DAY FOUR - Wednesday, April 26


I’m out a tad earlier today, at 5:30. The temp is 30 degrees and the birdies are singing for joy. There is a bit of frost on the car but no new snow.

My legs are bad again this morning but luckily the pain goes away while I drive.

I stop at Round Prairie to listen for howling, but it seems none of the Shimp Lake Pack is around. There is a bit of fog here that looks really pretty.

As I cruise through Soda Butte Valley I hear Frank on the radio mentioning a new carcass at Hitching Post. When I get there, I see a lady on the rolling hills, scoping to the south.

Bill H and Frank pull in. I haul out my scope and convince my unhappy legs to follow the path over the soft snow.

Luckily, we don’t have to go far. And, there is a chair-high boulder on the side of the hill so I sit on it, leaving my tripod on shortened legs. I train my scope on the west shoulder of Norris, just above the new growth. On a narrow, gently-sloping snow-covered patch beween the trees, is a good-looking bear on a dark lump of former bison.

There is pinkish snow to the left, indicating that the carcass was dragged a bit downslope. The bear is feasting happily, making Bill grin.

When Laurie & Dan arrive, Dan discovers the bear can be seen from a corner of the lot. I join them there. We enjoy watching the bear for about 15 more minutes, then move on to search for wolves.

It’s nice to start my day with a big griz!

There is some really pretty fog in Lamar. Some of it lies right over the road west of the institute, and we slow down to drive through it. There is another foggy section west of Fisherman’s.

As I arrive at Slough I hear Paul call “she’s out!”

I know he means 907F! Once I’m set up I find her just outside the natal den. This is the first time she’s been seen in about 4 days. She is slim again, no longer pregnant, so it’s a good bet she has pups in the den. Laurie and I are happy to know that we will once again have an active densite to watch this year.

907 takes a short walk towards the Western Trees, then retraces her steps. She passes the den opening and heads downhill through the bracken to “the Boulder”. She lowers her head and is probably licking up snow that lingers there.

Soon she heads back up and disappears into the natal den.

We wait patiently for the next two hours with no activity at all until she re-emerges. She pretty much repeats her earlier movements but adds a few minutes of howling before she disappears once more into the natal den. Both times she is out for roughly 15 minutes

Shortly after this, Doug M calls out “sage den!” I swing my scope and see a mottled black wolf with a collar. It’s 1276! Aha! She stands broadside near the entrance to this lower den, looking east.

She is slim again, too, which means she has likely given birth to her own pups. Frank reminds us that when he saw her yesterday she was still pregnant.

1276 heads a short distance downslope where there is a line of melting snow which she starts to eat. I have learned that this is how a wolf gets water when they are in a hurry (and when there is still snow left). She is out of the den for less than five minutes before she quickly returns underground. When wolf pups are born, they need mom’s body heat to keep them warm.

This development makes us even happier. Two litters!

In addition to the two mom’s, we also see elk, two pairs of sandhills and a vole. The tiny creature dashes across the snow just left of the sage den. And of course, the usual bison and geese.

Someone radios from the west that Rescue Creek wolves are being seen there. Laurie and Dan head that way but I stay here. My legs have finally calmed down so I can enjoy myself a bit.

We talk about the wolves and the imminent road closures to repair the Lamar Canyon section. We’ve been warned of delays up to 30 minutes each way. In addition, the crews will need to do some blasting of the hill – where they plan to route the future road. Some are concerned the blasting will adversely affect the wolves.

I think they will be fine. And I agree with Rick that I am simply grateful that we have a road to use at all.

Around noon, I call it a day, but before I head back east I drive to Crystal pullout in order to double check those areas we watched last spring, when the Junctions had a second den to the south.

There is still snow in the area, but I see no activity nor any tracks. It’s a bit of a mystery as to where the other two pregnant wolves might have denned. 1382F and 1386F were both visibly pregnant and should have whelped their pups by now. I guess time will tell.

As I exit the Canyon on the Lamar side, I see Bob L pointing his camera downslope to the river. He’s got a coyote feasting on an elk carcass down there. Apparently, the elk died in that spot months ago and was subsequently covered in snow. It’s now become exposed again, making at least one coyote VERY happy, as well as Bob.

On the way back from getting gas in Cooke I notice a line of tiny conifer saplings along the side of the road, newly released from their prison of heavy snow by the strong April sun.

Today I saw: 1 grizzly bear, bison, a coyote, sandhill cranes, elk, geese, a vole and two Junction wolves (907F and 1276F) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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