DAY NINE - Monday, May 1


It’s 34 degrees at 5:30 as I set off. I get a break today as my legs are slightly less painful.

I stop at Round Prairie to look and listen but find only bull bison.

When I arrive Slough, I find 907 perched on the den porch. An uncollared gray comes out of the natal den and heads past her, down the bracken hill. This gray beds in front of The Boulder and scratches a bit.

1382F is here again, easy to ID due to her constantly tucked tail. 1276F comes out of the sage den and makes a point of standing over her with her tail sky high!

Note: It is Laurie’s contention that 907 and 1276 are currently “sharing” the alpha position, since 1382 was deposed. When these two females are together, they mostly get along but to me 1276 is in charge. Both wolves dominate 1282 and other lower-ranking females, but 1276 takes a more clearly visible dominant stance. Interestingly, the alpha male is affectionate towards both.

Actually, though, he is not here today. In addition to the three females already mentioned, we have a collared gray (1341 or 1384), a collared black (likely 1385F) and an uncollared black, for a total of 6 adults.

The four bull elk are again grazing the area near the western trees. This morning the elk attract the attention of the uncollared black. This wolf makes an attempt to sneak up on them. Just like before, the elk charge the wolf and the wolf backs off, turning around and moving to the east.

There are sheep in view today above the den cliff, as well as bison, sandhills and a hawk.

The four elk slowly graze their way below the den area from west to east, unbothered by the wolves. Both species are aware of the other but neither seems to care much.

New visitors are always fascinated by this phenomenon (and I remember I had the same reaction the first couple of times I saw it). They wonder out loud why the elk are here at all, much less in such a relaxed way, so close to so many wolves. And why the wolves don’t seriously chase them.

Laurie patiently explains that in her experience, this is normal. The explanation might be that the wolves do not want a fresh carcass near their dens because it could draw other animals (bears, cougars, other wolf packs) which, in turn would pose a danger to the pups.

I agree with Laurie, but I still wonder how wolves’ little brains can strategize like that.

I notice that 907 appears calm and relaxed for the last several days, but that 1276 remains antsy. She pesters every wolf that comes in, frantically following them, begging for food.

This behavior is somewhat reflective of her personality, but I am a little worried that 1276 appears hungry too often.

Around 11AM Bill H radios from Lamar. He has a collared gray traveling west, south of the Institute.

So, we pack up and head that way.

While stopped at the light, I notice that the water level in the Canyon has risen quite a bit. The melt is on!

We arrive at Dorothy’s where Michael has found a gray. I watch it cross the “gap” between Amethyst and Jasper. This animal does not have a collar, so perhaps the one Bill saw was a different one? The gray quickly disappears at the back of the bench.

I scope to the east and find a second canid, but it turns out to be a coyote.

Around noon Laurie & Dan and I head east, stopping at Round Prairie to take a half-hearted look for the Shrimp Lake pack. Various people have been reporting members of the Shrimp Lake pack being seen off and on over the last week. No-one ever has them long and we do not find them today.

Today I saw: bison, a coyote, elk, a hawk, bighorn sheep, 7 Junction wolves (including 907, 1276F, 1382F, 1385F, two uncollared grays and an uncollared black) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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