I am up very early today and out by 4:30. It’s a pleasant 41 degrees
I notice gorgeous morning sounds – a night hawk, ground-nesting birds, bird voices like crazy singing away. There is a beautiful moon following me as I drive west. Man, it’s gorgeous here! You haven’t lived until you see a river lit by moonlight alone.
I get to the Footbridge at 5AM (trying to learn my lesson from last trip when I was a half hour late). It seems like there are no wolf indications this morning. I hear Doug M say “I’m gonna go to the carcass” I presume he means the one at Fisherman’s. The moon is suddenly swallowed by clouds and it starts to snow!
I stop at Fisherman’s to try to see the bear Doug says is on the carcass. It’s a cinnamon black but I can barely see it through the snow.
Rick, Calvin & Lynette, Bill W, Jeremy and Doug M are all here. Jeremy tells me he saw the new Prospect Peak Pack’s pups last night from S curves.
Several of us decide to head there. As I drive I notice a lovely new dusting of snow on all the mountains. There is thick fog at Slough but at least the moon is out again.
We have light fog all the way and I worry the drive will be for nothing. But then I see a black bear walking on the far side of Phantom Lake. He is close to the edge and reflected in the still water. A few ducks on the Lake flap their wings suddenly which scares the bear up the hill!
I pull into the Nature Trail lot and follow the others out into the flats about a quarter mile, where more of the pack's rendezvous area can be seen. This is the home of the new Prospect Peak Pack – an offshoot of the large 8 Mile Pack that we watched in the wintertime. The alphas are 763M and 821F. There is a forested area that we call “the den forest” and Rick explains a few more geographical markers to help us describe the area in case we see anything.
And we do. At first I see just some random movement on the far edge of the forest – bodies passing between the tree trunks.
We also hear coyotes barking behind us. They make that sound when wolves are near, so we were looking both sides. Ahh, there is a gray on the north side of the road, escorted by two coyotes. They move out of sight and I go back to looking for pups.
I see more activity between the trunks of the trees, then suddenly a wolf emerges into the open. It's a black yearling - and trotting behind him are three puppies! A bold black and two grays. They are very small, maybe only 2 months old. I see a regurgitation by the black adult and romping by pups.
Then a snow squall comes in and they move out of sight into a gully. Carl is on North Butte and can see a bit more. He radios Rick. It’s a grapple storm so it’s dry rather than wet. We stay out, hoping to see more wolves but they stay out of sight.
While we are waiting we see two sandhills and two hawks, as well as pronghorn, elk, and bison.
A raven flies over with something in its mouth. Another squall comes in and ruins our chances. Laurie & I discuss going south to Canyon but we decide against it. Calvin & Lynette do go and find a black and a gray on the western telephone pole side.
Eventually the snow squalls defeat us and we head back east. I stop at the osprey nest. I get a good look then the grapple comes in again. I realize I am driving in the same direction as the storm – so it will be with us for a while.
I stop at Fisherman’s, but still can’t see the carcass well enough, so I decide to go in early.
There will be new snow on the mountains in the morning. There are bison all over the big fan, more than I’ve ever seen. They are everywhere.
Rick tells us he has signals for 911 and 926 in the Hitching Post area. But the weather is still so unsettled we decide to go in.
I have a nice nap and a lovely chat with Laurie and Dorothy. Betsy invites me to carpool with her for the evening viewing.
We see a fox between Baronette and the Moose Meadow.
Betsy and I decide to go to Blacktail. We find a place to park and join the people watching. Again I see the three pups. Just them, no adults. Becky & Chloe arrive and we all watch the little cuties.
On our way back we have a black bear at Lower Hellroaring. And at Floating Island Lake I show Betsy the sandhill crane nest in the marsh where Doug showed me.
We have mule deer at Yellowstone Bridge and elk crossing the road in Little America.
By 8:45 we have reached Fisherman’s. Calvin and Lynette are here. There is a grizzly on the bison carcass, a nice looking one with a typical “grizzled” vest. Calvin has also noticed a bison calf carcass at the river’s edge on the north side. Probably drowned in the current trying to cross. There are 2 bald eagles pecking on it. Hmm, I bet other animals will find it, too in the coming days.
We head home in the dark and I’m glad I don’t have to drive.
Today I saw: 3 black bears, 1 grizzly bear, bison, 2 coyotes, 3 sandhill cranes, mule deer, 2 bald eagles, elk, a fox,
2 hawks, an osprey, pronghorn, 5 wolves (all from Prospect Peak pack – including 3 pups) and the spirit of Allison