DAY THREE - Thursday, October 18

LUMPS ON THE HUMP


I am out before Rick this morning. Itís 27 degrees at 6:45AM.

I stop at Trash Can but before I am set up, Dale comes through again. From his usual position at Exclosure he finds a couple of dark lumps on the hump in the eroded area of the R-V.

With a little more light I finally see his lumps, which turn out to be all 11 Junction wolves. Most are sleeping flat out with very little movement which makes me wonder if they may have traveled all night. Trash Can Hill slowly fills with visitors and we show them the wolves. An intrepid fox trots past the sleeping pack in the background. He seems indifferent to them and they seem unaware of him. Then I spot more movement to the west. After I refocus my scope I see itís a badger, furiously digging. He is closer to us than the wolves are and for a while I split my time between the two species.

Then someone calls ďbear!Ē Again I refocus my scope. A lone grizzly emerges from the forest entering the rendezvous area about halfway between the wolves and the badger. He walks slowly and a bit oddly. Laurie notices he has quite a bit of mucus dripping from his nose. Looks like this bear has a bad cold!

We are all secretly (well, not so secretly!) hoping that the arrival of a bear in the area will rouse the wolves, well at least the pups, but no, they all remain napping. The bear moves closer and closer to the wolves, but I have been fooled by distances from this perspective before. He is probably not as close as he appears from our perch on the hill.

The bear eventually stops, sniffing a lot, then turns and retraces his own steps. Back to the woods he goes. I wonder if he may have been testing the air to see if the wolves had a carcass nearby, and when he confirmed they did not, he decided to go take a nap himself.

Bill H calls, announcing that the sow with two is again visible to the north, this time from Dorothyís. So I leave the bedded wolves in favor of the grizzly family. Once I get set up I help many visitors get a good look at these bears.

Laurie gets a report from down south that the Wapitis are again being seen, so we decide to give that a shot. We carpool to make it more fun.

Unfortunately but the time we get to Hayden, theyíve gone out of sight. We stop at Alum and talk with Natalie and Warren, who are Hayden specialists, then tour the valley all the way to Three Panels. No one has anything, so we go back to Alum. I very rarely see Hayden Valley in the fall so I find it very enjoyable. There is still some very nice fall color here and lots of friendly folks to talk with.

Upon our return to Lamar, I spot a coyote, which gives me a three dog day!

We stop at Trash Can and talk to some people in the pullout while scoping towards the hump where we last had the Junctions. They are gone, having been bumped off by a herd of insistent bison who wanted to wallow there.

We are assured by visitors that the wolves are bedded just past the tree-line, and we believe them, but we canít see them them. We head east to Silver Gate for a break.

In the evening Iím back on Trash Can Hill. At first I find only bison. But then wolf shapes arise from the tall grass right at the edge of the trees, right where the people said they were. I count five, then eight and they have a nice rally. But then they drop right back down to sleep!

I am delighted to recognize Becky & Chloe climbing up the hill. We have a great reunion, and I show them the sleeping wolves. As the light wanes, 5 very wary elk begin to sneak through the rendezvous from the west. The elk are clearly aware of the wolves, but continue their trek east. The wolves seem oblivious to them. The crowd on the hill clearly wishes for some action to develop but it is slow in coming.

Finally, when the elk are nearly at the riverís edge, a single wolf head pops up. It sees the elk. One by one the others rise and stretch. They have a full pack rally, all eleven, with a lot of howling that thrills the crowd.

A black wolf (I think the uncollared female) sets off to the east and the rest quickly fall into line. The elk are long gone, but the wolves are now following their trail.

But alas for me, the light has dimmed to the point where I cannot see anymore, so I pack up and head to my car. As I drive east, I hear Stacy on the radio reporting that a chase has begun. They are after the elk! The wolves enter the river bottoms and are lost to view but Carol and Mark, who are higher up the same hill, still have them and continue the narrative.

I canít help stopping at Footbridge to look from there because Carol says the elk are heading up Norris. She says the wolves have stopped, and come together for another rally and a howl. I can hear the howling from Footbridge but I can tell they are too far for me to see.

But as Carol describes the rally, I realize itís one of the things I love about wolves. Even when they fail, they cheer each other for having tried.

Today I saw: a badger, 4 grizzlies (including 2 cubs), bison, a coyote, a fox, elk, all 11 Junction wolves and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

Next Chapter

Previous Chapter

Back to Main Page

Printer Friendly Index