The birdies are singing up a storm as I come out in the dark this morning.
There is some fog along the road, which gets thicker and thicker as I descend. In some spots I can barely see at all so I slow down to 5mp and put my flashers on.
At moose meadow the full moon bursts into spooky view through drifting clouds. Between the moon and the fog it feels like I’m driving through a painting. It’s just amazing.
My first stop is at Slough with the early birds. Right away we have bedded wolves; six total in the gully area. Then 1276F reveals herself near 890’s tree. About 5:45 the pups emerge from the sage den. Yay! They blink their eyes and start to run down to the gully, where more wolves have been hiding.
1276 gets up and stretches, then comes down to nurse the pups. She seems a bit more comfortable with the pups being in the meadow today. After all, there’s not much she can do about it!
These eight pups have got to be some of the best fed pups in Yellowstone history. They have access to three nursing mothers plus half-digested food from 17-20 adults.
We all remark on how frequently the pack has been seen bringing food – which doesn’t even count the feeding we DON’T see.
The gray limper is here, bedded just above the gully ridge. The beautiful gray is here, but he/she is grumpy today, getting a bit snappy with the pups. The handsome dark black is here, too. He remains very good with the pups, as does an uncollared black yearling.
My new scope is providing many additional details that I’ve been missing.
Around 8:30, two yearlings lead the pups on an adventure among the eastern trees. The pups romp and play chase around the trunks, tumbling over each other. Once they have explored that area to their hearts content, they wobble their way back to the den. The alpha female rests on a low mound there, as if on a throne. The alpha male is hanging out here today, too, as is 1275M.
Dan finds bighorn on the rocks above the den, and there are pronghorn, elk bison and sandhills to watch during the lulls.
The beautiful gray amuses himself a while by digging near the western trees. At one point he places both front paws inside the hole he made and just stands still. Not sure what that’s about.
Around 9:30 we get word of a new carcass in Lamar, south of the road. As things have quieted down here, we decide to pack up and check it out.
Jeremy (of course) found the carcass early this morning as the fog lifted. It looks like an elk. It’s in a position that makes it viewable from Mid-Point to Coyote, so there is plenty of parking, which allows hundreds of people to get excellent wolf-viewing today.
By the time I arrive at Dorothy’s, several Junctions have already eaten and left. But four are still here: 907F, 1048M, 1228F and a black yearling.
The carcass itself is just above the water, to the right of a small stream called Jasper Creek. I see the two collared grays bedded to the left of the carcass on a flat knob above the bank. 1048M is bedded a little further away from them.
The black yearling is out of sight at the moment. Apparently, he was seen swimming the river. I pick him up in the flats, trotting briskly to the west. Oh, look! He’s got a stick in his mouth! He’s bringing a toy back to the pups. What a good boy!
There is a bison herd in the path of the yearling. The wolf stops and the herd immediately bunches up to protect their young calves. But this wolf is full; he doesn’t want their calves today. He negotiates his way through the herd without incident.
We watch him continue, trotting in that “on a mission” way. And we soon realize this wolf intends to cross the road. And he does so, easily, between the two pullouts. A single car heading east stops while three cars driving west stop too. The wolf hesitates a moment, then bolts across the road at a gallop, quickly reaching safety on the other side.
This is a nice, relaxed sighting, with lots of pleasant chatting along with plenty to see. The day has warmed, with plenty of sunshine.
Around 11AM both 907 and 1228 get up. 907 is so full she looks pregnant again! She moves down to the river and sits in the water up to her belly for a while. We imagine that feels good on her teats. Right here, the river channel is split and the one she sits in is almost like a pond.
After her sitz-bath she climbs out of the river and walks across some hard-packed mud. She lies down here a while, taking a break to cool off some more.
Now she heads to carcass. I don’t know where she’s going to put any more food but she proceeds to eat for a solid half hour! 1228 follows her and they dine together for a while.
1048F arrives at the carcass. He snaps at 907 at one point and she moves over. 1228 has had enough and goes back to her bedding spot. 1048 doesn’t stay long. He walks back and beds in the grass above 1228.
But 907 is still eating! As a wise old wolf, she knows there could be lean times ahead and takes nothing for granted. Finally, she finishes and walks over to Jasper Creek where she takes a long drink. Then she howls. She moves into the creek and sits in the water, howling again. Then she moves uphill further and I lose sight of her.
A little after this, 1228 gets up and follows 907.
We see them again a half hour later, slowly approaching the eastern end of Jasper Bench. 907 is walking, or more accurately, waddling, very slowly.
1048 gets up and heads east, probably looking for shade. The day has become absolutely beautiful; a warm, sunny 62. I have a feeling 1048 is gonna take a nice long nap before he heads back to the pups.
At some point during this wonderful sighting, I notice a pair of sandhills putting on a mating display in the flats just north of the river. Haven’t seen that in a while.
It’s almost 2PM before I head east for my nap.
Laurie & Dan stay in tonight and my evening departure is delayed a bit. But I’m on the road by 6:30. I see mule deer and a bull moose on the way in.
The badger jam west of the Ranch is in full swing again, but I don’t see any kits this time. Once I make it past the jam, I stop at Dorothy’s to check on the carcass. Nothing but birds.
So, it’s on to Slough.
Tonight I see several yearlings plus stalwarts 1275M and 1276F. The pups are again very active, exploring the meadow and the den hill under the watchful eyes of the yearlings.
These pups are so lucky to have so many yearlings around them, as playmates and babysitter and role models. The pups learn socialization and the yearlings learn how to be good parents. I think someone needs to write a paper on the difference in wolf litters with and without yearlings to help.
An uncollared gray comes in from the south. A black wolf greets it first but does not get a feeding. Three more adults plus all the pups run towards the arriving gray from the western trees. They all disappear into the gully, where I suspect the gray delivered the groceries.
After the feeding, we are treated to a puppy parade into the spring meadow. The gray limper follows them as does 1276F. She is again unhappy with them being here. She makes several attempts to mouth them again, but they avoid her and continue to play.
The beautiful gray is attentive to the pups, too. It’s a really nice night.
Mark and Carol radio from Lamar. They are watching a black wolf south of picnic, heading west. They just got back from a day in Hayden and have not yet found the Lamar carcass.
I meet them at Dorothy’s and sure enough, their black wolf is aiming for the that carcass. There does not seem to be much left, but this wolf finds enough to tug on.
The light is dimming so I continue east. The badger jam has dissipated. At confluence I see the light-colored fox again and at Round Prairie I see 3 moose: a bull, a cow and a calf.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, sandhill cranes, elk, a fox, 3 moose, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, 22 Junction wolves (including alpha
female, alpha male, 907F, 1048M, 1228F, 1275M, 1276F, gray limper, beautiful gray, dark black, a gray yearling and a several black
yearlings plus all 8 pups) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.