This morning I head out at 6:40 in a clear 36 degrees.
I have a bright moon and clear skies to light my way. I had hoped to see stars, but the moonlight makes it impossible.
At Blacktail Ponds I meet Barb M of Bozeman, and see her video of the Blacktail alphas I missed yesterday. There are four coyotes in the area today, one on the carcass and three more bedded on the ridge.
I decide to head east. I want to tell Rick about my sighting last night. I find him in Little America at Straightaway. Doug and several others are here. The Junction Buttes must have turned around last night because they are here, on the south side of the road.
They have another carcass, which people have been watching for about an hour. Most of them have already moved uphill to sleep off their meal. There are still two grays - both pups - moving here and there between the tree trunks.
The carcass is not visible; it's in a gully in the sage. I can see just the back of one gray pup who has stayed to eat his fill. Perhaps he did not get a chance until the other pack members finished.
Rick says he is probably a male due to his large size.
The other gray heads up the hill to join the others. While the lone gray pup eats, we watch a coyote make its way toward the feast, then another, and another. There are now four coyotes intent on having a nice breakfast.
But the lone gray pup somehow keeps these four coyotes at bay while he eats. I never see him snap, although of course he may have done so - and he may have been growling. I can only judge by the body language of the coyotes. I never see them bolt away with tucked tails - as they would if he charged them, for example. I do see them interact with each other, and seem at times to be taking out their frustration on each other!
We hear the rest of the pack howling on and off for about an hour. It's a beautiful echoing, slightly muffled sound, very cathedral-like. We try but can't seem to find them.
I also hear a lone voice howling from another direction, right above the pup. The loner and the pack seemed to respond to each other.
Finally the pup has finished. He leaves the carcass with a VERY big belly - and the coyotes dive in. I watch him go back to the spot where I first saw him, near the tree trunks. He seems to be eating snow, which I've seen wolves do when a creek is not handy.
I watch him wander uphill. He disappears and we hear more howling. Then suddenly I find them! At the base of a douglas fir - one level up, from where we lost the pup and further to the left. I just happened to see movement - a black wolf was moving past a tree trunk to the east.
Then suddenly beside him I see other wolves bedded, some with heads up.
A gray at the base of tree is howling. I see two other blacks bedded, and at least two other grays bedded nearby.
It's just past noon and a warm 49 degrees.
Well, it's time for me to go. I bid goodbye to Rick and pack up. There is a rally for wolves at 1PM at Arch Park, and there will be some Native drumming and singing.
On my way I am treated to a herd of bighorn sheep, including several lambs of the year, coming down McMinn Bench for a drink.
The Native music has already started as I pull into a parking space. It's a perfect sound for the area. There is also a group of bagpipers on hand. Both styles of music remind me of the wolf howling I just heard in Little America.
After a few statements, Doug M has us stand in a semi-circle, open to the east. We each speak the collar number and natal pack name of a Yellowstone wolf who was killed outside the refuge of the Park. I drew Druid wolf, 39F. Dr. Halfpenny got Blacktail wolf 694F, who was poached two years ago.
After a few more heartfelt statements, there was more music, and then we gathered in the covered picnic area for some snacks and beverages. Bob filmed the event and it was well attended by about 50 people.
It was a fitting tribute and a nice way to end my short but sweet visit.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, bighorn sheep, 8 wolves (of the Junction Butte Pack) and the spirit of Allison