DAY SEVEN - Saturday, October 28


It’s much colder this morning at 6:45 but at least there is no new snow.

Diamond dust sparkles in my headlights as I begin my drive. I start to see fox tracks. At the kiosk lot the fox itself appears. What a pretty animal.

At the next turn, a huge full moon bursts through the clouds. Just as quickly it’s hidden again. Very nice.

As I continue down to the valley the temperature to drops, all the way down to a low of 5.

I decide not to stop in Lamar, believing the Junctions will likely be found in Little America today.

I find other watchers at Boulder. I climb the hill and join them. We all comment on how unusual it is to feel this cold in October. Soon we hear howling; a big group concert. It sees to come from the river corridor.

We scope all over. I find numerous elk in small herds on the hills to the west. Christie spots three bears high on Mom’s Ridge, right of the rocky knob. We suspect they are the same three bears (mom and two yearlings) that Calvin found yesterday.

The bears reach the top of the ridge and go out of sight.

Some nearby coyotes begin bark-howling. I find four of them, two large, two small, likely a family on the slope above the pond. The largest one is scent-marking and back scratching on several bushes.

We continue to scope for wolves without finding them. We hear distant howling which seems to come from further west.

On the pond below the coyotes is a large flock of swans. They appear to be calling, a sound I’ve never heard before. The consensus is that they are tundras. The flock leaves the pond, flying overhead and then back.

Watchers split up in an effort to find the wolves.

Laurie and Dan and I scope from Lamar Canyon west. Christie stops at Slough and talks to two women there. She radios that the women saw a gray and a black way out there.

Lamar Canyon affords a great view of the western side of Slough Flats, but not the east side. I drive to Slough and walk out to Bob’s Knob.

About half-way out I lift my binocs and immediately see three black wolves. Oh, and there’s a gray. All four are below the horizontal forest, staring intently to the west.

I radio Laurie and hurry out to the Knob with Christie and the two women.

There are more wolves in view from here, perhaps 8 or 9. One of them is the alpha male. Several of them, including him, are in stalking posture. Frustratingly, they move behind a berm, out of sight.

Suddenly three cow elk burst out from the left side of the berm, running for their lives towards the creek, with wolves in pursuit. The three elk split up and chaos reigns. I follow the middle elk, pursued by the alpha male and two others.

The elk reaches the creek bank (far side from us) and launches herself into the air. She lands in heavily slushy water. She lunges awkwardly through, up to her belly, making for the near bank. She heaves herself out, and stots victoriously across the flat.

Fay sees blood near her mouth and wonders if she cut herself on some of that ice in the creek? I guess it’s a small price to pay for saving her own life.

The alpha male stops at the bank, knowing his elk has gotten away. I catch sight of a gray nearby, turning east. The alpha male seems to notice and he also turns east.

Someone calls “black running left” so I leave the alpha and pan left. I find a smallish black running fast. I pan ahead and find two more blacks gaining on another elk. The elk makes it to the creek and enters the water. In this spot there seems to be less ice. .

The elk stops and stands a moment in the water. It lunges first right and left. I think it might be trying to further break up the ice. All three blacks stop on the bank to watch the elk. I think none of them are eager to get into that cold, half-frozen water.

I pan back right to try to find the alpha male again and find 907F instead. She is walking east along the far bank. I see other wolves ahead of her and then I see birds.

Then I find a spot where many wolves have gathered. They are having a high tail, high 5 rally. A few leave the rally and move toward a line of willows where the birds are. Aha! Looks like they got the third elk.

More and more birds arrive. The wolves are hard to see since the carcass is below and behind the willows (as usual). Fay sees a gray leave the area with a bright red muzzle.

The three blacks arrive and my count grows to 9. I am not really sorry to have missed the take-down. The chase is exciting, but the end is not something I need to see.

The day has warmed to 28 and feels very nice.

More and more people arrive, but it’s not easy to see the wolves for a while. We see backs and tails mostly. Every once in a while, a wolf will emerge above the vegetation and walk to find a bedding spot.

A guide scoping from Lamar Canyon West alerts us that a grizzly has just crossed the road and is heading towards Dave’s Hill, behind us.

We are pretty sure there are enough people out here to discourage a bear from getting too close. We thank the guide for the call and turn periodically to check.

A crowd forms on the campground road about half-way between here and the lot, watching the bear. Kathie joins us, relaying that the bear is sitting on a rock between Dave’s Hill and the road, yawning, holding his toes, entertaining the crowd.

We enjoy watching the Junctions on their fresh kill. One by one they move further off, seeking their bedding spots. Some choose places in view, but the majority end up too low to see.

Several coyote voices to the left spread the news of the kill. Two of them appear below the Marge Simpson tree, moving towards the carcass. Suddenly the wolves stand up, aware of the coyotes. Aha! There are more than before. My count rises to 12; 6 grays and 6 blacks.

The coyotes retreat and most of the wolves return to their business, either feeding or resting. Two wolves (a black and a gray) seem restless, walking towards the lower part of the lion meadow. One collared black travels far in pursuit of a bedding spot. She goes past the small diagonal forest and then continues upslope, where she beds a while.

Back at the carcass a different black separates a leg assembly and carries it up a low hill. The wolf sits down with its prize and begins to chew on it.

The leg looks fairly small, perhaps from a yearling calf.

The alphas and the black pup are bedded near each other on a low rise, making them the easiest to see. Nearby are two robust-looking grays, including “brown-gray” who is often the “bodyguard” of the pup.

In addition to these, I note a “delicate” looking black with a bit of gray on its underside.

After a while, the separately bedded collared black returns downhill. She goes to the bedded alphas. 907F stands up for the greeting, standing over the collared black. I don’t see a pinning, just acknowledgement of status. When 907 relaxes, the black goes to greet the alpha male.

It’s now after 3 under a bright blue sky. All the wolves are bedded and sleeping off their meal. It feels like time to head back east.

On the walk back to my car I see the bear now asleep on the rock.

I head east through Lamar Valley, I note that this morning’s snow is nearly all melted, from the roads at least. It’s still hugging the hillsides and peaks.

Near Exclosure I pass the limping coyote just off the road.

Today I saw: Four grizzly bears (including 2 cubs), bison, seven coyotes, elk, a fox, geese, swans, 12 Junction wolves (including 907F, alpha male, 1385F, the pup plus 8 others) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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