DAY TWELVE - Saturday, December 9

NORTH OF LONGS

Itís "normal" cold again today, only 9 degrees. But the snow has stopped, and the sky is clear above.

As a last morning gift, the local fox says hello at Baronette.

I find Jeff at Footbridge. He tells me Melba saw the Shrimpís yesterday from here, so we scope for them a while.

Laurie and Dan stop by but continue west. Pretty soon after they leave I decide to follow them.

As I drive through Lamar Valley I reflect once more that to me, this is still the most beautiful place on earth.

We find the crew and Rick in a dirt pullout just east of Longs. He finds the Junctions a bit further east than they were yesterday, feeding on a bull elk carcass at the bottom of a partly-treed rocky knob.

Laurie helpfully radios Jeff to come this way.

I settle in for a very nice two-hour sighting among friends. We have the current normal count, which is 10 (five gray, five black) and includes the alpha pair, the pup, 1385F, 1386F, the small uncollared black and four uncollared grays.

When I first see the wolves, I notice several bull elk standing above them counting their lucky stars that they are not the one sprawled below.

A few Junctions are feeding while others are already bedded on various large boulders just below. A gray wolf finishes and walks away with a bloody face. The others do the same. I watch 907 wipe her face in snow. Later I see her licking the pupís face to clean her.

One uncollared gray carries off a leg. Another chases birds in a half-hearted way.

The uncollared small black walks upslope with a very tucked tail, towards 1386. 1386 pins the submissive wolf, twice, much too fiercely than she needs to. Then she just stands over the poor, g roveling thing. I comment to Laurie that 1386 has gotten high and mighty pretty fast.

Several uncollared grays seem extra relaxed, sunbathing on snow-covered rocks.

We have a perfect sunny blue sky overhead, in sharp contrast to several days of snow and poor visibility.

At 10:30 I start to say my goodbyes and pack up. Time to head back to Bozeman.

At Floating Island Lake, I spot a coyote curled up asleep on the ice, giving me a three-dog day.

Up on the OGR, I pull over to have my visit with Allison and thank her for all the nice sightings I had on this trip.

I find a lot more snow in Bozeman when I get back. Not a lot for December but definitely more than when I left.

Today I saw: bison, a coyote, a bald eagle, elk, a fox, 10 Junction wolves (same as yesterday) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.


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