DAY FOUR - Tuesday, January 16


Oh boy! It’s merely minus 2 today! And no new snow, either!

My first stop is at Picnic. I find nothing on the carcass, but when Laurie arrives she sees a bedded lump which she thinks is a curled-up wolf.

And moments later, she’s proven right. The lump lifts its head, becoming an uncollared gray. Then a black head pops up behind the gray and we realize we have the same black and gray from two days ago.

There are also three coyotes (perhaps the same three as well) near the riverbank. These three exhibit some pre-breeding behavior – two males tussling a bit over a female.

Eventually one male is chased off by the other and the female averts her tail to the chaser, but no breeding occurs.

The gray wolf stands up and does a long “lean forward”, then starts to trot away to the west. The black gets up and briefly chases the coyote couple. They escape easily across the river, so she turns to follow the gray male.

She is far behind, so she kicks into a lope to catch up.

We move to the Ranch, continuing to follow their progress. They head upslope to Amethyst bench and enter the drainage.

I move to Dorothy’s but have lost the pair. Meanwhile, Jeremy says the main Junction pack is on the bench somewhere out of sight.

We search and search. Kristina, Corey and Tim decide to climb Cardiac Hill. Laurie and Dan and I stay in the lot, still hoping to find the traveling pair.

From about half way up, Krisina reports howling wolves on the eastern end of Jasper.

Shortly after this, a visitor in the lot asks “do you see those two wolves?” I look where she points. Two black wolves, one collared, are standing together between the eastern end of Jasper and the high point of Amethyst bench.

The uncollared black has an extremely tucked tail. This tucked-tail black suddenly bolts downhill, running fast – not from the collared black but from the approach of additional wolves, who have just appeared behind the hill.

Laurie & I think this tucked-tail black is the one we’ve been seeing on the Picnic carcass. It just not does not make sense that the beloved female pup would run like this from her pack. Nor would i t make sense for the pack to chase the pup. They DOES make sense that some females in the pack would chase a low-status female, on who is temporarily “on the outs”.

Although the individual participants change, there seems to always be some kind of strife be tween females in the Junction pack.

Anyway, we are happy to suddenly have more wolves in view. And it looks like they are about to travel east.

We move to the Ranch and follow the pack as they cross Amethyst drainage. They seem to be in a good mood, with many of the youngsters romping playfully.

Kristina is still on the hill and reports that the tucked-tail black stopped running and started back up the slope, only to be chased by another black.

This black catches her, pins her and stands over her. Laurie suggests that it is probably 1386F. That’s who the tucked-tail-black was probably trying to avoid from the beginning.

In the group we watch from the Ranch, we ID 1385F (probably the first collared black we saw), the alpha male, 907 and the pup. When we see the pup, Laurie and I comment to each other how she has a “brownish” tone, whereas the “tucked tail black” is much darker overall.

Laurie says it’s normal for a low-ranking female to take an opportunity to feed away from the pack, and avoid the frequent chasing and pinning behavior, explaining her visits to the Picnic carcass.

My count is now up to 12 wolves, which is a bit surprising. It’s two more Junctions than we consistently saw in early December. I wonder who came back?

The pack crosses the small fan and enters the western side of the big fan, moving in a fairly orderly line.

They reach the carcass. Some pass it by and others begin to feed. The tucked-tail black is following the pack at a safe distance. I notice a gray that noticeably hesitates before joining the pack at the carcass. This gray tucks his tail tightly and drops to a crouch. He is quickly pinned by another gray but only lightly. Thus admonished, the crouching gray straightens up and joins the others at the carcass.

The tucked-tail black does NOT approach the pack but remains far back, watching, close to the tree line. Most of the pack feeds for only about 15 minutes, then they move off to bed down. The tucked-tail black stays where she is.

907 and the alpha male end up bedding near each other at the edge of a little gully east of the carcass. Others find bedding spots scattered here and there. 1386F walks east as far as the western foothills but then she walks back a bit before selecting her preferred spot.

A few younger wolves walk back west and start to pester a bison herd below Amethyst. Some get charged and chased for their efforts, but nothing develops. I watch a single black (perhaps 1385) face off with a single bison, but then they go their separate ways.

I learn from Krisztina that while they were up on Cardiac Hill, they spotted the remains of a bull elk carcass on the far end of Jasper Bench, in a spot you wouldn’t see from the lot.

So now we know where the pack was going yesterday morning.

The day is bright and sunny but still crazy cold. My toes start to complain around 11:30 so I head in.

Alas, Rick missed this whole sighting. But he still had a good morning. He was at Elk Creek watching a few Mollies on Vader Hill, including our dear 1048M!

After a short break, I head back in around 2:30. Some clouds have arrived, with a bit of wind, but it’s now 17 above. Which feels like 40!

I join Krisztina at Picnic. She tells me most of the wolves got up from their naps around 2:15. A collared black went to carcass to eat and was soon joined by others. Then, about a half hour ago, 1386F went off to the east by herself.

There are four grays on the carcass right now, as well as the alpha male, a collared black and the pup. 907 is still snoozing in her bedding spot near the gully.

A gray prances past the pup with some kind of floppy chunk in its mouth. The pup wants it and goes straight to the gray grabbing for it. The gray runs off, daring the pup to chase it. The pup obliges and a second gray joins the fun. These three play keep away and tug of war. The floppy thing tears apart and the pup proudly runs off with her piece.

After she chews on it a bit, the pup goes back to solicit more play from both grays. They happily comply. One gray pins the pup but she quickly gets and taunts it, like “do it again!” It’s heartwarming to see this cute and affectionate play between them.

One of them starts to howl and the rest join in. After this, the pup sees something to the west and starts loping that direction all the way to the big gully. The wolves at carcass stop to watch her, or at whatever she sees. The pup stops, looking across the gully, then comes back, turning a few times to look west again.

We wonder if she is seeing the tucked-tail black?

Finally, she returns to the carcass and stands on top of it. She’s a character!

The alpha male finishes eating and walks off a bit to rub his face in snow. He ambles over to 907 and sniffs her. She raises her head and sniffs him. He sniffs her again, she snaps once, then relaxes. The alpha male beds down to her right. She lowers her head again.

Laurie & Dan arrive around 4:15, just as the pack begins another group howl. Now they have a rally. The alpha male starts off to the east, crossing the little gully. Seven wolves follow him. They set off cross the rendezvous, aiming for the river corridor.

Looks like they will probably head to Cache.

A single coyote follows the wolves for a while at a distance.

We hear more howling but a few voices are coming from the trees behind the carcass at the top of the big fan. As the light begins to fade, the tucked-tail black emerges from those trees, along with her companion gray.

Now that the pack has gone, they take their turn at the carcass, hoping to feed in peace.

Krisztina and Corey move to Geriatric. Laurie and Dan and I linger here a bit, then start east. Krisztina radios that the wolves did not turn south but are continuing east.

So, we pull in at Footbridge.

Laurie finds the pack in the Middle Flats, kind of spread out. I see five, including the alphas and the pup. They continue traveling towards DPH and enter the flats just south of the lot.

The light has dimmed to a point I can’t really see anymore, so I get back in my car and head to SG. As I am passing Trout Lake, Krisztina radios that they are howling right in front of her at the edge of the creek.

It’s been a very good day of wolf watching!

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, 12 Junction wolves (including 907, AM, pup, 1385, 1386, several more grays plus tucked tail black) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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