DAY FIVE - Wednesday, June 19


I’m out a little late today, leaving at 5:15AM.

There are some amazing pink clouds above The Thunderer this morning, as well as a bright full moon.

My first stop is at Dorothy’s where I find Jeremy & Rick. In mere moments, Rick finds wolves out in the open across from the Institute. He offers to set my scope on them but…where’s my scope?

Aack! I realize I left it in Laurie’s garage last night when I was re-arranging things.

Nevertheless, I find the wolves in my binoculars. Yay. Junctions, of course. Two of them, both black.

I follow Rick as he drives east. We stop at Hubbard Hill and climb up. Luckily for me, the wolves are close enough this morning to see with my binoculars, but Dorothy and Rick both let me peek through their scopes.

Rick ID’s them as the alphas; 1047M and the new un-collared black female. The female howls frequently and both wolves keep focusing on the treeline uphill from them. I don’t hear a reply howl but perhaps they do.

The pair continues east toward the big fan. Suddenly, out of the trees comes another black wolf. It’s the un-collared black male. He approaches the pair and submits to 1047, who makes it abundantly clear that he is in charge. The female, on the other hand, seems overly happy to see this wolf.

After these greetings, the three of them set off to the east, quickly reaching the western foothill. There are many bison with calves on this foothill. The wolves’ arrival causes the herd to bunch and move off the hill onto the flat. The wolves pretty much ignore the bison, continuing over the foothill and entering the forest behind it.

Hmm. I think it’s time to move further east.

We re-convene on Trash Can hill. From here, we find them at the tree line, sometimes in front, sometimes behind the trunks, following pretty much the same route as the Junction group did yesterday. I speculate that they could be scent trailing to a known carcass further east.

We lose them in the forest a while, then they pop out again much further to the east. They remain in sight a little longer, passing the trail that leads to Opal Creek, then they drop down into a gully that leads to the Lamar River corridor.

At this point I am cursing myself for forgetting my scope. When the wolves are at this distance, my binoculars just don’t give me the clarity that Layla does. I keep scanning the open slopes that lead to Cache Creek, as it seems to me they may be headed that way.

Becky & Chloe show up and begin to climb the hill. We have a great reunion and show them where we last had the Junctions.

Unfortunately they are now out of sight.

Over the radio we hear someone at Fisherman’s report three grays running along the river heading east. We turn our scopes that way, believing they could be additional Junction wolves. But the report does not include any collared animals, which strikes us as a little odd. Two of the three grays in the Junction Pack are collared wolves (969 and 907). In the end, these “grays” turn out to be coyotes.

We scan a bit longer but have lost our wolves. I start thinking I should head east to get my scope but Becky & Chloe suggest we all go to Cooke for breakfast. That sounds fun, so off we go.

As I pack up my car, I see Doug Smith in the pullout, so I say hi. He says he’s here doing a bird survey but that he was happy to be able to see the Junctions, too!

We drive east through the beautiful valley. Then, just outside of Silver Gate, the cars ahead of me come to a stop. What’s up? Aha, a mother moose with twin calves! Aww!

I see them just at the edge of the trees on the south side. They clearly want to cross the road so we all go past them and pull over. We try to calmly stop traffic in both directions in order to give them room. Luckily, when people see this great photo op, they comply.

After a few minutes, Mom ventures out but the babies are still hesitant. She gets to the other side and looks back, grunting softly to them. Finally the long-legged calves go for it and everyone gets nice video.

They disappear into the trees on the north side and everyone smiles.

B, C & D head to Cooke while I dash into Laurie’s and retrieve my scope.

I find them at the Bear Claw and we have a very tasty meal. I also get a few sweet treats for later. We figure the wolves will be long gone so we decide to head to the Calcite area for some birding.

On our way we stop to watch a small black bear grazing just east of Pebble.

As I am about to pass Fisherman’s, I see Barb M, so I pull over to check in with her. She says she had stopped here to take bison photos but heard someone say “there’s a wolf!” Well, it turned into three wolves, all black, one of them collared. At first I believe she saw the same three from this morning, but she says the collared wolf swam the river & climbed up Divide ridge, while the other two headed over Secret Passage.

This is another indication that the Junctions are currently feeding pups in two den sites, one on Specimen and the other north of Slough. Later in the day I find out that she saw #1109. I never found out for sure who the other two were.

I invite her to join me at Calcite but she wants to take more photos. She has duties in Hayden Valley tonight, acting as a wolf spotter for the Yellowstone Live camera crews that are in the Park. She and several other Hayden regulars volunteered to help. So far, they have been skunked.

I say so long and continue west. I have to stop again for another bear jam in Lamar Canyon, this one is a nice cinnamon black bear.

At Calcite I re-join Becky, Chloe & Dorothy, scoping the owl tree. We see one adult and two owlets. After a nice time with these big birds, we head south and set up to watch the peregrine nest. There are still three chicks but we do not see any adults. The wind kicks up and it’s clear rain is coming so I pack up and head back east.

My mid-day nap is disturbed by rain and high winds. Once I get up I discover that Laurie’s internet has gone out. I call her and she explains that it happens occasionally, and where and how to re-boot it. So now I know how to fix that!

At 6PM the sun comes out again, so I get ready to head back in.

Two sweet mulies are visible south of Trout Lake

I love the golden light in Lamar at this time of day. It reminds me of my early visits to Yellowstone, coming into the valley with such excitement about seeing the Druids.

I stop at Dorothy’s where I find Becky, Chloe & Dorothy. I love the view from here. I fill them in on what Barb saw earlier. We try hard to find wolves but they do not appear. As a consolation prize, Chloe finds a grizzly sow with 2 yearling cubs. We show these bears to a whole lot of people.

We also find pronghorn with several fawns, a coyote, and a bull elk way up high. As the light begins to wane, I call it a night and head home.

Today I saw: 3 black bears, 3 grizzly bears (including 2 yearling cubs), bison, 4 coyotes, sandhill cranes, mule deer, elk, 3 moose (including twin calves), pronghorn (including 3 fawns), 3 wolves (Junction Butte 1047, alpha female & uncollared male) and the spirits of Allison & Richard.

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