DAY THREE - Saturday, September 3

FRESH CARCASS

Our first sighting today is a coyote just off the road in Mammoth.

We stop at Elk Creek like we did yesterday but cannot find any wolves. We know they are nearby, though, when we hear their gorgeous group howl. It sounds like more voices than just the pups.

Rick notices bird activity in the trees near the big Ski Lot, indicating they may have a carcass, so we try from there, too.

Finally Michelle, in another Wolftracker van, finds them. You have to walk east from the Ski Lot pullout and find a place where you can see the flats through the dozens of trees.

I see a bedded black adult (which turns out to be the new alpha female), then spot two black pups to the right of her, beyond the tree-tops. Finally, Rick finds the carcass itself in the flats just off the gravel road which is part of the summer chuckwagon route. With Rickís help, I see two grays tugging on it. Itís a bison.

The crowd of onlookers grows, with people seeing different wolves from different vantage points. Rick eventually climbs a steep, deadfall-strewn section of One Tree Hill and calls down that itís good.

I am hesitant, but eventually find a way up, where I sit on a log and enjoy the unobstructed view. Even Laurie & Dan brave their way up here.

On the carcass are all five pups plus three adults. On is collared gray 1278M, the other is the gray alpha male and the black is the previously seen alpha female. A bit later, a second uncollared black puts in an appearance.

A turkey vulture perches in a nearby tree. Before this year, I never saw a turkey vulture, nor have I heard of others seeing one. But this bird has discovered the bounties of wolf kills in Yellowstone and is seen all the time now.

The alpha female takes a break to walk to the stream for a drink, then comes back to the carcass. Some of the others begin to wander off to various bedding spots.

By 9:30 most of them are out of sight so we make our careful way down to the car. We drive into Little America to the Slough campground road. Down below Bobís we see a badger scampering about. It looks like a young animal.

After a bit more exploring along Slough Creek, we return to the Ski Lot. This time we try a couple of new spots and I find a fairly decent view of the carcass. To my surprise, a black wolf trots into frame.

Soon we have four wolves, all black, two adults and two pups. I guess they found some corners in their stomachs that needed filling up. One of them doesnít stay long and begins walking along the chuckwagon road to the left and is soon out of sight.

The others finish and wander west towards Flat Top.

A coyote appears in the Ski Lot pullout, then dashes down towards the carcass. A golden eagle perches in a tree, waiting its turn.

We move to Elk Creek to see if we can find them again, but they elude us.

Itís gotten hot again, already 88, and with our surprise wolves now out of sight, we hop back in the air-conditioned car and drive towards Mammoth.

Itís even hotter in Gardiner at 95!

Later in the evening we have dinner at Wonderland with Rick, Jeremy, Jack and Taylor. Jeremy looks at my lizard photo and tells me itís a ďWestern Sage LizardĒ. So now I know!

Today I saw: a badger, bison, 2 coyotes, mule deer, elk, golden eagle, pronghorn, turkey vulture, 10 Rescue Creek wolves including the alpha female, the alpha male, 1278M, 2 uncollared black adults, plus all 5 pups and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff

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