DAY FIVE - Monday, September 5

ELK CREEK AND WRECKER

We start our last day in our special spot east of the Ski Lot. Itís still dark and we have howling right off, which seems to be coming from around the corner to the right.

When we donít see any wolves for about 10 minutes, Laurie suggests we move over to Elk Creek.

From here she quickly finds them down in the flats, to the west of where we know the carcass is.

They are moving west in groups of two or three, rather than in a tidy line, wandering in a kind of scattered way to the northwest. A few start up Flat Top, while 1273M and the alpha female lead others north to the next line of hills, towards a mid-sized bison herd.

Eventually the ones on Flat Top veer north and meet up with 1273ís group. They have a raucous rally, which then dissolves into some delightful puppy play. Even 1273 joins in the rough-housing, to my amusement.

Today I get a full count of all 15 wolves; 10 adults and 5 pups.

After a while, 1273, the alpha female and two others get back to business, focusing on the bison herd. They test a few, stare at a few others. Then the alpha female set off to the west and the pack follows.

All too soon they are out of sight.

Rick suggests we go east and try looking back to find them again. First we try Wrecker grade, which does not pan out. Then we try Wrecker itself, fanning out on the hillside to the right.

And we DO see them again. They come over the top of a sage hill to the west of Vader Hill, moving downslope towards the Yellowstone. I count 8 of the 15.

Halfway down the slope the wolves stop. Something seems to have changed their minds because after a few moments, they turn and go back uphill. Soon we lose sight of them again.

Ah well. It was a nice morning sighting by all accounts. Weíve seen wolves every day, so we have no complaints.

We drive into Little America, scoping from Boulder and then from Slough, seeing only bison and pronghorn.

We stop at Elk Creek where we see Jeremy and Taylor. They tell us they ďcaughtĒ someone who had walked out to the carcass!

We head further west and scope from the Nature Trail for a while, looking for 8 Mile wolves. There is a breeze here which helps mitigate the heat!

Since itís our last day and we have a bit of time to spare, we drive through Mammoth and past Swan Flats, where Rick shows us the spot where 302 died.

Itís a pretty spot, quiet and hidden; sacred ground to me.

At the Swan Lake pullout we see a pair of swans and their cygnets. And one lonely sandhill crane.

Now back in Gardiner, we unload our stuff, cool off our cars and say thanks and goodbye to Rick. We are grateful for his help and his company.

Now once more we head up the Jardine road to pack up and clean. We want to leave the house spic & span before we go.

There is a haze in the air today, and you can smell smoke. Itís from fires in Alberta, blowing all the way here.

We have an easy drive back to Bozeman and finish the evening with a lovely dinner with Barb, Missy and Andy.

Today I saw: bison, a sandhill crane, elk, swans (with cygnets) 15 Rescue Creek wolves (both alphas, 1272M, 1273M, 1278M, 5 uncollared adults and 5 pups) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff

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