DAY TWO - Thursday, March 14

THE GREAT COYOTE CONTROVERSY

I leave the Super 8 at 6:45. Itís overcast and 24 degrees.

I meet up with Calvin and Lynette at the Nature Trail. They tell me they went in early yesterday along with Kirsty & Alan so thatís why I missed them.

We scope a while in the early light and I relay to them what Lizzie told me last night. Our friend Ethan pulls in and tells us heís gonna look for bears. He thinks the suddenly warm weather will make them come out.

Lynette & I are jabbering away when suddenly Ethan hushes us. Sure enough, we hear wolves howling! Itís coming from the den forest/donut forest that we cannot see very well from here, so we head down to the S Curves lot.

Ethan finds them quite quickly from here and helps me see them, too. Yay!

Calvin and Lynette believe these are 8 Mile wolves. I see 5 gray and 4 black, in two groups; most of them are bedded in the snow but 2 blacks and 1 gray are moving towards some bedded bison.

One black stops and turns around. Another black beds where he is. The gray continues, getting closer and closer to the bison until one bison gets up.

The wolf seems delighted that he caused the bison to move. He bounds about in an endearingly frisky manner, just like a puppy (which he probably is). Then the gray moves back to the bedded group as if to say ďdidja see what I did, mom?Ē Shortly after the frisky one arrives, the rest of the wolves begin to get restless, starting to rise and stretch.

Kirsty and Alan join us and we have a good greeting. They get a quick glimpse but unfortunately, the wolves are now moving quickly, marching away in a line, but towards an area where we will lose them. Still, we are glad to see a happy, healthy bunch of wolves in their element.

Lynette says that one of these collared blacks used to be the Wapiti alpha. Apparently he left that position with one of his brothers and moved away to form this pack. Itís made of Wapiti males and 8 Mile females.

I notice that Jeremy is here and greet him fondly. Heís now part of the 8 Mile crew but I somehow missed him here last night. Itís so great to have him back! He is the same great person I met years ago but now more mature; still very handsome and friendly. Yay Jeremy!

The wolves travel out of sight behind a gully so we drive back to the Nature Trail to try to find them again. We scope as hard as we can because a zillion people have just shown up in the lot, including Rick.

He hikes out to the west while Calvin and Alan climb the high snow berms. We see the plane come by. They probably spot them because we see it swoop and circle quite low way out there. But it does not produce any wolves for us to see.

Rick comes back and we talk a bit about his book. Robert Redford has agreed to write the Introduction for him! Thatís pretty cool and heís happy.

Itís now 11:30. The sun has warmed the day up to 18 degrees but we have no wolves, but the wolf project says the Junctions are in the Hellroaring area so we head east to try to find them. I scope from Lower Hellroaring with Calvin & Lynette but we only see bison and elk.

Eventually I continue east.

I stop at Curve lot to check my email. Just as I finish, a man taps on my window asking if I would mind moving my car a bit so another one can get in the lot. Of course I will. But then he adds, heíd like them to see the wolves.

Wolves? Where?

Up on Specimen.

What?

I hop out and set up my scope. There is a snowy bald knob at the end of the ridge and on that knob I see three animals; a bedded black and two smaller grays bedded below. The grays seem to have a lot of red in their coats but I figure itís just the way the sun plays on them.

I ask the man how he found them. He says other people further east had been watching them on skyline for quite a while, moving steadily west. He says they lost them once or twice but when they got to this spot they stopped and bedded. They are not likely Junction because I see no collars on the grays.

Maybe they are Mollies? That would be cool!

Itís late and I think Rick has already gone in. I call for Calvin or Alan but get no answer. My radio acts up fairly often and I suspect they canít hear me. These wolves look like they will be bedded a while so I decide to drive west to alert them.

I find C & L still at lower HR. They still have no wolves so when they hear my report they decide to come east and check it out.

There is no room to park at Curve so we set up at Junction Butte, which is nearly full of tour groups, all with scopes pointed towards the bald knob.

We set up at the eastern end of the lot. Due to the angle of the sun, the animals are kind of hard to see and they are not moving, just bedded. Finally one of the grays gets up, walks up hill a bit before turning around to re-bed. Somethingís not right. I see a patch of bare tail, a sign of mange. But more importantly it is suddenly obvious that this ďwolfĒ is a coyote.

OMG!

These are not Mollie wolves. They are not wolves at all.

I am mortified. I tell Calvin that the highest one does still look black, and he agrees, but says itís just an illusion of the sun and the distance. These are ALL coyotes.

I feel like such a dummy. I apologize to them over and over, even though they are not upset with me. This is hardly the first time such a misidentification has happened. The only consolation I can think of is at least I did not drag them away from an active wolf sighting with this bogus report.

None of us say anything to the other folks in the lot, because there is no reason to deliberately make all those people feel bad, but I feel really crappy. We donít want to embarrass any of the guides, but we also donít know if they have already told their clients these are coyotes.

The people at Curve lot were sure, but itís possible they HAD seen wolves on Specimen earlier, and that maybe in the course of following them, during the period of times when they lost sight of them, the wolves turned south and when they saw canids on skyline again, it was these coyotes instead.

C & L go back west while I head east. I stop at Lamar River Bridge and see two coyotes (yes, coyotes) bedded on a hilltop near the old bull elk carcass. I walk along the bridge until I get a good look into the willows and see a third coyote feeding. I can see the antlers of a bull elk.

There are lots and lots of birds here, too. I think this carcass is too close to the road for the Junctions to have stayed long. People are lining the bridge just to take photos of coyotes and birds; I suspect there would be twice as many cars if wolves were in view.

I continue east as far as Round Prairie where I see Melba. I chat with her a while and check in on Dougís progress.

Sheís here hoping to see the Lamars. She says she heard howling about a half hour ago, from behind the berm and an answering howl from behind Pebble.

I stay a while but not long enough. About an hour after I left, Melba saw Small Dot and Little T on the south side. I sure wish I hadnít missed that!

I drive back west, still feeling so bad about the coyote incident. At Nature Trail I see C & L again so I stop to ask if they are still speaking to me? Lynette turns and smiles, saying, not only are we still speaking to you but we have wolves for you! Woo hoo!

Calvin has found the 8 Miles again, in an entirely different place than they were this morning.

So I feel a LOT better now. The wolves are straight south of the road, and way to the west of where theyíd been this morning. I see two blacks resting on a snow berm. Then another shows up, moving towards the other two from the east. It passes between the tops of trees growing out of a deep gully.

A little later another head pops up; this is a gray. I get the impression that the rest of the wolves are bedded on this same berm, just over the crest so we canít see them.

Finally a fifth wolf, another black, makes an appearance, coming in from the east, wagging its tail.

Then they all bed and there is not much more activity, but we stay another hour anyway. Lynnette proposes we have dinner together in Gardiner, which sounds great to me. We show our wolves to lots of people, then pack up to head in around 5:30.

We end up at Wonderland and have a nice time, laughing about the great Coyote Controversy! Then back to my snug room at the Super 8.

Today I saw: bison, lots of coyotes, elk, 9 wolves (8 Mile pack) and the spirits of Allison & Richard

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