DAY SEVEN - Monday, December 4


We’ve gotten about two more inches of snow overnight. It’s warmer today at 30 degrees, but windy.

There is an advantage to the fact that the plows are not out yet: tracks! I follow fox tracks for a while, then those of a coyote.

There’s a bit of fog in the Soda Butte Valley. I see Jeff at Footbridge so I check in with him.

The crew told him the Junctions did NOT go out to Cache yesterday but instead visited their bison carcass. They are still there, but alas, in a spot where they cannot be seen.

We try various angles from Hitching Post, Exclosure and Trash Can but see only bison and elk. Jim and Elizabeth join us for a while. They have a new radio and are now unit 316. With their help we add three bald eagles, a coyote and a flying duck to our wildlife tally for the day.

It doesn’t help our chances that it continues to snow all morning, off and on, making viewing impossible for a while and difficult at other times.

By 11AM, with nothing to watch, I head back to Silver Gate.

The snow finally eases off in the afternoon, so we head back out. And our timing is perfect.

Moments after we set up at Trash Can with Jim and Elizabeth she finds a moving wolf. That one wolf becomes 9 wolves. The Junctions are leaving their carcass and traveling back towards the old Druid rendezvous.

Scott and Beth join us, and we enjoy seeing the group traveling right along the tree line of the Old Druid rendezvous. We identify the alpha pair, 1386F, the “small black yearling” (the one I call sometimes delicate, or “black mask”), the pup and four robust-looking grays.

One of the grays carries a stick for a while.

We don’t see 1385F tonight and the crew informs us later that she stayed back at the carcass.

1386F leads the way most of the time. She often gets quite far ahead but eventually stops and looks back, then beds a while to wait for the others.

The pup and various yearlings take plenty of opportunities to cavort and chase each other. It’s lovely to watch them as if they don’t have a care in the world!

They pass the eastern foothills and take a route closer to the river than they used a few days ago. As usual I lose them for a while in a section of deep sage in front of the double foothill.

They proceed across the Big Fan making good time. 1386 seems to be in a hurry but the rest of them are not.

There is a whitened bison skull in the middle of the Big Fan that often attracts the wolves as they pass by. This time is no exception – they all stop to have a sniff at it.

When 907 arrives at the skull, she finishes her visit with a quick pee on top. So, I guess that’s why the wolves stop – to “read the news”.

The light is beginning to fade, so when they reach the line of cottonwoods I head down to my car.

I pass the limper near the big willow. I bet he visits Trash Can Hill after people leave, gobbling up any dropped crumbs.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, ducks, 3 bald eagles, elk, 9 Junction wolves (including the alpha pair, 1386, the pup, the small yearling and 4 grays) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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