DAY NINE - Saturday, June 21


Today is my last full day.

I’m up early and out at 4:37. It’s 46 warm degrees. The moon is very bright and the birds are chirping like crazy.

I see my usual few mule deer on the way in and have bison in the road at Round Prairie.

I reach Footbridge when it’s still dark but I can see elk in the flats to the south. No wolves though. Hmmm

Well, off to Trash Can. One wolf is visible on the carcass; it's the un-collared gray yearling. He has the leftovers to himself and seems to enjoy it. While we watch him from Trash Can hill someone spots a moose in Chalcedony Creek. It’s a big bull. The yearling finds more to eat than I expected, including chewing on the hide & some bones. He makes it interesting to watch him. He looks to the east with great interest for a while, but nothing develops.

Someone else finds a matched pair of grizzlies, probably siblings, perhaps the very same two that I watched among the yellow flowers two days ago.

There is a rumor going around that I do not believe, that 755 is dead. Laurie does not believe it either. I know who started the rumor and I know this person has no evidence; only an emotional and irresponsible need for attention. I try to convince other worried wolf watchers that they must consider the source. (And of course he is alive, having headed south, following his destiny to meet his eventual Canyon mate)

I drive west. There is a big bison jam with many nursing babies just east of this Institute that even Rick and Jeremy cannot find a way around.

While I am waiting for the jam to clear I enjoy hearing a meadowlark singing.

In Little America I see a coyote passing Boulder hill.

I stop at Blacktail and go out to “the spot”. I spend a fairly long time wolfless but then Jeremy finds 763 and one black pup. Hooray! We don’t have them long but it’s sweet to see the little one doing a little “hop on pop”. 763 seems quite content to have one pup behave this way. Not sure he’d stay so sweet if all three were climbing on him!

Then I go back east to attend the memorial for Brian Connolly. Luckily I avoid further bison jams and get back to Cooke in time to change clothes.

Marlene has arranged a very nice tribute for Brian, whom we lost to cancer last year. Several people do readings; all are heartfelt and moving. Best of all is a film Bob Landis prepared. He had the foresight to interview Brian and quite beautifully edited Brian’s comments about his children’s book “Alphie” over some of Bob’s nicest wolf footage.

After a short nap I drive out to Lamar around 6:30. Every time enter the Soda Butte Valley in evening light I have the same feeling. It’s so gorgeous and magical. I always struggle for a way to describe it and have not yet found the words. Something about the quality of the light on the sage, combined with the wonderful fragrance in the air, just thrills me time and time again.

The shadows are long. There is a bit of haze over everything and the sky to the east is darkening. The trees are suffused with golden light. To come into the valley like this is just breathtaking.

I find Jeremy at the Footbridge walking in the flats looking for wolf sign. I tell him I’m headed to Dorothy’s for my last night.

He joins me after a while. We find a cinnamon black bear and a grizzly and four sandhills fly overhead. Then we head to Slough to try to find the Junctions. We find bison, pronghorn, ducks and lots of skeeters instead.

We head back to Dorothy’s and fairly soon are surrounded by the same big herd of bison we were stuck in earlier today. Mooing and grunting all around us, calves nursing, bison rubbing their shedding fur on the big logs at either end of the pullout.

Then a man in a camper slows down to tell us he saw three wolves digging a coyote den “down past the horse corral”. Hmm, we head east and Jeremy recommends we try Geriatric hill. We set up, and two curious visitors without any glass join us.

I am just about to call it quits when Jeremy finds them. They are out in the eastern rendezvous, in high sage, right about where we last saw the panicked coyote family two days ago.

It's the Black Female and 911M. They are digging but the coyotes we see nearby are calm, not hopping like they were the other day. So perhaps this is a decoy den and they know their surviving pups are safe.

Finally at 9:17PM, the Black Female moves out of the tall sage into grass and then we see the yearling is with them, too.

So, yay, a good end to my last day.

I get back to Cooke at 10:10, happy to crash. It looks like it rained hard up here.

Today I saw: a black bear, 3 grizzlies, bison, 3 coyotes, mule deer, ducks, elk, a meadowlark, a moose, pronghorn, sandhills, 5 wolves (911M, The Black Female and the un-collared yearling (AM and PM), and two Prospect Peak wolves (763 and the black pup) and the spirit of Allison.

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