Itís a tad colder today at 36 degrees. My legs are medium-level today.
When I get to Dougís lot this morning, I notice especially nice birdsong. Mostly from meadowlarks, but a few other songsters are nearby, too.
1276F is visible right away, bedded near the trunks of the eastern trees. Near the den, the two stalwart babysitters, 1341F & 1384F keep watch.
The two pups make a brief early appearance before the sun arrives, but they quickly go back underground. A little later, two more adult wolves appear from their hidden bedding spots in the gully; an uncollared black and the limping gray.
A little later, four adult wolves converge at the den entrance (which still cannot be seen, only inferred by the action of the wolves). Out come the pups and the morning show begins!
The little gray pup takes the lead today, following one of the babysitters quite far to the left, almost to the antler (left there days ago by a black adult) which is just below the easternmost western tree. The adult plays with the pup a bit then they walk back.
Another adult heads for the eastern trees and both pups follow. They get to the edge of the ďbare spotsĒ under the trees, before descending again.
Mocha appears from who knows where and noses around the den before wandering down to the gully. Now both pups follow her. They all go out of sight for a while. I donít know how deep that gully is, but it sure has hidden a lot of wolves over the years.
The black pup hurries back up from the gully. Itís so cute to see it scent-trailing its way back to the den all on its own.
1276 has remained bedded up by the eastern trees all this time. I guess she is taking a needed break. When both pups are close to the den again and with several babysitters on duty, she sets off to the south, bypassing the den and traveling down the lion meadow to the flats.
I lose sight of her, but Steve finds her again (heís taller than I am!) He also sees a gray traveling with her.
The two collared grays are indeed excellent babysitters. However, part of a wolfís job is to go hunting on occasion and bring back their share of food to the moms and other babysitters. I rarely see these two wolves join the hunting party. Mostly I see them pestering others for food. I think they know they found a job with free meals.
The pups remain active for a while after 1276 heads off, but eventually they go underground for their mid-morning nap.
Some folks head to Lamar, hoping to discover where 1276 might be going. I succumb to that curiosity myself.
As I approach Coyote pullout, I hear radio reports of a black and a gray on the north side of the road, heading east. Traffic is slow so I glance to my left a few times, looking up high.
But my eye catches movement down low Ė half-way between the road and the base of Cardiac Hill. Itís a wolf and itís 1276!
Looks like she took Secret Passage over to Lamar. Clever girl.
I pull into Dorothyís and set up, anticipating she will cross to the south. When I last saw her she seemed headed to Crystal, but she and the gray must have pulled a switch.
Someone radios that she has crossed between Coyote and Dorothyís. I expect she will be in the flats very soon.
Yep! There she is at the edge of the green grass. She sets out across the flats towards the river. A small group of bison is grazing ahead of her. She starts to circle around the herd but gets charged by a bull who clearly doesnít trust her. She avoids the bison easily and adjusts her route.
In no time at all she is at the riverís edge. She stops a moment to scan the bank, then swims the river like the experienced wolf she is, letting the current carry her rather than fighting it. She paddles just enough to steer herself towards the far bank. Once she gets purchase on land she lopes uphill, aiming for the eastern end of Jasper.
Half-way up the slope she finds something on the ground that she likes. After sniffing it, she lies down and rolls in it, legs in the air, white belly exposed. People in the pullout get a kick out of that, saying thatís what their dogs do, too!
Once that task is accomplished, she continues up the slope and across the bench to the back. All too soon, sheís gone.
I continue to Silver Gate where I check in with Laurie and Dan. We are all heading to a picnic held in a campground northeast of Cooke City. Itís in honor of Richard, a long-time bear watcher who passed away suddenly last year. He and his wife, Rita, created a tradition long ago of hosting a picnic for all the bear watchers every year on his birthday (June 1).
Bill H invited a bunch of long-time wolf-watchers to attend this year. Our two communities have a lot of overlap and shared interests. Our instructions are to bring only ourselves ďand a chair to sit onĒ. They provide the rest.
Itís a really nice time with great food and wonderful company. Iíve never been to the location before but itís perfect. Gravel roads, open meadows surrounded by forest. There is a threat of rain as we drive but mercifully it holds off for the duration of the event.
Things break up around 3PM and on our way back, just east of Cooke City we see a grizzly sow with two coy. I tell Bill think Richard specifically arranged that sighting for us!
After a short break, we head out again for the eveningís viewing. A bit of rain fell around 4PM, but itís clear again.
The Willow bear is causing a huge jam, as the bruin is clearly visible north of Trash Can Hill.
I drive on to Slough and stop at the Bobís Knob lot, where I see John W. He is watching Mocha roaming around the flats, checking to see if any morsels might be left on the old bison carcass. Eventually she heads back to the den, taking it very slowly.
We hope the pups will come out when she returns, but they stay underground. I tell John theyíre likely watching nature shows on TV.
Itís a beautiful night with good friends.
On the way back I see lots of mule deer plus the local fox.
Today I saw: four grizzlies (including two coy), bison (and calves), 12 mule deer, elk, a fox, 6 Junction wolves (including 1276F, 1341F,
1384F, mocha, two uncollared blacks plus the two pups) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.