The road is still wet this morning from last nightís rain. There is a bit of fog in the Moose Meadow, and quite a bit more fog in Round Prairie.
I stop at the Cone to glass the river bank to look for the Lamars, but I donít see anything.
I reach Slough before 6AM and head out to join the early birds on Dougís Hill.
We have three adults to start with: 994M, the limping gray, and the un-collared gray yearling. The pups appear moments later, popping out of the sage den, wobbling up the trail towards the eastern trees. Two of them wander to the left and spend a good 10 minutes playing on the logs below the natal den, while a few others have a morning romp in the spring meadow.
A black yearling comes in from the east and walks diagonally across the sage slope to the gully below the den. Six pups mob him, begging for food. They all disappear into the gully but it looks like the pups do get a meal.
For a while I watch the limping gray. She has endeared herself to me by being such a good babysitter. She takes little solo excursion of her own this morning. She heads to the western trees then over to the rocky knob with the burnt stump. She sniffs around and heads down to the rocks below the stump. She finds something there, picks it up in her mouth and travels right back to the gully. Sheís brought a present for the pups!
She is a rock star babysitter, this limper.
We get a radio report that wolves are being seen on Jasper Bench. Hmm, itís very likely the Junctions, but just in case itís Lamars I head there to try to see them. At Coyote I find Doug talking to a couple of visitors who also saw them. Doug believes they are Junctions Ė they were far back on the bench. Two grays and one collared black.
I scope from here for a while but we do not find them again. When I get back to Slough, the limping gray is taking another excursion Ė this time through the lion meadow and down into the flats. She chases a pair of cranes several times, looking like she truly believes she can catch them, only to discover they have wings. A pronghorn watches her alertly.
Chloe finds a deer near the diagonal forest and then the grizzly sow with cubs makes another appearance Ė this time in a different area on Specimen.
It gets hot early today so by 10:30 I am already driving east. But when I see a bison herd heading towards the river I change my mind. I stop at mid-point to watch them a while. They look like they might decide to cross. Iíll be they are hot, too!
I notice several calves are already starting to turn brown, yet others are still nursing. I count 60 adults, 23 calves, 20 sub-adults, 6 bulls, 34 cows. I enjoy seeing how each one takes an individual path to the water, either to take a drink, or to stand in the shallows, or roll in the mud.
I move on but stop again when I see an even larger bison herd east of Footbridge. I stop counting adults when I get to 300! I love seeing them standing in the creek, cooling off, with running water tickling their bellies.
But now it looks like another storm is brewing so go on. Thunder and lightning start as I reach the exit gate. I make it inside Laurieís house just as the first drops begin to fall. It rains heavily and loudly for several hours, but I still get my nap! I can sleep through anything.
When head to Slough again with Laurie & Dan for the evening session we find it considerably cooler.
As we pass through the winding, forested section before Soda Butte picnic, we have to slow down to accommodate a bunch of bison migrating on the road towards cooler meadows. Cars are stopped in both lanes so it looks like we are going to be stuck here a while.
After a while, Laurie & Dan begin to carefully weave their way through the photo and video takers and their bison subjects, so I stay on their tail and we make it through. The last bison to pass me is a giant bull that dwarfs my car!
We have a very pleasant evening, scoping wolves together. We have cool temps plus nice cloud cover so no sun in the eyes to worry about. And best of all, we get to watch the pups take another excursion. This time, 3 blacks and a gray trek past the crescent rock, over the rocky butte and down into the meadow below the diagonal forest. This is further east than any of us have seen them go.
I count three gray pups playing in the den area, so only one black pup is unaccounted for, but we probably just missed him. While the more adventurous group explores, I donít see any adults with them, but they could be nearby.
The puppies are fascinated by everything they come across but after about 20 minutes, they seem to collectively get the idea that itís time to return. I am delighted to watch them scent trail themselves back home! Itís just too cute. At the crescent rock they are greeted by two gray adults as well as the fourth black pup and two of the stay-at-home grays. Oh, if they could only talk! Itís so sweet.
Tonight we notice there is one gray pup who seems the most shy. He is on the small side, so maybe heís the runt. But is it wiser for a pup to explore without adult protection or to stay safe at home? I wonder which behavior in a pup leads to a longer life?
Once they are back from their Adventure, the pups spend time romping in the spring meadow, taking a drink and exploring the little gullies and deep grass there. Laurie starts to notice differences in the pups, and I marvel at her continued ability to do this. She sees some gray mottling on one of the blacks and another has a white chest mark. My eyes are nowhere near that good; all I see is that their tails seem really long.
We look for the grizzly mom this evening, but never find her. We do find a couple of grazing bull elk and various pronghorn in the area where that bear usually is.
By 8:30 the pups have settled down, so we make our exit. I see some deer taking a drink at the spring near the YES pullout, and a few more deer in the open meadows near warm creek.
I donít think Iíve ever seen the high peaks so bare of snow. Itís cool to see the stone formations though.
Today I saw: 3 grizzlies (including 2 cubs), bison, cranes, deer, elk, pronghorn, 12 Junction wolves (including 994M, two gray yearlings, one black yearling & all 8 puppies) and the spirit of Allison