Itís a bit cooler this morning Ė 43 degrees at my usual departure time of 4:50. I have decided that unless the Lamars are visible, I will head to Hayden today.
Mule deer look up from their grazing as I drive past in the dark. There are several more in the Tower area.
The Dunraven Road is nearly empty of cars, making the drive especially nice. There is lots of cool, wispy fog, too.
I get to Canyon Junction at 6:34 Ė there is pretty intense fog along the river which is normal. I pass two big bull elk on the way and many geese. Hayden Valley is beautiful.
I park just off the road west of Grizzly Overlook and tramp up the hill, joining Rick, Chloe & Becky, Kathie and Jeremy. Around 7AM the fog begins to clear.
Kathie finds the Alpha female at the trail marker. I watch her walk west into the flats. She finds something to chew on and beds, gnawing away. She beds and becomes very hard to see but visitors stream up the hill, wanting a peek anyway.
Then Jeremy finds 755 Ė at the same trail marker. I am so thrilled! I have been wanting to see 755 and thanks to Jeremy I am looking right at him. He looks great, lean and lanky and his silver coat shines with health. He is a father again Ė a really good father, as he was taught by his former mate The 06. His current mate, the lovely white wolf daughter of the famous Canyon pair, is a lucky girl.
755 starts moving to the south, tooling around, sniffing, following a game trail. He stops near a pair of trees and beds a while. I turn back to watch the alpha female. A grizzly comes into view. She is up like a shot, trailing and harassing him, sometimes lunging in for a bite. The bear lunges back.
There are several short chases Ė her chasing the bear then the bear chasing the wolf. Standoff, back & forth. I check on 755 every once in a while but he is still bedded. Some of us wonder why he doesnít come to her aid, but he probably knows she is more than capable of handling a lone bear by herself.
Back to the alpha female and the bear. She is escorting the bear away from the rendezvous point where the pups likely are, guiding it southeast. Then the day full of gifts gets ridiculous. Suddenly two moose are seen running towards the point. I have never seen moose in Hayden before Ė they disappear into the trees.
Once they are gone, itís hard to convince people that we saw them at all.
I swing my scope back to 755. He is up and headed down the sage slope towards the river, which means he is getting closer and closer to the pullout, which is jam-packed with excited visitors and cars.
I stay on the alpha female in case the pups make an appearance. She finally gets the bear to move into the forest between the left sandbox and the trail marker. She follows him to make sure he behaves himself.
I turn back to 755. He has reached the riverís edge. I watch him cross an oxbow, taking a few laps of water, then he follows the river curve, oblivious to the human faces. He keeps up his nonchalant trot until the pullout blocks my view of him.
I pack up my scope, but knowing Iíll not find a good view among all these people, I follow Jeremyís lead by driving south. Chloe & Becky set up in the pullout and over the radio give us a play by play of 755ís movements.
Basically, he follows the edge of the eastern bank of the river, heading steadily south, paralleling the road). I join Jeremy in the first flat pullout along the river, 755 is already past this point but Jeremy sees him stop about a quarter mile away. There is an old winter-kill bison carcass on the eastern bank. 755 is heading there for a snack.
Jeremy and I drive to the next flat pullout, but it is already so jammed I find a safe place to pull well off the road. Then I get out and set up my scope on the eastern side of the road, directly across from 755 and his lunch.
This is a gift sighting to anyone who loves wildlife. 755 is close enough for pictures but far enough for safety. I have an excellent view on flat ground. I lower my scope because there are lots of kids around. We watch him chew on the carcass for an hour. Wow!
The carcass is black and probably stinks, but thankfully, we canít smell it from here! I spend time explaining to many visitors that 755 did not kill this bison; that it likely drowned breaking through the ice in winter and either 755 or a bear pulled it out after the thaw. If he had killed it, it would likely have been picked clean of meat already.
This sighting becomes a three ranger jam, but hundreds, if not thousands of people get a great close up look at him. He stops feeding twice to lap up some water.
After about an hour and a half, he leaves the carcass and heads back north. I watch him move in and out of the rolling hills until I lose him for good. By the time I get back to Grizzly Overlook he is just disappearing into the trees south of the rightmost sandbox.
Many of us stay, hoping for an appearance by the pups, but Jeremy says that sighting canít be topped. Itís noon. Iíve been here for 5 hours!
Chloe finds a pair of sandhills in the flat meadow in front of the trail marker sign. And they have two colts with them!
Now I head back east. I stop to look at a particularly pretty group of wildflowers and a coyote come trotting through.
I head back to Silver Gate in time to take another nap.
I head back in around 7:30. Itís a warm 73 degrees. Usually itís not so hot in June, but this year it is warm! I stop for ice at the Silver Gate store and see Nate. I meet his wife and their twins.
I spend another lovely evening hoping to find the Lamars coming back from Cache, but itís not meant to be. Ah well, as Jeremy said Ė itís hard to top the sighting in Hayden today!
TODAY I SAW: 1 grizzly bear, bison, 1 coyote, 4 sandhill cranes (including 2 colts), mule deer, elk, 2 moose and 2 wolves of the Wapiti Lake pack (alpha female and 755M) and the spirit of Allison.