DAY TWO - Tuesday, November 1

TWO PUPS GET SCHOOLED

Iím up and out at 6:40. 29 degrees, with no frost or snow on the car.

I stop to listen for howling at Round Prairie and Trash Can. Itís dark again as the sky is cloudy.

As I reach Slough, Dusty calls from Bobís Knob that a bear is on the old bison carcass (a Junction kill from Oct 30). I park and hike out to join him.

Just as I get my scope on the bear, he takes off, spooked by something. I watch him run away but never find out what scared him. There is a group of five coyotes nearby, so I suggest maybe one of them was wearing a wolf mask left over from Halloween?

Once the bear leaves, I pack up and hike back to my car. But before I can drive off, Dusty radios again. He has found a sow with cubs in the same area. Maureen and Rick have just arrived, so we hike out together.

When we set up, Dusty has lost sight of the bears, so we watch the five coyotes a while. Their interactions suggest they are all one family, rather than members of two different packs.

Rick finds the sow and cubs, not at the carcass, but over near the Southern Round tree. Maureen and I find her, but it takes a while to see the cubs. They are all in very deep sage and quite hidden. They soon lose interest in whatever they found there, and amble off west towards the Peregrine Hills.

We decide to try to find Rescue Creek wolves further west and hike back to our cars. This time I make it as far as Long pullout when Dusty calls a third time. He has two gray wolves way up high to the south.

I turn around and join Stacy along the roadside at Slough. We find the two wolves in a meadow just above Crystal Rock. They are looking to the west, sitting on their haunches. One of them howls.

They look like pups to me, probably Junction pups, who somehow missed the train to Cache with the rest of the pack yesterday.

They howl repeatedly but continue to move slowly west, then start to head downslope as if they might want to cross the road. Maybe they want to nibble on the carcass some more?

The get closer and closer to the zig zag willows of Crystal drainage. I know other wolf watchers are at the Crystal pullout viewing these pups and I would not be surprised if some visitors have already climbed one of the low hills nearby. The pups sit on their haunches again, silently looking at the people, trying to figure out what to do.

They seem to change their minds about the road and strike out straight west. We lose them from this vantage point, so we pack up and head to Long Pullout, which offers a more open view.

Many of us gather here, and at Straightaway, scanning the tree line. We are just about to give up when Calvin finds them emerging from the treeline. They are now heading back east.

Each pup carries a bone or a stick Ė probably from some older carcass they found in the forest. They trot along, carrying their prizes. But soon they drop them. I guess their young mouths are not quite strong enough yet.

They travel just below the tree line, heading back to the Crystal Drainage. When they are almost out of sight, I re-locate back to the road south of Slough. Luckily, I pick them up again as they reach the willows, now well above the crowd of people in the lot. They emerge on the other side and continue trotting east, towards the Rock. One still howls on occasion.

It looks like they are going back to Lamar. Maybe they found a scent trail? They both have muddy paws, and one is darker than the other. The darker one seems to be more bold; while the lighter one a bit hesitant.

They head into the thick forest left of Crystal Rock and I lose them. I am about to go to Lamar when Barb sees my car and pulls over. She has been in Hayden this morning but came north when the Park started closing the roads. We drive to Lamar and pull in at Coyote, hoping to find the two pups.

We scan all over the place but donít find the wolves. We do hear a lone howl Ė three separate times. Itís quite faint but Iíd bet itís one of those pups.

The day is sunny and nice.

Barb and I take a ďflood damageĒ tour, checking out the changes at Picnic and Midpoint, from the Confluence, Footbridge and then Trout Lake. We run into Kara who tells us of a large piece of petrified tree trunk that was either unearthed by the rampaging river or perhaps by the construction crews. Itís a beautiful piece of rock.

We continue to Soda Butte picnic, where even more disruption is visible, and we both lament the loss of such a peaceful, protected area.

We run into Maureen and Rick who are on their way back home. We say our goodbyes and then Barb leaves, too. She wants to spend some time on the new road before she goes back to Bozeman, checking out the view from the various pullouts.

I go back to Silver Gate to wait for Laurie & Dan to return from Cody. They are having snow tires put on today.

I decide to go out for an evening view at least to Trash Can, hoping the Junctions might return or reunite with the two pups.

Stacy is on Exclosure, while I scope from Picnic. Stacy finds the two pups skirting the treeline in Chalcedony fan. I end up climbing Geriatric with Dale & Faye. Thanks to Stacy, we find them briefly, then lose them in a gully.

We then notice a small bison herd with many raised tails. Aha! Now we know where the pups are, even though we canít actually see them! Finally, they come back into view as they climb the old riverbank, in the very spot near the cottonwoods, where Maureen and Rick and I stood a week ago!

We track them for a good while as they head east and south, as one continues to howl intermittently. They seem to trot more eagerly now, probably because this part of the trail offers a fairly fresh scent. I see them stop often, and rush back to sniff something a second time.

What an education these two pups are getting! But they did well, in the long run. If they can avoid the many bison herds, they will soon find their family. And I bet itís a very long time before they miss the train again.

I last see them just before 6PM, topping out over the right shoulder of Norris.

Dale & Faye and I remark on how unusual (and nice) it is to be in this amazing place, watching wolves, all by ourselves. Quite a relief from the enormous crowds of the last few years.

We bid each other goodnight, thanking Stacy over and over for alerting us to the spot.

I head back to Silver Gate and see the Baronette fox on the way.

Today I saw: 4 grizzly bears (including 2 cubs), bison, 6 coyotes, elk, a fox, 2 Junction pups (both gray) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.


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