DAY SIX - Thursday, May 25


My legs are unusually bad, this morning, I guess because I was on my feet for nearly an hour last night watching the Shrimps.

My first stop is at Soda Butte East in case any of them are still around. It’s still too dark for me to see, though.

I start at Doug’s lot at Slough. He has wolves on the carcass in the flats. I make out 5 total; 3 grays and 2 blacks.

Both blacks are uncollared and one is very dark. Can’t tell yet about the second one. The three grays include the limper and two with collars, meaning both 1341F and 1384F.

I check the sage den periodically in case the pups come out. At one point a black bear wanders behind the western trees and then up the hillside above the sage den. 1276F and mocha are on duty there today. They notice the bear but let it wander to the east without an escort.

A little later the pups emerge, although I get only a few scattered glimpses. The grass is so tall, they are mostly hidden as they wobble about. They are still so small, only a bit more than four weeks old, still unsure of themselves.

One of the adult blacks leaves the carcass and begins to ascend the lower lion meadow back up to the den. As I watch this wolf, I notice its coat is kind of two-toned, darker in back and lighter in front.

Once this wolf has arrived, three more wolves leave the carcass; both collared grays and the dark black. The limper stays at the carcass the longest, and when he goes, three coyotes take advantage and harass him part way, yipping and complaining.

Some visitors worry out loud that the coyotes might kill the wolf. Doug overhears them and says, no, the coyotes are not trying to kill it, just annoy it. He says even with a bad leg, the wolf is still capable of intimidating three coyotes.

I add that they might manage a solid nip or two but would not risk their own lives against the much larger wolf, no matter how motivated they might be.

My focus is drawn back to the den, where the pups are out again with Mocha and 1276F. The black pup starts downhill and takes a tumble. 1276 quickly retrieves it and carries it back to the den.

I hear a familiar voice call my name. Surprise! John W is in the Park. It’s great to see him. He usually visits in the winter months. This is his first spring visit. So far, he has been taken aback by the crowds and their bad driving behavior. But he’s happy with the wolf watching!

1276F makes her way down to the carcass to feed. She stays about 45 minutes but has to move aside when some bison come by for a belated “funeral”. Once they pass through, though, she goes right back to feeding.

This morning we’ve had radio reports from Lamar: several Junctions were seen from Footbridge heading out towards Cache Creek.

In addition to the usual bison, pronghorn, elk and sandhills, the morning’s “extras” feature Linda’s muskrat, two bald eagles and a dozen yellow-headed blackbirds. I’ve never seen so many together, nor so many at Slough. Each of them is perched on a different dead branch sticking up from the fallen tree in front of the carcass.

Celia finds a cinnamon teal in the creek. And the grizzly sow with two shows up on Specimen once again.

Around 11 the day gets hot, so I pack up and go east. The Confluence is jammed packed with cars and people eager to watch the reliable Willow grizzly.

At Soda Butte Picnic I note that the Park Service has completed its “clean up” job on the former pile of flood-uprooted trees. The area looks much better than it did before. Good job, guys!

It’s a beautiful day and a beautiful drive back to SG.

Around 4pm the clouds build up and we get a brief, heavy rain around 5. But by 6PM the sky is clearing up nicely.

We all head out in what proves to be a windy evening. Bill H has a bear for us in Soda Butte Valley, and the Willow bear is still drawing a huge crowd.

There are no wolves in the rendezvous area so I continue to Dorothy’s. It’s even more windy here. Maureen and Rick and I check the eagle nest but see only pronghorn and bison. A young couple scoping to the left of us, Kerry and Tim, find a wolf! It’s a black, probably a Junction yearling, trotting west below the forest on Amethyst Bench.

The wolf goes in and out of view for about 10 minutes, then crosses the saddle. All too soon we lose it on Jasper Bench.

The wind makes me chilly though, so I head back early.

As I pass Exclosure, I notice a bison calf to the south, behind the line of cottonwoods above the river. It stands broadside staring at a lone coyote merely a yard away. The coyote breaks the standoff by taking a step towards the calf. The calf responds by lunging fiercely at the coyote.

Hah! The coyote was NOT expecting that! The coyote wheels and dashes off.

I pull over at Geriatric and hop out with my binocs. I want to see if the coyote will return. The calf is all by itself, but I can see a largish herd maybe 100 yards to the south. Maybe the calf got separated crossing the river?

I catch movement to my left and see a second coyote on the Geriatric trail, staring across the river at the lone calf. This second coyote knows an opportunity when he sees one.

The coyote moves downslope and I get back into my car to give him space if he wants to cross. But other visitors driving west notice him. They stop on the road to take his photo, causing other cars to stop behind them.

The coyote reacts and moves back up the hill. The people in the cars don’t know there is a lone calf on the other side of the river.

Meanwhile, that calf is now moving towards the herd.

I apologize for my part in thwarting the plans of this coyote and drive on.

The Willow bear jam is still going on. At Lower Baronette I spot a small black bear and a little further on I see the local fox.

Today I saw: 2 black bears, 5 grizzly bears (including 2 cubs), a beaver, bison (and calves), 12 yellow headed black birds, 5 coyotes, 5 bald eagles (one chick), elk, a fox, geese, a muskrat, pronghorn, a cinnamon teal, 9 Junctions (including 1276F, 1341F, 1384F, gray limper, dark black, uncollared two-tone black, mocha, and both pups) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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