DAY SIX - Friday, October 27


More snow has fallen overnight so I am in no rush to leave this morning.

Around 7 I head out in slightly warmer temps of 21 degrees. We heard last night that Mammoth and Gardiner got over 8 inches. We probably got 3-4.

The road has been plowed but the pullouts are not done yet. I enjoy seeing numerous fox tracks in the road during the drive down.

There is much better visibility in Soda Butte Valley today. The highest slopes of Specimen are still in cloud but both Druid Peak and Mt. Norris are visible.

Laurie and Dan and I scope at Dorothy’s for a while, enjoying the newly white landscape. I find 3 bull elk on the north side while Laurie finds two coyotes to the south.

It’s still overcast with some sporadic wind gusts blowing the snow about.

I continue west and find even better visibility in Little America. But I find no wolves, so I keep going. I end up joining Rick at Petrified Tree. We talk and scope then hear from Dale & Fay at Boulder. They have just heard howling south of them.

At the same time, Calvin calls to say “wolves at Hellroaring”. Rick and I go west.

At Hellroaring we find the crew with Junctions in view. They are kind of low, facing a group of about 30 elk, all bunched up near a cliff above the Yellowstone.

Apparently, the Junctions have been chasing elk for about a half hour, without success. Right now, only a few wolves are actually attentive to the bunched elk. Most of them are bedded to the left.

A single cow leaves the herd and boldly approaches the wolves, taunting them. The young wolves fall for it and move closer, only to have her stomp at them. When they spook and run she returns to the herd with a satisfied, high-headed trot.

I note there is a bull with the herd bearing only one antler. Maybe he can be forgiven for being at the back of the group instead of the front, since his head is unbalanced. There is also a spike among them, and he doesn’t offer much in the way of defense, either.

The bold cow makes this taunting move at least three times. I like this cow!

More and more people arrive so people reposition their cars to get everyone in.

Laurie and I scope together. She helps me ID several individuals: the alpha male, 907F, 1385F, the black pup and “brown-gray”. There is another collared gray but we’re not sure who that is. My total is 11, with 6 grays and 5 blacks.

The alpha male gets up and moves slightly upslope past the elk, then east. It looks to me as if he is ready to give up. The others follow, some quickly, some reluctantly.

They continue to travel east, towards the Little Buffalo drainage. They enter the area of scattered trees, becoming harder and harder to follow.

They reach an area we call the “rocky knob” then begin to travel downhill towards the Yellowstone. If they continue on this route, we will lose them sooner than usual.

Alas, that’s just what happens.

I end up relocating to Elk Creek where I join Calvin & Lynette. The day has brightened up considerably. Calvin finds a grizzly family on the open slope of Hellroaring, a mom with two large cubs.

We alert other watchers and have them in view for maybe 20 minutes. Above the bears on the same slope is a different herd of elk. They are quite attentive to those bears.

Mom stands up a few times, sniffing the wind. She leads her cubs quickly across a snow field and into thick trees in the same drainage the wolves entered but much higher on the slope. I would love to know what it is she smelled that made her run in that direction.

Alas, the bears are now out of sight and we still have not found the wolves.

I go on and try the big lot near Petrified Tree.


Next, I join other watchers at Boulder.

Dale and Fay heard howling from here much earlier but never found any wolves. We speculate that the howlers could be straggler Junctions trying to catch up with the ones we saw at Hellroaring.

We find no wolves from here, but I do see a herd of elk above the sheep cliffs and several swans on the pond to the northeast.

The sun comes out in full, making the landscape gorgeous. It’s up to 27 now but feels like 50!

Around 12:30 I call it a day and drive back slowly, enjoying the wonderful views.

Today I saw: 3 grizzly bears (including two cubs), bison, elk, swans, 11 wolves (including Junctions 907F, alpha male, 1385F, the pup, a collared gray and 7 others) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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