This morning I step out to a world transformed – everything is dusted with snow. The temp reads 34 degrees at 4:54AM.
I still see my usual mulies just past the entrance.
First stop is Picnic to see what’s on the bison carcass today. Two bears, perhaps siblings, cavorting a bit with each other. They are most likely siblings, both the “usual” grizzly color. They definitely know each other.
There are two bald eagles in the nearby trees. At 6:00 the bears have both moved off, heading east. First one, then the other.
There is really not much left on this carcass. It looks completely flat – just the skin and a few scattered bones are left.
I head west and stop at Fisherman’s. There is a bear on this carcass but it's pretty played out, too!
I decide to go to the Blacktail again. I have a bull moose at Floating Island Lake. Nice!
It’s a chilly day, overcast, windy, with scattered snow squalls.
I get here around 7 and head out to join Rick and Bill W at “the spot”. Rick found a single black to east moving towards the den. He felt it would reappear and it did. I found it as it neared the den forest. However it crossed quickly out of sight into the trees and no other wolves came out to greet it so I was worried that might be it. But no!
15 minutes later Rick found two grays on the left (front) side of the Den Forest. I had noticed two spots there and thought they were bedded pronghorn and did not zoom in. But they are wolves! Then we see the pups come out from a gully towards the grays and then more black adults with them. A big greeting ensues, with all of them.
All in all I manage to see 8 wolves of 763’s group (later named the Prospect Peak Pack). I see the alphas: black turning gray 763M and gray 821F, another gray female, “third sister” (the same wolf I saw on the Blacktail road two weeks ago) and their three sweet pups (2 gray and one black). I stay here quite a while and watch as one drama or another plays out. There are chases in which the pups chase the adults, perhaps soliciting food, perhaps just playing. And others in which the adults chase the pups. The pups also play with each other.
Then one by one, they began to disappear back into the forest. In fact, we lose them all for a while, then find them again, low on the rocky nob, moving to the right towards the gully. Some bed for a while on the knob, then disappear into the gully.
All in all, a very nice 2 hour morning sighting! But boy, do I need coffee! I think I'll get some at Roosevelt
On my way back I see elk at the eastern end of Floating Island Lake.
I hear a crazy story about this year’s Roosevelt bear – the sow with three cubs from a couple who had breakfast earlier today at the restaurant. The sow was roaming the sage with her cubs between the road and the Roosevelt parking lot, when she apparently found, caught and killed a mule deer fawn right in front of everyone. Sent her cubs up a tree while she kept the mom deer away. They said some foreign tourists were REALLY upset.
Anyway a little later, I see the same sow above Rainy Lake. She is nursing her cubs at the bottom of a large douglass fir in the forest. I pull into the nearly empty lot where I see a ranger and a volunteer. The pullout is a perfectly safe distance from the bears, so I get out of the car with my binocs to watch. I am surprised when the ranger shoos me back into my car. He says I can drive back down the road, stop for a minute & take my photo. I tell him I don’t want to take a photo; I want to stand here and watch her. He said ok but you’ll have to get back in your car. Well, I can’t quite see them from inside my car. Hmmm. I guess this bear has everybody spooked!
Although I think this is a peculiar new rule for Roosevelt bear watching, I don’t want to set a bad example so I just leave and head back east.
In Little America, on the west side of the Lamar Bridge I see another jam so I stop and find a grizzly sow with one COY way up high on Specimen, in fact, close to the trail that goes by the sheep bluff. Cliffy is here so we talk a bit.
It’s a really nice view of the bear, and I show lots of people. The cub stands up every once in a while. The grass is really tall with lots of bright yellow wildflowers. The pair of them are grazing very close to the trail in an open section above the first thick forest.
We notice two hikers coming up the trail below the forest. Of course they have no clue about the bear and cub and the hikers did not seem to be glancing at the road. If they did they’d see all the scopes, which would have tipped them off.
The hikers do stop for a long while below the forest, looking to the west. Most likely the bears will move off once the hikers get closer but it’s a lesson for all Specimen Ridge hikers – check the road for scopes!
Mom eventually crosses the trail and climbs over a big log. It’s cute to watch the cub try to navigate that same log. They continue moving through the high grass and yellow flowers. This is where I leave them.
It’s 11:02 and only 46 degrees. It’s still mostly cloudy and the weather is still very unsettled. Laurie has finally decided to stick around for a few more days. She had been talking about leaving tomorrow. I’m glad she’ll stay.
I head east and when I come out from the canyon into Lamar, I’m suddenly driving into a snow squall. There are bison all over the road again at the Institute, and all around the cottonwoods. The big fan is shrouded in snow-fog!
I need to get back to Silver Gate to prep for the event for Doug Smith today. I change clothes at Lauries and Betsy and I decide to walk down to the Range Rider. More snow starts to fall! It comes down really heavily while we are inside.
There is a great pot luck lunch. Steve cooks four kinds of chili and sloppy joes. There is fruit salad, all kinds of snacks and crudité, and a whole table of deserts, including a particularly delicious chocolate cream pie!
Almost all my wolf watcher friends are here. Becky & Chloe invite me to sit with them. It’s cold inside. It’s an old log building, apparently the largest log structure after the Old Faithful Inn. Built in the 1800’s, straight outta Deadwood.
I am told it used to be a cathouse! There are rooms on the second floor with individual female names on the doors. Those same rooms are now rented fairly cheap to students. I wonder if their parents know?
The main room is set with long wooden tables and wooden chairs like a cafeteria. It now has a big “modern” kitchen (like 40’s/50’s modern), a bar area and a back room with a low stage for small scale presentations. There is also a small ladies room and a small men’s room. Don’t know if the upstairs has bathrooms. I wish I had gone up there to look around.
First Marlene speaks, then Rick does his stand-up act. Then Doug Smith speaks. He is very dynamic and passionate. He talks a little bit about the hunt. Says if Yellowstone wolves cross the border, they are no longer Park wolves but the “property” of the state. Really. As if a wolf knows what a state line is. Chloe objects, saying “when I go to Canada, I don’t stop being an American.”
Doug says at one point the state legislatures warned that if the Wolf Project doesn’t “do something” the states will take over wolf management in the Park and that will be very bad for wolves. He says compromise is necessary for the long term health of wolves. And he reminds us that the Wolf Project has been successful in lowering the quota in 313-316 from four to three.
He also says wolf reintroduction is a success, but there’s lots of science still to do. He thanks us all (over and over) for what we do.
While presenting some slides, he misidentifies some wolves as Agates. Laurie pipes up and says in her calm voice “Doug, those are Mollies”. This is my favorite moment of all. 8~)
Doug says the Park keeps assigning him more duties as people leave, die or move. So now his job includes wolves, elk and birds. Way too much for one person.
I get chilled and feel a sore throat coming on so when the event is over I help clean up but then leave pretty quickly and walk back to Lauries. I get into my jammies and into bed, napping for about about an hour. When I get up. It’s still snowing!
My throat is still scratchy and I don’t want a cold, so I skip going out and stay in to rest. I decide to catch up on sleep and I’m in bed by 8.
Today I saw: 4 black bears (including 3 cubs), 5 grizzly bears (including one coy), bison, mule deer,
2 bald eagles, elk, 1 moose, 8 wolves (all from the Prospect Peak Pack including the alphas, third sister
and three pups) and the spirit of Allison