DAY SIX - Friday, December 28

PRETTY KITTY

Itís an even colder day today; minus 10 in Silver Gate. I put on my extra wooly pants in response.

I join Kara at Footbridge. She is watching two moose in the willows. She says they had been sparring.

Then she finds a fox a little west of the moose, doing his leap and dive thing. We think itís the same animal Steve spotted yesterday.

Carl calls in a report of 4 wolves on the Blacktail at dawn but they are now out of sight. I head there anyway because not even #1118 is around today.

I scope from the Nature Trail a while but find only elk and bison. On my way back I see Steve & Robin at Hellroaring with Richardís nephew, so I stop and scope a while as we chat.

Then we hear a radio report of howling from Boulder. Multiple voices.

We go east and I stop at Boulder. Steve is already up on the hill with a couple of other folk. The howling that was heard earlier was apparently coming from both sides of the road. Since Steve is looking north, I decide to look south. It could be that the Junctions are separated and howling in advance of joining forces.

I scan Specimen Ridge and find a coyote a little bit west of the cut, way up high. It stands, then beds.

I continue scanning east and then I find something sitting on its haunches to the west of the Petrified Tree trail. The ďsomethingĒ seems to have a long tail, stretching out behind it. OMG, is that what I think it is? I ask Steve to look in my scope. He grins immediately, thinking cougar like I do, but I worry that the tail could be a shadow or depression on the snow.

The animal is sitting perfectly still. We look at the head. Overall shape says ďcatĒ but ears look odd. Itís right smack out in the open. If only it will move. We want it to be cat but I donít want to make a mistake.

Iíve made so many mis-IDís. Sitting still like that argues for coyote. If it moves, we will know in an instant.

Please move!

I know Kara is at Straightaway, I am just about to call her when I hear her voice on the radio, saying come to straightaway. I reply that we have something from here, can you be more specific? Kara confirms itís a cat. Steve and I high five and he calls Robin from the truck.

Finally the beautiful cat moves. It walks downhill, its gorgeous, unmistakable tail streaming out behind. Down the rocky slopes it saunters, a slope where, nearly every other time Iíve looked, has had bighorn sheep. Sheep are a catís favorite meal after deer.

Then it turns around and moves right back to where it had been sitting and sits again on its haunches. The radio is going crazy, ALL UNITS, come to Straightaway. We have a cougar!

I call Becky & Chloe; no answer, I call Colleen & Des (not knowing they are next to with Kara). I call Kirsty & Alan; no answer (they were not in the Park).

Then Kara reports a second cat! This one is east of the skyline forest, so the view from Boulder is blocked. Then the ďfirstĒ cat gets up and moves east towards that forest. In seconds it has disappeared inside.

Steve & Robin and I move east but Karaís lot is full, so we continue to Longs. Alas, we never find the cats again. Kara says the second one headed quickly into the forest from the east (they entered the same area from opposite sides), so we begin to theorize they could be a courting pair and are now making kittens inside the forest. Of course, it could be a mama and grown kitten, too.

Itís so amazing to have seen this at all, in the middle of the morning, no less! I have ALWAYS wanted to spot a cougar, and now I have. I wish Iíd been the one to call it in, but Kara and I know we found it at the same time.

We all celebrate the sighting and feel bad for those who were elsewhere when it happened. I know I will be looking up there in future winters, hoping for a repeat sighting!

I now scope from Dorothyís, watching my first wolf of the day. #1118 has appeared finally, and she is tugging away on the bisonís head. She again has two bird companions.

An hour & a half later I head east to Footbridge. The two moose are still here, browsing the willows. The little fox is here again, too. I see him do the leap & dive and get a morsel!

Kara and I both hear a lone howl to the north of Footbridge, which is very exciting. We scope as hard as we can but do not find the howler.

When I get back to Silver Gate we find a bull bison resting near Laurieís septic tank. We make sure he sees us before we start to unpack.

Today I saw: bison, a cougar, a cougar, a cougar! coyotes, elk, a fox, moose and 1 wolf, (#1118 of the Mollies), and the spirits of Alison & Richard. Did I mention I saw a cougar?

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