Iím out at 5AM in a welcome 44 degrees. There is a bright quarter moon in the sky.
We stop at the new bison carcass but find nothing on it yet, so we decide to continue to Slough and come back later.
We set up in our usual spot and Rick quickly finds a single black pup near the Eastern trees.
The pup moves behind the formerly Flowered Hill and we soon hear a group howl. Itís easy to pick out the puppy voices!
A black adult appears atop the Hill, then several wolves run east past the Crescent Rock. I count three adults and five pups. They disappear into the Diagonal forest, giving me the impression they are greeting a newly arrived wolf (who may be bringing food!)
Looks like itís the alpha female. She appears on the rocks and moves downslope, followed closely by the five pups. They are swarming her legs and actually trip her a few times. She stops abruptly and you can almost hear her say ďstop doing that!Ē
She leads them downslope and into the lion meadow, continuing all the way down to the flats. I lose the group near the white cut bank.
I swing my scope back to the Diagonal Forest rocks and find a bedded black adult and a single roaming black pup in that area. These two soon disappear behind the Crescent Rock. Later a gray pup follows their route and disappears, too.
Now that there are pups in the flats we decide to move to a higher lot with a better view.
Once weíre set up, we find them again. Three adults are bedded while the pup group plays and explores in the high grass. I am delighted when one of the bedded grays lifts her head and turns out to be 907F.
Then a bedded black gets up and reveals herself as the limper. She moves into the high grass to play with the pups.
The alpha female chooses a new bedding spot and lays flat out.
The pups seem to be playing hide and seek with us but eventually they start to run north, chasing each other, tumbling, wrestling.
They are out of sight a while and then we pick them up following the lion meadow trail.
I look higher on the trail and see a black adult up there, waiting for them.
Laurie finds an uncollared gray just east of the Horizontal Forest. It looks like it has a full belly and is trotting purposefully back to the den area.
In the meanwhile, the returning pups take the shortcut to the Crescent Rock. They look very independent to me today, each taking its own route through the rocks, sniffing here and there.
Most of the wolves are now out of sight, except for a sleeping 907F. So, we figure itís time to check out the bison carcass.
Itís 8:45 and still a pleasant 58 degrees when we get back to the Soda Butte Valley. Boy, does it look different! A hundred cars line the road on the south side, along with hundreds of people all looking south. Three deputized volunteers are being very tolerant of the crowd and are busy keeping traffic moving.
The carcass is about half-way between the road and the creek. That makes it too close for Junction wolves to feed comfortably during daylight but apparently four blacks were seen earlier, two with collars. There are no wolves on it now. I only see two coyotes.
What I see on the carcass are hundreds of flies. Yuck! Laurie says the wolves moved upslope to the south and some are still bedded just past the treeline.
I finally see an uncollared black across the creek. Once I see it, I realize itís been there the whole time, but I only found it when got up to change its bedding spot.
Rick says two more blacks are bedded quite a bit further west and a fourth black is currently walking west, near Footbridge.
Well, I have my wolf of the day and now itís getting hot.
So, I say my goodbyes and thanks and head back to Bozeman.
Today I saw: bison, ducks & ducklings, elk, pronghorn, 14 Junction wolves including five black and 2 gray adults (907F,
limper and square black plus uncollared gray and two other blacks plus 7 pups (3/4) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.