Itís a chilly 20 degrees under cloudy skies as I leave Northeast this morning.
I avoid a few ďsuicidalĒ robins on the drive in. It happens every spring!
When I near Exclosure, I hear Frank answer Rick on the radio, saying no wolves yet. However, he says a bear has just dragged the carcass so that itís no longer in view. Hmmm. I think Iíll continue west.
At Hubbard, people are looking south at the older carcass. I stop and briefly see a collared wolf bedded there. Visitors tell me they saw a second black wolf with him that has now disappeared. Another visitor helpfully points out a grizzly at the treeline. Cool!
Itís really cold this morning! My car temp reads 7!
I go on to Slough, where, to my great surprise I find the campground road blocked by orange cones. Apparently, a grading operation has begun. Hmm, ok. Well, itís still legal to walk out there, so I find a place to park and shove my scope into my pack. I trek out the road and then to Dougís Hill, where I join the early birds, Susan & Reve & Frank.
They suggest I focus on the den porch. I see a gray there (not 907) and..whatís that tiny thing between its legs? Itís a pup! A black pup! Oh, boy am I happy! This is exactly why I came.
Susan tells me that they have also seen a black adult follow the trail through the lion meadow into the flats. Right now two more wolves are traveling that way, a black and a gray. The gray is a particularly pretty wolf.
They find bison with a few calves in the flats and test them a bit but nothing develops.
A little later, someone spots a bison calf that meant to cross the creek with its mother. But it is now stuck on the steep cut bank by itself. No mom in sight, nor any other adult bison.
As we watch the den area, we monitor the plight of this calf.
The alpha female appears on the den porch. And look! There are 3 pups with her, 2 blacks and a gray. When they go back into the den she takes a journey up the right side of the cliff, only to come back quickly. Aha, a tiny black pup is peeking out from the den but she noses it back in.
Back in the flats, the bison mom finally appears, seemingly flummoxed as to where her calf is. We call out ďRIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!Ē with, of course, no luck. Mom runs south, away from her calf, for an unknown reason.
Two wolves appear near the Southern Round tree, 1048M and an uncollared black. They move briskly to the north, then I realize they are in fact, chasing some elk. The elk elude them and I watch both wolves swim the creek. Then we see the wolves become aware of the trapped calf. Uh oh. This could be bad for the calf.
As the wolves begin to stalk, the mom suddenly gallops to the rescue. She calls to her calf and paces back and forth on the bank above it. She motivates her calf and it lunges up the bank, finally reaching the top. A big cheer erupts from the crowd.
The wolves start to run, but I think the missed their clear opportunity. They give chase to the cow and her calf. There are now five wolves in pursuit, four blacks and a gray, but a bull bison decides to intervene. He manages to stop the wolves but ends up kicking the calf when he meant to kick one of the wolves. The calf takes the blow in stride and they get away.
For the next few minutes we watch some continued back and forth between the five wolves and several bison, but the wolves are not successful. We wag our fingers at them, knowing they missed an opportunity in their favor. But in truth, we are glad for the calf.
1048M leaves the others and heads back south. We hear rumors of a carcass near Lamar Bridge. There seem to be carcasses everywhere!
Later in the day, we see 907F. She bolts out of the natal den and heads up the cliff for a drink from the still melting snow. A yearling emerges, bedding on the porch half in/half out of the den. Several pups emerge on either side of the yearling.
I count four, 2 black and 2 gray. Oh they are tiny! A gray pup takes a tumble off the porch down into the bracken. But no harm done! The tiny thing resolutely climbs back up as if hoping no one noticed.
A second black yearling comes up from below, wagging its tail to say hello to the little wiggling pups. I love seeing how these young wolves are so curious about them.
907F returns soon after this and slips downhill to her favorite bedding spot by the big boulder.
We hear from Doug M that indeed, there is a brand new carcass south of the Lamar Bridge. But on top of that news he reveals that the collared wolf feeding on it is none other than 1276F! Who has not been seen in many days. Doug says she is clearly nursing. We still don't know, though, whether she has her own pups or not.
Rick scans the hills to the south of the Lamar Bridge and finds two more Junctions, a gray and a black, moving east from Crystal Rock
At noon, the campground road re-opens, so we cheer again.
The pretty gray that had been in the flats (and part of the bison interaction) is now travelling back up the hill via the Lion Meadow. This wolf goes all the way to the den porch where she sits, allowing the pups to climb on her.
The morning has warmed considerably but remains pleasantly cool.
907 remains bedded by her boulder. Itís been a wonderful morning full of wolf activity but itís time for my break.
On my way back to Silver Gate I stop in Lamar Canyon to join people looking at the osprey nest.
I head back in before 6PM, and see several mule deer just inside the Gate.
There are a few people scoping here and there in Lamar but I donít see anything that attracts my attention.
Instead I park in the lower Slough lot where I set up all by myself. Scoping the den area from Slough can be tricky in the evening if there are no clouds to block the sun. Tonight there are clouds everywhere except where I need them to be!
But still, I see two black adults standing at the den, with their heads inside and their tail ends on the porch. I donít see pups tonight but they are clearly in there, commanding the attention of these two wolves.
One wolf heads back down the hill, wandering near the western trees. Then it sees 907 still near her boulder. The two wolves greet each other with happy wagging tails.
Another gray wolf appears, this one light/drab in color, from behind the eastern trees and joins the greeting. Eventually both 907 and the drab gray go up to the natal den, sticking their heads inside.
907 turns and beds down on the porch while the drab gray goes back down through the willows.
A herd of bison has invaded the den area. They are grazing all over the Spring meadow and the Lion Meadow. Both areas are pretty green, and I suppose they canít pass it up.
I am content with this sighting, so I pack up and head to Lamar. I do not see any wolves in Lamar, although I learn later that other people did. I do see quite a few pronghorn though.
Today I saw: 1 grizzly bear, bison, mule deer, elk, pronghorn, 15 Junction wolves (including the alpha female, 907F, 1048M,
a beautiful gray and a drab gray, several other blacks, plus four puppies: 2 gray/2 black) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.