DAY FOUR - Sunday, March 19


A bit warmer this morning at minus 3.

Last night, just before dark, Dan and I caught a glimpse of a fox trotting along the road, heading east. It was a very dark-colored fox, maybe a cross fox?

This morning I see another fox in the road as I near Baronette. This one is the typical reddish color. He hops up on the snow berm as I slowly pass.

Rick is at Soda Butte East along with another car. Laurie and Dan pull in while I go on ahead. I park at mid-point and start to walk to Jeff’s spot.

Before I get there, Laurie & Dan drive up to tell me they saw nothing but heard howling; a fairly close group howl, then a single voice responding from the east. She says a wolf has been spotted at Slough so they are going there.

I return to my car and follow them to Slough. But before I get there, Sian radios that the wolf can be seen from the lot. No need to hike out!

I set up and find 1386F on her way up the lion meadow. She continues into the spring meadow, which must be full of frozen, crusted snow because she leaves no footprints. She stops to howl a few times and we hear a faint reply, numerous voices, from behind us, on Divide Ridge.

For the next hour we watch as she wanders around the den area, sniffing here and there, inspecting and investigating. I wonder what she makes of all the snow? Last year at this time there was considerably less! I still see no prints left behind her as she wanders, so it must be very hard snow she’s walking on.

She stops at the sage den and sniffs. Next, she heads upslope to the eastern trees. She roams here and there, sniffing the old “bow log” area, including 907’s boulder. She goes into the bracken area, following the trail that leads to the natal den. Once she reaches that spot, she pokes her head inside.

I see no dirt there, only snow, and she doesn’t dig, but she is clearly taking notes. This is the den in which she gave birth to her own pups last year, which she shared with the former alpha female. At least until she got the notion to move them south about 4 weeks later.

She sits on her haunches near the natal den and howls again. She is answered again by distant voices to the south. I guess she’s tweeting to them! She turns and follows a trail around the cliff face, about 2/3 of the way from the top. She stops at another spot on the eastern side, where one of the “extra” dens is. I’ve never seen wolves use this den, but Laurie has.

To me, her visit has a tinge of sadness to it, but that’s probably because she is alone. How are these wolves going to dig through all that snow and the frozen ground beneath? I guess my real worry is that the usually reliable Junctions might choose another spot to den, someplace where we can’t see them.

1386F goes back to the natal den and howls once more, which is also answered. Now she sets off to the west, taking a fairly high route, above the small diagonal forest. I lose her all too quickly in the rocks.

We hear a radio report from Doug Mac. He’s at Dorothy’s in Lamar, watching four gray canids high up on Southern Divide Ridge, heading north.

We turn our scopes south to see if we can pick them up from this side.

Doug says they might be coyotes but he thinks they’re wolves. He says all four are playful, like a group of wolf pups would be. He makes a good point; four coyotes traveling together would more likely be a family group, with at least one serious adult.

With no luck at Slough, we go back into Lamar and scope from Coyote a while, but still have no luck.

Next we learn that the Rescue Pack is visible again on the Blacktail. Which means another chance to see wolves and chat with the crew, so off we go.

Today the Rescue wolves are back on the north side, near their bison carcass. We find the crew in the lot below the S Curves, along with Jeff and Sian. Luckily there is room to park. The wolves are bedded on a snowy slope above the gully where their carcass is. I see birds flit in and out of that area.

I count seven furry lumps, three gray and four black, in a kind of line. The day has warmed above zero and it’s actually pleasant scoping for quite a while. An eighth wolf appears, moving from his previous bedding spot behind the branches of a conifer. Jeremy thinks another black (probably a pup) is still chewing on the carcass down below and the 10th is likely still on the south side where the pack was yesterday.

We have been hearing faint howling from the south, a single voice, which is probably that 10th wolf. It’s fairly normal for the pups to get left behind. Most of the time they find their way back, but some don’t. That’s how they learn.

Around noon, the black pup who was still on the carcass walks into view from below. He approaches the bedded wolves with a tucked tail, greeting them one by one. The pup is welcomed with muzzle licks and wagging tails, and he soon settles down for a nap.

There are several howling sessions in the four hours I spend here, and a bit of up and down, but mostly I watch bedded wolves while we talk and joke.

I also find a single coyote in the area, who wisely keeps his distance. And a lone bedded bull elk.

Around 2PM we head back east. At Slough we run into Natalie & Warren who report a sighting of two grays from Fisherman’s. They were traveling up on Divide Ridge, in the same general area where Doug Mac saw wolves this morning. Hmmm.

We stop at Fisherman’s and as soon as I lift my scope, I see a gray wolf running down a trail that curves into a forest above the west end of Jasper Bench.

Dan sees it, too, but it goes quickly out of sight. We scope a bit more, then return to Slough to try from there.

Laurie talks to Michael who says he saw those two grays, too, and is pretty sure they are Junctions. He also caught sight of 1382F on the north side, heading over Secret Passage towards Slough.

We scope to the south from Slough for another half hour, but the wolves elude us. Around 4PM we head home to Silver Gate.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, a fox, bighorn sheep, 11 wolves including two Junctions (1386F and an uncollared gray) plus 9 Rescue Creek wolves (all but one black pup) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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