DAY TWO - Sunday, May 21


I’m up and out at 4:37. It’s a warmish 40 degrees.

There is still haze in the sky from the fires. I hope it doesn’t mess too much with visibility.

I drive down the Campground road and set up in the big lot that used to have a gravel pile. Bill W is here, along with a few others.

I take my time getting re-oriented to the dens from this angle. Almost right away I find an uncollared black on the gully ridge. It finds something tasty there, picks it up and goes out of sight. Bill says he saw a wolf cache something in that same spot yesterday.

Several other wolves appear in the area One is the alpha male, and there is 907F! I am always happy to see her because you never know when it might be the last time. She is 10 years old!

1276F appears soon after, trailed by a wolf I call mocha. She is an uncollared female whose coat is a uniform shade of slightly reddish milk-chocolate.

I see a collared gray (1341F or 1384F), a collared black (possibly 1385F) and an uncollared black with a very skinny tail.

Later, I see a largish uncollared gray in the area. This could be 1340M, a three year old who no longer has his collar (Jeremy told me it was likely chewed off by his younger siblings last year). A group of four (including the alpha male, 907, the collared black and a skinny tail black yearling) heads off to the east towards the yellow-grass meadow.

I am happy to see so many Junction wolves this morning, but we all really want to see pups! Especially after the not-so-good news from yesterday, when regular watchers saw two lifeless bodies taken from the sage den and buried.

It seems as though the Junctions are having a hard time keeping their pups alive this year.

We will never know how many the females originally had this year. And other dead pups could have been removed from the den at night. But the good news is that some pups must still be alive, or the Junctions wouldn’t be here at all.

It takes until 10AM before I get my first, brief glimpse of a gray pup when it comes out of the sage den to greet a collared gray. Frank and Rick are in a slightly higher spot: they see it for a bit longer.

Shortly after the pup goes back inside the den, a group of four adults comes back. Two more adults arrive from the west; one is a black yearling who proudly carries an antler, a gift for the pups. The other is gray, with a pronounced back leg limp. A third wolf, fairly large, comes up to the spring meadow from below. I call this one “brown-gray”.

1340M reappears from the eastern trees. 1276 goes to him quickly, pestering him for food and he finally gives it up. 1276F seems just as antsy as she was three weeks ago.

Laurie and I wonder if 907 and 1276 suffered a lack of nutrition in their early nursing days this year. We discuss the fact that the Junctions have 15 yearlings, and despite the black carrying the antler, none of them seem to be doing much of a job providing food. (An antler isn’t food; it’s a toy, but I give the wolf credit for the effort).

The yearlings are without the examples of 1048M, 1229F and 1228F, who were all diligent, selfless providers. Most of them seem to still be expecting the others to feed them.

This lot offers a close-up view of Soda Butte Creek and the meadows on either side. A small group of pronghorn arrives from the east. They seem to be having a disagreement with one male in the group. They soon gang up on him, chasing him to the west. The male leaps off the creek bank into the swollen water and swims to our side to make his escape.

There are numerous elk grazing the slope above the natal den. So that dynamic is still going on.

Around 10:45, Laurie and I decide to follow up on an earlier report of a black wolf seen near Boulder. We climb the hill and quickly find a collared gray (possibly 1339M) in the Buffalo Ford flats, near an old bison carcass.

When it was fresh, a week ago, this carcass attracted quite a few bears. Now it’s just hide and scattered bones. As if to prove this point, the gray only sniffs at it and quickly continues on.

A bit further on he beds down and starts to howl. I hear no response but he might have, because he soon continues east, into the river corridor.

There is another reported wolf sighting – this time in Lamar on Jasper Bench. So, we pack up and head east.

But we are delayed at the Lamar Canyon light, and end up arriving too late. So, on we go. At Confluence there is a huge jam, again for the small grizzly, which I can see foraging at the edge of the willows. People and cars are everywhere, bumper to bumper all the way to Hitching Post.

On my way through Ice Box Canyon I have a black bear sighting.

I do my stretching exercises at Laurie’s. I have learned that the more often I do them, the less pain I have in the morning.

I stay in tonight and miss seeing what Laurie sees: a squabble between 1276 and 907 in the den area, which the alpha male tries to stop. This is the first altercation between those two in quite a while.

Today I saw: 1 grizzly bear, 1 black bear, bison (and calves), sandhill cranes, elk, pronghorn, 10 Junction wolves (including alpha male, 907F, 1276F, mocha (F), collared black (1385F or 1383F), 1339M, a collared gray (1341F or 1384F) uncollared gray limper (M), a skinny-tail black, plus 1 gray pup) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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