DAY TWO - Monday, April 24

FOLLOWING THE JUNCTIONS

Itís 5:45 and already light. I guess I need to get up earlier tomorrow!

On the other hand, itís nice to be able to see things on the drive in. The sky is overcast and light snow is falling.

My legs are really bad this morning. The pain forced me to sit down to brush my teeth. It was really hard to put on my clothes standing up.

Nothing seems to be happening in Soda Butte Valley nor the east end of Lamar, so I continue to Dorothyís. I see numerous cars in the lot, including Jeremyís, so I stop. He is hosting a group of biology students from Utah. He says he has Junction signals but I see he is aiming his scope upriver. I set up and find a gray canid moving down Amethyst bench. We both think itís a coyote but cannot be 100% sure.

We reposition to the mid-point lot, where Jeremy finds the Junctions on a carcass right at the edge of the treeline, a bit east of Amethyst bench. In addition, we find the gray canid again, which does turn out to be a coyote.

Jeremy thinks they got a small bison. Not much of it is visible as it seems to be in a depression at the base of a large conifer. I see several wolves with their heads down and various birds flitting about.

A collared black is already leaving the area, heading west and upslope. Hmm, looks like theyíre finished. Maybe they got this last night?

More and more wolves begin leaving, heading west in that steady, purposeful trot. I see a total of 5 grays (one collar) and 6 blacks (two collars).

The wolves proceed in a semi-orderly fashion traveling on hard-packed snow up towards the thick forest of Amethyst drainage.

Soon there are no more of them in the carcass area. A fox appears, snooping around, and a bald eagle waits in a tree.

I drive back to Dorothyís where I find Rick watching the Junctions as they emerge on the open slope leading to Jasper Bench.

I set up in time to see the last few stragglers. The leaders have already disappeared behind the back of the bench. I notice a collared black stop to bed in front of a tall tree for a while, while the others continue. This wolf howls. Itís not 1276 because I see very little white/gray mixed into the black coat. It could be 1382F or1386F. When the wolf gets up again, Rick and I both think she looks pregnant.

I have trouble standing this morning, so I use my stool more than I usually do. But Iím happy to have wolves in view on my first day!

Rick thinks we should head west to see if we can pick them up in the Crystal drainage, which is one of their usual routes. We end up at Lamar Bridge where we are joined by Laurie & Dan. I find a hawk in a tree.

We are just about to move to the Crystal lot when Frank radios. He is on Daveís Hill and has just spotted the Junction group.

We find them west of Crystal Rock and follow them across the drainage. They are moving steadily west.

We see several collared adult wolves (1276F, 1382F and 1383F). We also see a collared gray (1384F or 1341) and many young wolves, most likely last yearís pups, now yearlings. Two of the grays have very thin tails, meaning they might have some mange.

The group continues to travel just inside the tree line, which means we lose them and re-find them several times. We reposition to Longs pullout and later to Curve.

They stop for a while near Curve, howling and milling about among the thick tree trunks. We hear answering howls from the north. Some alarm-barking coyotes in the same area help us find two wolves passing through, a black and a gray.

Laurie thinks the pair of wolves on the north side would like to join those on the south.

My high count is now 13.

A little later, we get a good look at two collared blacks as they travel up an open snow slope at the western end of Specimen. Both wolves walk slowly and look heavily pregnant (1276F and 1382F). They eventually top out.

We discuss going on to Elk Creek, where we would probably see them, but with the construction delays, doing so will take a lot longer than usual, so I stay where I am.

In doing so, I see my first ground squirrel of the year, dashing over the snow-covered ground. I also see elk and sheep up on Specimen while glassing for the wolves.

We get a report that the pair of wolves seen to the north have now made it across the road (at Boulder Pond). Then Dan finds a second pair, also a black and a gray, roaming the Buffalo Ford area.

As I watch this pair, I also find my first bison calf of the year, then a second one in the same herd. They stick VERY close to their moms.

These two wolves go out of sight pretty quickly and will probably find a way across the road to follow the rest of the pack. So, at the moment, we are wolfless.

But Iím smiling, having had a really great morning so far. We linger a bit, talking and chatting, then about 1PM I head back to Silver Gate.

Later in the afternoon, Laurie gets a report that the alpha male was seen hanging out in the traditional den area. Also, the wolf project has not gotten 907ís signal for the last two days, which could mean she is already underground. Apparently, her ďdue dateĒ was yesterday.

Today I saw: bison (and 2 new calves), sandhill cranes, coyotes, a bald eagle, elk, a fox, a hawk, a ground squirrel, 15 Junction wolves (including pregnant 1276F, 1382F, yearling 1384F, six more grays and six more blacks) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.


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