We have a hiccup this morning, unrelated to the additional 2 inches of overnight snow.
Poor Kathie accidentally locks herself out of her car while warming it up, just like I did a few years ago! She is beside herself, but I remind her there is hope. Since she has a rooftop aerial for her radio, her back window is open just a crack to allow for the cord.
I find an old-fashioned hanger upstairs and Dan re-shapes it so he can slip it in the crack and unlock the door button. Through trial and error, he figures out that the window button might prove easier. Then he has the brilliant idea to attach a weight to the bottom of the wire. It works!
Kathie is thrilled. We’re a bit later than usual but we are now off to see wolves.
The drive offers us a chance to see our favorite landscape in beautiful morning light. It’s gorgeous! Plus we see critters.
A beautiful moose is having a morning drink at Warm Creek and a cow and calf are walking along Soda Butte Creek at Moose Meadow. And there is a nice sunrise to boot.
My first stop is at Hellroaring, where the crew has the Junctions are in view. They are in a tricky spot, again, quite low and over at the western end. With so many trees in the way, it takes some doing for each of us to find a place with a clear view.
I see 1276F traveling upslope just beyond the cliffs. A second wolf, a gray, harasses a bison while a bedded black watches.
Taylor says the rest of the pack is down the slope to the left, currently out of sight. She thinks they have another carcass down there. As the day goes on, more and more wolves climb up the hill from below, seeking bedding spots. My count grows to five.
These few start to howl, and the group still below joins in, making a great stereo sound. I am hopeful that the howl may signal a move somewhere else, which might improve the view, but the five bedded wolves soon settle down again.
Laurie radios, saying Rescue Creek wolves are in view from S Curves. So I pack up and move there.
Rick and Kara are here, too. Everyone is scoping to the north, watching 9 Rescue Creek wolves bedded on a hilltop in front of the Painted Hills. They are upslope of a tree-lined gully where I notice a bit of bird activity.
Rick says they have a carcass in there. The sun lights up the tracks these wolves made as they trudged up the hill to rest. He points out the alphas and 1273.
It’s nice being in a flat lot in the sunshine. It’s still cold today, only 8 degrees, but the blazing sun makes it feel warmer.
Kathie joins us and we agree, seeing two packs on a sunny day makes up for the previous two wolfless, snowy days.
The Rescues are a handsome pack, even when just sleeping. Then several of them raise their heads all at once. One black sits up on its haunches, looking intently downslope.
I pan down slope. Ahh! More wolves!
A black and a gray are heading up the slope from the gully below. They have likely been feeding on the new carcass. A third wolf appears, also black.
Soon they reach the top and greet the black who stands and raises her tail. It’s the alpha female. These three find suitable bedding spots and now we have 12.
A little after this, one more black comes upslope and joins the others for a count of 13.
Around noon, Laurie & Dan head back east, while Kathie and I decide to stay out. We are still trying to make up for our two wolfless days.
Later, we are joined by Michael, John W and Jeff. We chat and laugh and enjoy the relative warmth of a sunny, 16-degree day.
When a pack has pups, you can pretty much count on them NOT sleeping through the day. We watch this play out when a gray pup gets up and starts fooling around. A black pup gets up and starts to walk downhill looking for trouble. He pounces on something, then leaps in the air with all four paws off the ground. He lands and slides down the hill on his belly. This attracts the gray pup who bounds down to join the fun.
The two of them play, chasing each other, which draws a second black pup to join in. The two blacks pick on the gray, chasing it all over the hill. Truth be told, the gray seems to like it and encourages it. Then all three race uphill.
One black starts back downhill and actually face-plants on purpose in thick snow. The gray slides down on his side. So cute.
They both move back up to the bedded adults, trying to rouse them, without any luck. The pups plop back down again.
Around 3:30 it starts to get chilly again. Kathie and I figure we’d better leave soon rather than be late for dinner.
The drive back east is gorgeous with bright sun on fresh snow.
I stop at Confluence to watch a few bison cross the partly frozen river. The limping coyote is here, and I realize he no longer has a paw on his bad leg. It’s just a stump. This is his third winter with this injury.
At Round Prairie I notice some spooky-looking fog, thin and drifting.
What a great day!
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, 3 moose, 18 wolves (including 5 Junctions (1276) and a full
count of 13 Rescues (AF, AM, 1273, 1278, 5 pups (1272 has left) and the spirits of Allison,
Richard and Jeff