bed down for a nap in the sun.
After this I take a break to warm up. I drive east and find sheep on Eyebrow rock by Hitching Post and bison in the snowy flats near a frozen channel of the Lamar. I also see coyote tracks all along the river. They are so cool, straight and singular, telling the story of a coyote patrol. I take a short nap in the Pebble Creek parking lot and when I wake I watch a big bull moose in the willows of Round Prairie.
Itís so nice to see the snow under sunlight.
I head back west and as I pass Picnic I notice three photogs out in the flats with cameras facing the river. No one is coming so I stop in the road to look. Sure enough Ė itís otters! They seem to be dancing in the open water.
I watch them a while, then move back to mid-point, noticing another car off the road Ė this one even deeper in than the suburban from yesterday. There is no one in the car so I drive on.
I find the Lamar wolves are right where I left them. I join Story and Dave and Steve. For a while we watch sleeping wolves but around 4PM they start moving and we have a chance to show lots of people their first wolves. First we watch a coyote trot cockily toward the carcass. When he gets close, Big Gray stands up. The coyote takes one look at him and freezes in place. I donít know if Big Gray cares about the coyote, I think heís just stretching. As soon as he re-beds coyote decides heís actually not that hungry after all. He turns and gets the heck outta Dodge. Hah!
We watch a large bull elk walking slowly east to west on the old river bank above the wolves. I wonder if this might be the one stuck in the river yesterday?
At 4:45 itís a cold 1 degree above zero. The light is fading fast so I leave Lamar heading west and enjoy a very pretty sunset.
Today I saw bison, 3 coyotes, elk, a moose, otters, big horn sheep, 8 Lamar Canyon wolves and the spirit of Allison.