This morning I warm up the car extra early. So by 6:50 when Iím ready to leave itís toasty inside despite the minus 8 temperature outside.
There is the usual fog hugging the creek. Itís very pretty. Yellowstone always delivers. Even in bitter cold there is stunning beauty.
We start where we left off last night, at Soda Butte East. The two gray pups are still there, bedded under their trees. They have found dry spots to bed which are close to a carcass and they arenít leaving!
After a bit, Rick lets us know there is a chance that the Lamars might be out in the middle flats. Laurie and I move to Footbridge and scope from here. The river fog makes everything gorgeous. We stay here, chatting quietly and scoping while Rick heads west.
We hear from the Gardiner crew that they have nothing to report from the west, but Rick tells us there is a chance to see 970 in the Slough area.
So we head there. We bypass Slough in favor of Longs, where Richard is. But by 10AM we are still wolfless. The sun is up and shining brightly but itís still only minus 6.
Rhonda and Dora are out on Bobís Knob and Rick says heís heading that way, so I join him. Rick tells us to look in the area above the Slough campground so we do.
Richard, Marco, Mike & Karen are back in the lot, scoping from there. Richard finds them first, a black and a lot of birds. Yay, Richard!
Heís found the Junctions and they are on a carcass. I finally find Richardís black and then I see a gray, then a second gray. The wolves are semi-hidden behind a row of trees, so we try various spots to try to see them better.
Rick finally moves to a little hill top on the east side of the snow-covered campground road and the rest of us join him there.
For the next 45 minutes we watch the Junctions feeding and moving about their carcass. We see a total of five: three grays and two blacks. One of the grays is alpha male 911M. He is easy to identify because of his terrible limp. The carcass itself, as usual, is just behind a hill but we can see many birds in the nearby trees. Rick guesses that it is fresh, being killed either last night or this morning.
When 911 moves off, I see a bit of a tussle between the two remaining grays as they both grab at the same chunk of meat. I watch 911 head east, slightly uphill. He is probably returning to the spot where the rest are bedded behind a rocky knob.
I watch a second gray leave the carcass and meet up with a black coming towards him. The black passes him and approaches the carcass, nearly disappearing for a while behind the hill. We can see his back and his tail as he feeds.
Then the black moves off and we see a third gray in the carcass area. Finally that wolf leaves and heads east, and as he passes through the boulders and tree trunks, another black appear briefly in that area.
Rick heads back to his car but we three stay a while. When the final wolf disappears to the east we pack up and walk out, too.
When we get back to the lot I see Richard and the others are still here. I thank him for finding the wolves. Then I discover I donít have the radio Rick leant me.
I must have dropped it in the snow on my way back. Ack! I put away my scope and hike right back out, thinking it will be easy to find. But I donít. I retrace my steps exactly but itís just not here. I go back to the hill top we were on, checking the snow in that area, then head back to the lot, certain that it will be obvious from this angle. Nope.
When I get back to the lot, Rhonda and Dora and I compare notes, trying to figure out where exactly I might have dropped it. They were ahead of me, so they would not have seen it happen. Rhonda hikes out with me for a second try. We each bring hiking poles to probe the snow. The radio seems to have come off my clip somehow, most likely when I stopped to reach into my pocket for my phone in order to record my sighting.
I think the snow is nowhere deep enough to hide a black radio but when Rhonda tests that theory by letting her black camera fall into the snow next to the trail, it disappears entirely. Hmm.
Again, we walk all the way to the little hillock and back but find nothing. Itís gone, and wonít be visible until the snow melts in April. Back to the lot we go.
Now Richard, Mike and Marco take a turn looking for it. They have no luck either.
I am upset, mostly because I have to confess the loss to Rick, who so generously leant it. While I am commiserating with my friends, a tiny little mouse goes scurrying around the lot, dashing under the cars.
Everyone tries to cheer me up. I tell them I will go back to using my usual radio but remind them itís not working properly and I may not be able to reply if they call me.
