As I drive in this morning, I think about what I saw last evening. Was this just a hunting party or did I see the pack moving to a new rendezvous area? Last year the Junctions hung out in the Aspen Drainage during the summer, making for difficult viewing.
We are so lucky to have them so readily viewable in the Slough area, we tend to take it for granted. Well, time will tell!
I set up in the usual spot but many other regulars head further west, believing that the pack may have moved.
I scan the usual areas and see no movement at all.
Kathie, Laurie & Dan scope from Aspen. Rick goes that way, too.
Kathie reports seeing 2 adults and several pups in the Aspen drainage. She says they seem to be moving east.
So I stay here and keep my scope trained on the place where they disappeared last night. Suddenly I see two black pups there, galloping home past the parrot rock towards the western trees.
Behind these two pups comes a steady stream of adult wolves (3 black, 2 gray). Then I get a surprise when more pups and adults come rushing out of the eastern trees to greet them. I suddenly have a full count of pups!
1276F arrives from the west and is swarmed by pups. She lowers her head and feeds them. Laurie says she now thinks they have a carcass in the Aspen Drainage area and that’s where they were going last night. Which means some of the pups may have had their first experience with a fresh carcass last night.
The entire group moves to the eastern trees. Before long they have all disappeared behind the Hill. Laurie identifies the various wolves as both alphas, 1048M and 1228F.
Later in the day, Scott finds the handsome black 2 year old roaming the meadow below the Horizontal Forest. Suddenly he takes off running. He’s after a pronghorn fawn! This time the fawn gets away and the black heads back to the den area.
When he arrives he receives a pleasant greeting from several adults but I don’t see him feed anyone.
Dan finds a nice herd of elk above the den cliff. These elk proceed across the hillside, aiming for skyline (roughly above the Horizontal Forest.) I count 11 cows, four calves and a young 3-point bull. He’s older than a spike but not really full grown yet.
Initially, the wolves do not seem to be aware of the elk passing by. But eventually, someone notices. Suddenly there are wolves paralleling the elk, along the hill above the Crescent Rock. They stop above the trees of the Diagonal Forest, watching the herd, then start to head straight up.
Uh oh, they are going after the elk.
Someone calls out that pups are following them! Several pups do start to follow but two babysitter blacks corral them, somehow convincing them to stay. Elk hunting is serious business, and these pups are still too young.
The pups howl! They want to go, too! But the two babysitter blacks do an excellent job blocking their way. They are quite firm. I’ve never seen this before, but I suppose it happens frequently.
The babysitters seem to convince the pups to bed down and watch.
Higher on the hill, the hunting party catches up to the elk very quickly. Both groups are below skyline in a sparsely forested area. Suddenly the chase is on! Some wolves go after the bull, who runs downhill to thicker trees and makes a stand. The wolves give up on him and turn to the cows.
Seven or eight cows bunch up, protecting the four calves while two brave cows turn on the wolves. They charge furiously at the wolves, clearly intending them serious harm, wanting to trample or stomp on them, putting their own lives at risk.
The young bull stays at the forest edge, doing nothing to protect the cows or the calves. He looks like he is hoping the wolves will forget about him.
The wolves make several feints and lunges against the cow group, but the protector cows are truly fierce. Several times a chased wolf comes just inches from being trampled. These elk are VERY healthy, so the wolves give up pretty quickly. After a bit of a stand off, the wolves simply continue north, topping out and leaving the elk bunched.
A few minutes later, the elk begin moving again, just below skyline, going east. When they pass an open spot I count again – all 11 cows plus the 4 calves are still present. And bringing up the rear is the selfish young bull.
We hear a radio report from Lamar. Two wolves were spotted on Amethyst bench, one black and one gray. The black wolf chased and caught a pronghorn calf and is now traveling west.
The collared gray is likely 907F.
Since our excitement here seems to be over, I decide to follow Laurie & Dan back to Lamar.
However, we are slightly delayed by a car accident at Fisherman’s. Rangers are here. The people involved are ok but the car damage is considerable.
We try to find 907 from Dorothy’s but luck is not with us. We continue east and get a glimpse of a single black south of Trash Can, then see two moose at Warm Creek.
In Silver Gate I pack up and say my thanks and goodbyes to my dear friends.
By 12:15 I’m on the road again, ready to drive back to Bozeman. I have three bison jams on the way and enjoy the beautiful views.
I love watching wolves and visiting with friends, but I have decided to take a bit of a break from the Park for the rest of the summer, to avoid the ever increasing crowds and warm temperatures. I also have numerous domestic issues in Bozeman to take care of.
But I look forward to resuming my visits in the fall.
Today I saw: bison, elk, 2 moose, pronghorn, 16 Junction wolves including AF, AM, 1048M, 1276F, 1228F, limping black plus
2-tone gray, handsome black and one other black plus all 8 pups, and the spirits of Allison and Richard.