DAY FOUR - Tuesday, November 16

THE JUNCTIONS GO HIGH

Itís a warm 38 this morning as I set off at 6:20.

The wind blew all night, but I donít find any downed trees. Instead, I see the Baronette fox.

As expected, Lamar is quiet, so I continue east. A small herd of wary elk crosses the road at Junction Pond. With no-one behind me I stop and give them plenty of room.

I get to Hellroaring at 7:15 and can tell from the well-attended scopes that wolves are in view.

The Junction pack is still here, bedded in two groups, but much lower than where I left them last night.

Jim & Elizabeth are here; they show me the damage to their car from clipping the bison yesterday. Wow, itís much more severe than I expected and Iím glad they both are alright. They are too, and happy to have wolves in view!

The Junctions remain bedded for over an hour with only a bit of movement here and there. The herd of 80 elk are bunched on the cliffs below them, well aware of the wolves.

Around 8:15, the wolves get up and have a short rally. The alpha female expresses her dominance on 1229 and 907 and then goes over to flirt with 1048M.

Itís an overcast day with a bit of a breeze but perfectly tolerable.

Some of them start to wander east, causing the elk to skitter a bit and bunch more tightly. Some wolves seem interested in them, but not enough to put effort into it, so nothing more develops.

Several pups begin to play. A gray starts a game of keep away with a stick in his/her mouth, taunting its siblings. This causes some yearlings to join in and soon I am watching nine young wolves having a great time together.

Then the alpha female begins to climb straight uphill across the wide-open slope. The pack follows in groups of two or three, taking numerous routes, making steady progress higher and higher. Once they reach the outfitter trail, they begin to follow it. We are immediately worried because it eventually leads out of the Park, into areas where wolves are hunted.

The pack passes the bison herd with the red dog, but they show no interest. They pass several more bison groups, but only one or two individual wolves stop to show a fleeting interest.

They continue following the trail, and gradually tighten into a tidy line, which allows me a good chance to count. I get 22.

The leaders stop and soon multiple wolves are sitting on their haunches, looking downslope towards the line of Hellroaring Creek. A few of them run down through the scattered trees, spooking and flushing a few bison and three bull elk.

It was probably just pups who couldnít resist doing this, because their effort comes to nothing.

They come back up, tongues hanging out and rejoin the stopped group on the trail. The pack continues north. Most of us have never seen wolves climb this high on this trail before. It is very worrying.

They go in and out of trees and we think weíve lost them only to have them reappear higher up or to the right or left in the next opening.

My new extended-view scope is perfect for this sighting. I donít think I could see them this well with my old scope.

Around 11:15 we lose them again, although we keep trying to find them. But when noon arrives and they have not re-appeared, I decide to call it a day. I bid goodbye to the crew, knowing that some member of this pack may never come back.

The day has warmed to 45 and the sun makes everything gorgeous.

In the Soda Butte valley, the limping coyote is along the road again, looking healthy with a full, fluffy coat. I thank him for giving me a three-dog day.

Once weíre back in Silver Gate we agree we are happy with our sighting today, so we stay in tonight.

Today I saw: bison, a coyote, elk, a fox, 22 Junction wolves (including the alphas, 907F, 1048M, 1228F, 1229F, 1276F, 6 pups and 9 more) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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