Now we get a report that some of the Lamars are being seen from Hitching Post. So I pack up and head there with everyone else.
But Iím too late. I stop at Footbridge and talk to Laurie. I tell her about the radio. Then I see Rick and confess to him. He is understanding and I assure him I will have a replacement sent to him.
Story and her dad are at Soda Butte East. She reports that the Lamars are bedded on the north side of the road but impossible to see from any of the pullouts. She still has a visual on Twin but he is moving.
I drive to SBE but again, I am too late. Twin has gone out of sight.
A little later, Debi stops in the road between SBE and Trout Lake. She can see three bedded blacks on the same hill where Story lost Twin but they wont be visible to us from the pullout.
Dave and I try moving to the south but that doesnít work. I decide to try to move to Footbridge and try looking back.
Debi is here already. We set up to the east of the lot, and she describes the hill where she last saw them. As she is doing so, she finds Twin. Yay! Then he moves into my view and call to Story. I am always happy to see Twin because I think he is particularly handsome.
He is heading up hill right at the tree line on the wide slope above the eastern curve. There is a rocky knob up there and two small groups of bison; one on the top of the knob and another just below it. Twin runs up the slope in deep snow and suddenly starts chasing a bison yearling. He is quite serious about it. He quickly catches the yearling and latches on. The yearling is strong and resists. Twin lets go and takes another hold of the yearling but again it manages to break away and rushes towards the small group of adults which belatedly comes to the rescue.
Usually bison are far quicker in defending their young. I think Twin fooled them; he looked like he was just passing by then suddenly turned serious.
Some of the adult bison charge at Twin. He easily escapes, heading downslope. The small herd below the knob now chases him, but he easily avoids them, too, and heads for the tree line.
Wow, Iíve never seen a Lamar or Prospect wolf chase a bison calf. Twin is big enough and bold enough to do it. But itís still difficult prey.
Now another black wolf comes up from below the same way Twin did. I recognize Little T. She messes with the same bison herd but now they are fully alert and defensive, so they are having none of her. They charge and chase her. She escapes easily and heads uphill and west taking the usual route towards the den area.
Now we see a third wolf coming up from below. This is Mottled. We notice him much further down but on the same slope. He stays close to the tree line and when he stops, his coloring provides complete camouflage.
This sighting has attracted a bit of a crowd of visitors and we try to show them but itís hard for people to see Mottled since heís so hidden. He stands against the trees, looking downhill in a way that tells us he is looking at another wolf. And sure enough, here comes Dark Black up the same route, then one of the gray pups. The three of them stand on that hill.
I had been hoping for a greeting but I donít see that. Instead, once all three are together they begin to howl. That will do just fine! The visitors are happy, too.
The wolves continue to look downslope, so we suspect there are more Lamars down there. 926 has not been seen, nor has Big T, the black pup nor the second gray pup.
One by one, the three visible wolves head into the trees and out of sight. Mottled is the last to go.
Several of us try to find them again from a variety of angles with no luck. Itís now about 3:30 and I decide to head in because Iím cold again. Itís too bad, because I end up missing a chase. About an hour later, Kara, Story and Dave saw the Lamars chase a bull elk down that same hill and across the road. They chased it in pairs of two, and made contact several times, but didnít catch it.
The bull did sustain some injuries, and Story got some great video. But I missed it! Oh well.
It should have been clear to me from the behavior of Twin chasing the bison calf, that he and his pack were hungry. So instead of heading in, I should have hung out, warming up in the car a while, because the odds were good they would try to hunt tonight.
On my way in I stopped at Round Prairie and saw a single moose and a mousing coyote.
TODAY I SAW: bison, coyotes, elk, a mouse, bighorn sheep, 11 wolves from two packs; 5 from the Junction Pack (including 911M, two grays and two blacks) and 6 from the Lamar Canyon pack: (including Twin, Dark Black, Mottled, Little T and both gray pups), and the spirit of Allison.