DAY SIX - Monday, November 21

JUNCTIONS IN LAMAR

Its a chilly 6 degrees today. Above zero!

I am surprised to find the Junction Crew at Confluence, preparing to climb the Confluence hill. That trail is too steep for me, so I go on to Geriatric.

Once I get set up, the Junctions oblige me by howling. This helps me find a whole bunch of them, bedded near the line of cottonwoods on the old river bank above the Soda Butte creek.

I call it in over the radio but no-one replies. Exclosure Hill blocks radio calls to anyone west of there. I notice two more wolves, both black, below the bedded group, roaming in the river corridor.

I have these wolves all to myself for a good 15 minutes. I count 13 but then many of them get up and start to head east. Looks like its time to move!

As I reach the road Bob L drives up, saying the Junctions have a fresh elk carcass directly south of Confluence East.

Aha!

I join the crew in that lot, with two photographers, and see two black wolves feeding on the remains of a young bull elk. Both wolves take pieces of meat in their mouths and set off southeast.

I hear howling again, coming from further east.

I join the crew at Footbridge. The howling continues and most of the voices are up on Dead Puppy Hill. There are answering voices further east, maybe as far away as the Soda Cone, also on the south side.

I see two blacks trotting this way from the middle flats. One is uncollared and the other is 1276. Further east is a third black, sitting on its haunches just east of the bottom of DPH. This wolf howls a long time and is often answered by voices further east. I grin widely, reflecting on how long its been since Ive heard wolf howls at Footbridge.

There are only a few people here beside me and the crew, but we share our scopes and everyone seems happy.

This is what I consider a close sighting.

1276F in particular remains in excellent view for almost an hour, chewing on the morsel she brought from the carcass. When shes had enough, she digs a hole and caches the rest.

Eventually she moves up into the trees, joining her pack on the hill.

The plane flies overhead and reports to the crew that there are 27 Junctions here in three groups, with the majority on Dead Puppy Hill. The chorus howling continues for the next hour or so, as the groups perhaps discuss their strategy for the day.

Dylan and Maria catch glimpses of individual wolves through the thick trees, identifying the alpha male, the former alpha female, and 1341F.

I feel bad that I cannot reach my friends, though, so around 9AM I set off west, radioing several times. At Curve, I finally get a response. They have been watching the Rescue Pack at Elk Creek.

I give them my update and head there to join them.

The Rescue pack killed a bull elk today, too it is hidden in the forest, but they could be seen earlier tugging on it. And I get a surprise; 1048M is with them!

Im too late to see any Rescue wolves; they have already moved downhill to a bedding spot somewhere out of sight.

We go back to Footbridge and find several Junctions are still in view through the trees. A few pups move about restlessly. I see a bedded gray, and watch the former alpha female move from one bedding spot to another.

Around noon we head in, agreeing to come back out this evening since they are so close!

We return to Footbridge at 3:20 in a balmy 25 degrees. It feels odd to not be cold for once!

The Junctions have just moved west, so we go to Hitching Post, scoping from the lot, while the crew heads out to the rolling hills.

Laurie finds wolves quickly on the west shoulder of Norris. The pack is spread out. Several grays are visible in the line of cottonwoods above the Creek, the same place I first saw them this morning.

A few wolves are reported to be feeding on the carcass again, visible from the road. Others have moved south and rest on a snow-covered hill. The howling starts up again, and continues, on and off, for the next hour.

I see a total of 20, Laurie gets 23. We figure out that 907 is one of the grays bedded near the cottonwoods, and that 1276 is one of the blacks howling at skyline on the snow-covered hill.

I still hear at least one voice coming from somewhere on DPH. I search that hill and find sheep up at skyline. I never do find the howler.

Laurie finds 1229 later to the south, traveling from one bedded group over to where 1276 is bedded. She can never sit still, that one!

We also see the former alpha female, in a spot by herself.

As we start to lose the light we drive over to peek at the carcass. There is a black pup tugging on it. He/she breaks off a still pink rib bone and carries it into the brush.

Today I saw: bison, coyote, elk, bighorn sheep, 21 Junction wolves and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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