I head out at 6:45. Itís a bit warmer today: 25 degrees. It snowed again overnight but itís windy and the wind helped blow the snow from my car.
And Kara! She shoveled a path from Laurieís door through the driveway and all the way along the road to the upper lot! Thank you!
No bison this morning, so that helps, too.
My first stop is at HP. I join a few others braving the cold to look for the Lamars below the ledge trail. I find the spots I had them yesterday but do not see any movement there or in nearby areas. I content myself with the knowledge that they are well fed.
By 8AM I am driving west. I have two choices this morning because Calvin has found wolves at Hellroaring but Bob has wolves at Slough, too.
I stop at Slough, and hike out to join Bob on his very own hilltop. He has the Junction pack on a winter-killed bison in the flats. Iíve not seen Bob in a while and Iím happy for a chance to visit with him. The wolves are bedded on a bare slope above the flats, howling, when I get set up. I watch them rally, wagging tails. They howl again and re-bed.
The carcass is below them and to the right. There are currently 10 coyotes feeding on it. Most of the wolves are curled up but I notice both females have their heads raised, pointed towards ďtheirĒ carcass. They do not seem 100% happy with all the coyotes on it.
Perhaps they are annoyed by the coyote squabbling. There must be more than one pack involved because we see some serious fighting between a few individuals. I see one biting another, and then two of them rear up and slap paws, something Iíve never seen before.
Things quiet down with the coyotes after this but the next thing I notice is that both female wolves are now standing. 969 moves down the hill and 907 follows her. I am fairly certain they intend to interfere with the coyotes. They walk slowly but with a purpose. Then 969 breaks suddenly into a run, aiming for two of the closest coyotes. She runs all out but the smaller dogs scatter and the targeted ones escape, running for their lives along the frozen river.
969 breaks off her attack and turns around. Soon I see her trudging back up the hill. She re-beds. Iím not sure where 907 went but I never saw her running.
But the wolves have upset the coyotes. One pack of four starts to chase a pack of 3. This becomes quite serious but luckily none of them are caught. The three evade the four by running up a hill close to us. The pack of four stops below the hill and the 3 on top howl their insults.
For a while all is calm and Bob and I resume our chat. I tell him about some of the Nature programs I have seen lately, wondering if any of the footage might be his. He says no. He tells me about Shane Moore who has done some filming for the TV show Deadliest Catch. And he just got back from the Himalayas, filming snow leopards!
Now we notice the Junction females are up again. Just like before they leave the hill and this time 969 assumes a stalking stance. This time when she runs, the coyotes scatter but instead of chasing them she goes to the carcass for a nibble. 907 hangs back, watching but not joining her. These two females are sisters. And they still donít get along very well.
969 doesnít stay long though, and soon rejoins her pack. There are both bald eagles and a golden on the carcass.
When the females rejoin the group, they wake up the males and start to climb the hill and bed on a higher spot, which makes them visible from the main lot. I need coffee so I bid goodbye to Bob and head back to my car.
I set up near the road with Calvin & Lynette and Jeff M. The Junctions are on the move again, climbing high above the rocky knob and a bit east. Alas, they disappear shortly after this. We talk and scope other areas, and I hear Calvin say heís got elk running. His scope is pointed high and directly west, far, far away, on the slopes above the Roosevelt area. He says he thinks he has wolves.
He gets all our scopes on the spot and sure enough I see tiny dot wolves on a snowy hilltop northwest of the herd of elk. They are so far away we can only guess that they are wolves from their behavior. I see four; Calvin thinks he saw five. All gray. No one can tell if there are collars. They are four miles away!!!!
We drive down to Boulder to be a little closer to the mystery wolves. Calvin finds them again and his general idea is that they are probably whatís left of the Prospects. This once-dominant pack has not been seen since November! Truth be told, four males from this pack are now half the Junction Pack. And they lost numerous members to the hunt.
Alas, they go out of sight pretty quickly. Calvin attempts to explain the landscape to me from here. I sort of get it!
Those who stay in Gardiner decide to drive further west to find these wolves again, maybe from Elk Creek, but I decide to go back to Lamar.
When I get to HP, I discover that while I was at Slough, Kara stayed out on the rolling hills at HP and was rewarded for her effort by a sighting of all three Lamars. The wolves came to their carcass, fed a while, then went back up the ledge trail where she lost them in the trees. Itís almost impossible to hear radio calls from Hitching Post when you are at Slough.
My buddies Rhonda & Dora are here. We catch up and they tell me of the three moose they saw in the moose meadow. The snow is more packed down today so I venture out with them to the rolling hills. We three scope for a while and I learn that you CAN see the carcass area much better from out here. I see birds on the ground, which I could not see from the lot. But the wind picks up, making it fairly unpleasant to scope. We stick it out for a while, then give up.
Before I left Slough, I talk with Laurie & Dan, who assure me they will get in tonight. So I bid goodbye to Rhonda & Dora and head east.
Guess what? Itís still snowing in Silver Gate!
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, a bald eagle, a golden eagle, elk, 12 wolves (all 8 Junctions plus 4 Prospect wolves) and
the spirits of Allison and Richard