DAY NINE - Friday, February 24


The temp this morning is 5 above zero, so my car is much happier (and so is my face!). I brush off another inch of new snow from the car.

The day looks like it might be clear. As I cruise through Lamar, the temp dips down to minus 13 but some sunrise color appears, trying to pretty-up the sky.

I hear Rick on the radio talking with Bob. Sounds like there may be something happening at Hellroaring. That would be a treat.

I find them both at the Upper lot. The Junctions have finally come out of hiding! And they have a fresh bull elk carcass just to the right of the bottom of Tornado drainage.

As usual, due to the high snow piles and the close-growing trees, it’s hard to find a good spot to watch the activity. But we manage. Laurie and I both express relief at finally seeing them “close”. We set about identifying individuals.

We see 907F, the alpha male, 1276F, 1383F and 1385F. My count is 19 with 10 grays.

There is lots of puppy play, including some of them amusing themselves by digging a hole. We follow 907F as she takes a personal walkabout, searching for her perfect bedding spot.

Today the wolves are also in good view from Lower Hellroaring, so the larger guide vans park down there, leaving plenty of room here for once.

Jeremy and Taylor stop by for a look. We chat and I finally get a chance to ask a few questions.

Bob tells us that the producer of his next film with Nat Geo is here, and they want to interview some “old timer” wolf watchers. He asks Laurie and me to participate and we say yes.

We watch the Junctions from 7:45 till almost 10, then move down to Lower, so we can meet Bob’s producer and the interview crew.

The view of the wolves from here is good, but they are slightly further away.

When we first get here, the crew is interviewing a family with a little girl. Lynette is next. Then a woman I’ve never seen before makes her way to the camera.

Julie A and Becky B and Becky’s daughter are interviewed, as is Doug Mac.

While this is going on, Laurie and I happily watch the Junctions. They are moving off the carcass, now, seeking bedding spots. We also show lots of visitors their first wolves.

I figure the crew now has plenty of footage but then they let Laurie and me know we’re next. I am happy to do any favor for Bob. I predict they will end up featuring Becky and her daughter, plus Doug Mac. I hope they include Laurie’s remarks, though, and Lynette’s.

By this time, most of the Junctions are bedded, except for a few pups who go back for second breakfast. I chat with Susan & Reve a bit, belatedly learning that Reve is a master bread baker! We talk about my bread dilemma (I am missing the kind of bread I had for years in NY restaurants and cannot find it in Bozeman). Reve agrees to shepherd my learning to make bread. We’ll see if I can learn a new trick!

The day warms to 14 above, which feels great after all the recent cold. But mostly it’s a good day of old-fashioned wolf watching that warms our hearts.

I still have 16 wolves in view around noon when we pack up to head back east.

In Silver Gate, I tell Laurie I want to go back to Lower later in the day, to make the most of the Junctions being back in view.

I set off again around 2:30. The day has warmed to 21 above, which feels like summer! But I notice the sky to the west holds a threat of more snow.

At Yellowstone Picnic, I see two coyotes. They have just crossed the road to the north. They turn to look at me like they are embarrassed I caught them slumming for scraps in the picnic area!

I reach Lower just before 3:30, happy to find the Junctions in the same place. There are only two other cars here, but we few enjoy seeing the wolves.

There are four wolves feeding on the carcass when I first arrive, two gray and two black. There is some intermittent wind, but quite gusty, and full of icy crystals. That’s tough on my face, so I try to position my car so my hatchback will offer some wind protection.

This helps a little and I settle in to watch. I find eight more bedded wolves. Over the next hour or so I watch a pattern repeat itself over and over. A bedded wolf gets up, stretches, and comes down the hill. It feeds a while, then leaves the area, following a trail to the south, towards the river. It looks like they are returning to the same darn place where they’ve been hiding the last five days!

One time two wolves get up at once. They stretch and slowly come downhill, repeating the pattern. One stays at the carcass a while, but the other heads down and out of sight.

One black, upon waking, does a particularly luxurious stretch, then lopes downslope, flushing the birds. Must be a pup, I say to myself.

A second black pup takes over for the first one, chasing birds this way and that, even leaping after one.

All told, I watched 15 wolves this afternoon, 9 black and 7 gray. Of these, three blacks and one gray had collars. I’m not sure who the blacks were, but the gray was not 907F. Jeremy told me that 1341F was not with the pack today, but was seen briefly in the Soda Butte area, howling. So I think the one I saw was 1339M.

Seems like 1341F may still be looking for love. I hope she finds it because she seems to already possess good mothering instincts.

Around 4:30 the first flakes appear. The cloud that has been shrouding the high peaks descends lower and lower until the wolves themselves become shadowy shapes.

There is still one black feeding when I decide to head east. I’d better get back before the snow gets much heavier.

I enjoy the beauty on the drive back, and see the Limping coyote looking for scraps in the Footbridge pullout.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, mule deer, a bald eagle, elk, 19 Junction wolves (including alpha male, 907F, 1276F, 1339M, 1383F, 1385F, 13 others) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff

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