DAY THREE - Tuesday, April 25

AGAIN WITH THE SNOW!

I come out to two inches of new snow on the car. First light has arrived and the day looks cloudy. Itís 34 degrees. I hear lots of birdies singing, and detect some distant geese, too!

The park is transformed once again, reminding us that April is actually a Winter Month. The trees are re-flocked and the old, dirty snow has been covered with a fresh, clean coat.

I follow fox tracks in the road for a couple of miles.

At Trout Lake I see we are going to have fog today. In the Soda Butte Valley I cannot see Specimen Ridge, Norris, nor even the Cone.

I stop at Mid-Point to check the bison carcass area from yesterday. I see nothing moving there so I continue west.

The fog in Lamar is really cool-looking. One long finger stretches across the valley from the river all the way to and over the road east of Dorothyís. Once I get through that, I see another fog-finger obscuring the road beyond Coyote and up into the shale forest.

There is a pretty bit of color in the sky behind me.

As I arrive at Slough, Rick calls over the radio, summoning us to ďcome westĒ. We find him at Hellroaring with the Junctions in view.

We are very late to arrive, and find the lot utterly jammed with cars, vans and people. In addition, the ground is still full of lumpy snow, including piles and berms that obstruct many places where you want to set up your scope.

In addition, the slopes of Hellroaring are only half-melted out, and the splotchy patchwork of snow and sage and earth makes finding animals other than bison far more difficult than usual. The wolves themselves are not moving as a group this morning, but are spread out all over, so itís a version of finding several needles in a haystack.

The overnight snow was not enough to fill in between the snow patches so the wolves are well camouflaged.

I try several places before I can find even one wolf. Finally, I see two grays and a black thanks to the alert posture of a few bison. These three seem to be testing this group of bison, who are protecting two new calves.

One gray is escorted away by some protective bulls. The gray turns back a few times but eventually gives up and trots downslope to the river.

Once I lose that wolf, I set about finding another. Many watchers are calling out sightings but itís especially hard to give directions much less follow those directions due to the perfect camouflage.

I finally resort to just scanning the slope and end up finding an uncollared gray approaching a pond east of Hellroaring Creek. For reasons I donít understand, the wolf swims the pond. Next, it crosses the Creek and continues west until it approaches another bison herd to test.

Laurie and I laugh about this situation later, jokingly calling it the worst wolf-sighting weíve ever had. I donít mean this to sound like Iím complaining Ė I am VERY happy to be able to see wolves at all, but this sighting presented far more obstacles than usual, and I finally just had to resign myself to the comic frustration of it.

We end up leaving to try our luck from Lower Hellroaring. But then Dan spots the Livingston firewood delivery truck he arranged for on Monday, so they follow the driver to Silver Gate.

The day has turned bright and sunny with brilliant blue skies and putty clouds. On my way back east I stop at Slough to talk with Frank and Paul. They saw 1276F come out of the sage den and travel behind the eastern trees. They both say she looks still pregnant.

This is good news, though, because we now have two indications that pups will be born here at the traditional site.

1276 is back inside the sage den, and we see nothing else moving right now, so I continue east. On the way I note that the construction crews at Lamar Canyon have now totally blocked the pullout we call Lamar Canyon West. I wonder if weíll get that spot back once the road is done?

As I cruise through beautiful Soda Butte Valley, a blue bird flies right in front of my car. Wow! So pretty!

Once back in Silver Gate, I do my best to help organize and stack the giant load of firewood. Afterwards, Laurie and I chat about various wolf topics and I learn that New Mom, 1386F, is currently on the outs with the pack. Apparently, the other females have been chasing her regularly for a while now. I recall that earlier in the year it was the former alpha female, (1382F) who got that treatment, but she has somehow become re-incorporated into the pack, but with diminished status, and the new punching bag is 1386F.

All through their history, the Junction females have always been a contentious bunch.

Today I saw: bison (and calves), a blue bird, sandhill cranes, elk, a hawk, 4 Junction wolves and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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