The outside temp is 4 above zero. Iíll take it!
I leave a bit later than usual today, so Iíll have some light in case the Junctions are still in Lamar.
I join Rick and the crew at Confluence East. Bob L is here, too. There is thin fog in the river corridor this morning, but I still see wolves, wolves in the mist!
They are leaving the carcass area, traveling south through the confluence. I count 12, including a few pups romping and playing. Itís still low light and the fog adds atmosphere, softening their shapes.
The wolves disappear into the fog and I suggest we climb Geriatric. Maybe we can see them above it? Laurie says sheíd like to catch a glimpse of 1048 in case he is still with Rescue.
I like that idea too, so I follow them.
A pretty sunrise (yellow, gold and blue) develops above the fog, while to the west, the sky is light pink. Lamar Valley looks exquisite in this early light, with the long rope of fog hugging the river, and all the cottonwood branches glistening with frost.
The crew is here at Elk Creek and I am thrilled I am not too late.
My first Rescue wolf is handsome 1273M as he emerges from his breakfast. There is a prominent snow-field between the eaves of the forest, through which a well-travelled path has been worn by these wolves going to and from their carcass. 1273 walks along this path, pausing a moment as if posing for me.
He turns right and heads down into a gully of thick trees. Shortly after this, his brother, collared gray 1278M appears, licking his lips and following 1273ís route. Next is the most handsome of all, the gray alpha male.
He is followed by the black alpha female, and finally, an uncollared gray.
The alpha male beds for a few moments at the top of the gully, wiping his face on snow, before descending into the gully after with the other two.
For a while we have no wolves at all. Jeremy and his crew have climbed the hill behind us. They can still see wolves.
I debate giving this hill a try but decide to have my coffee first. As soon as I have my first sip, Laurie spots them down in Yanceyís Hole. They are visible through tiny gaps between the trees.
I see one, then another, then another. One is a pup, who pounces on something. Soon the rest of them appear, further north, in clear view. My count rises to 10. Several of them head towards Flat Top hill, on which a bison herd is grazing.
The pups get busy playing in the flats, goofing off with each other, chasing, pouncing, exploring. One pup starts to dig, and others come to help. Then Laurie taps my shoulder. She sees 1048!
There he is, the sweet old guy! Walking slowly (no need to hurry). He finds a nice spot and beds down, watching the youngsters play. Maybe he came over to meet his grandkids (or grand-niblings). One of the pups sniffs him and he rolls over on his side, which reads to me as wolf affection.
The wolves eventually head northwest and out of sight. Todd calls from Ski Lot, alerting us that he has them in view again.
We go there and find them climbing up a low knoll just left of ďthe gapĒ on which to bed and digest their meal. I see 9 of them, including 1048. I suspect the others are likely already bedded on the far side. A little later, a late-arriving gray pup joins them, so my total is now 10.
The day has warmed to 16. With the sun out it actually feels nice.
We see two coyotes approaching the carcass area, and then a fox streaks through the pullout and down into the ravine. I now have a 3 Dog Day.
I tell Laurie Iíve checked the weather predictions for the next few days and decide my best driving window is today.
A bit after this, we head back east. Alas, the Junctions have continued south and are now way out Cache.
In Silver Gate I pack up and clean, then set off to the west once more.
I see a coyote sitting in Round Prairie listening for an underground critter, waiting to pounce. Another coyote trots through the confluence pullout, carrying an elk leg, which he got, presumably, from the Junction carcass.
Itís now past 1PM and the day is officially warm. Itís 34 when I stop at Ski Lot again, to take a last look at 1048 and the Rescues.
As I continue through the Blacktail, snow starts dropping from the flocked branches, causing pretty powder-falls all over.
Iím back in Bozeman at 4PM, finding it full of snow, with many roads icy and bumpy. Iíll be here for Thanksgiving, then head back for more wolf watching.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, a fox, bighorn sheep, 25 wolves (including 12 Junctions
and 12 Rescue Creeks (including the alphas, 1273, 1278 and three pups) plus 1048M and the spirits
of Allison, Richard and Jeff.