DAY EIGHT - Saturday, January 20


This morning it’s even warmer at 27!

At the end of the day yesterday, someone saw the Junctions at Slough, heading upslope. Well, maybe they’ll come back into Lamar somewhere!

I stop at Round Prairie to listen but hear only the gurgling of the creek.

At Picnic, the now old carcass doesn’t even attract birds!

Rick and I look from Dorothy’s for a bit, checking northern slopes as well as Jasper. But still nothing.

We are just coming out the western end of the Canyon when someone at Elk Creek radios welcome news: there is howling coming from Yancy’s Hole. Next someone else sees wolves on Vader Hill.

Laurie and Dan pull into the big lot at Tower and I follow. Before I can set up, Dan finds them.

I see three wolves bedded on the crest of the hill, and two more walking past the great big boulder.

Laurie thinks they look like Rescues to her – at least three are pups. Yay! There is also an uncollared “older” gray adult and collared black yearling 1392M. They are a fairly restless group, as pups will be. My count rises to 7 with four gray and three black.

A coyote appears on the right side of the hill trotting right towards the wolves. The song dog stops dead in its tracks. Uh oh! Wisely, it makes a new plan and trots quickly back down through the sage. When it reaches the flat, it crosses all the way to the road in front of us, then angles south.

We learn from the watchers at Elk Creek that these 7 were seen traveling to the spot where they stopped and bedded, allowing us to see them from here. As more and more cars arrive, the only activity is a bit of meandering here and there plus some re-bedding.

Every once in a while one wolf will head away from us and disappear. Then one or two others will follow and we are just about to believe they are gone for good, when another one will return to view, followed by two or three more. It goes back and forth like this for another half hour.

The result being that lots of people get to see these wolves this morning.

They also howl a lot and a few of the pups begin short play sessions, including a tug of war that develops when a black finds a bone to carry. He taunts his siblings with it and they give chase.

There also seems to be something of interest to wolves on the eastern side of the hill. Bob drives up and stops to tell us there is a small carcass on the slope above the Garnet Loop Trailhead sign.

He says there isn’t much left, mostly just blood on the snow and a bit of fur. Maybe a mule deer?

Well that explains a lot. It appears that the lone Douglas fir just off the roadway (half-way between this lot and the trailhead) has been blocking our view of the carcass. We move a little to the right and what Bob’s talking about.

There are numerous ravens hopping about in that spot, and I notice a bald eagle perched in the Doug fir.

A pair of coyotes begin to howl south of us. They eventually start to travel to the carcass, using the flat to the south.

A Ranger heads down that way to check it out. He puts up some cones and a sign, but once the Ranger leaves, several guide vans drive to the spot and park, while their camera-toting clients pour out, lining the road.

The wolves remain on the crest of Vader hill. I suppose they might have wanted to return for a final snack, but it seems too late for that now.

But just as I think that thought, two grays (one adult and one pup) defy my logic and slowly creep to a spot above the carcass and the people. They sit and look longingly in that direction. Then they both disappear.

Meanwhile, the rest of the wolves head west, away from us, getting harder and harder to see. The two grays reappear on the crest, walking west, and the pup carries a piece of pelt.

When they reach the original bedding spot, they find the train has left the station. The pup drops the hide and they disappear, following their pack.

It’s about 9:30 and the day has begun to clear up nicely. But I want more! We take a chance and move up the road to Rick’s Pullout.

Happily, this spot offers a great view. For a while Laurie, Dan and I are the only ones to enjoy it. It’s a welcome, close look at members of a Pack I don’t really know that well.

One gray pup is what we call “drab” with a dark forehead and a dark “mask” around his eyes. Another is a more traditional gray with a full-face dark mask. Another gray pup is nearly this one’s twin. There is also a gorgeous dark black pup. The uncollared gray adult is also a “traditional gray” (and a male).

Some of them climb up snow-covered rocks then lie down for a snooze. They howl quite a lot, likely trying to locate the other half of their pack. Although I don’t hear any answering howls, I suspect they are not far.

Some of the pups investigate an old bison carcass in this area. The dark black pup picks up a bone, then plops down for a chew.

After a bit, they all bed down again, and it looks like they might stay here for a while.

It’s now noon. The bright sun has warmed us to a toasty 29, so we head in for a while. As I drive back, I reflect that his is the kind of easy viewing day that makes up for my wolf-less day yesterday.

After a break in Silver Gate, I’m ready for a second helping of wolf viewing.

The temp is up to 37. All the snow that fell on the road yesterday is now completely melted out.

A gray squirrel dashes across near the pothole bridge.

I see no cars at Tower or at Ricks, so I keep going. I find Joe K at Elk Creek. And next to him is my buddy Tom Murphy and his friends, a nice older couple I met a few years ago with him.

And better yet, they have a pretty black wolf bedded and howling below in Yancy’s Hole. He’s likely a Rescue Creek wolf, but he doesn’t move much while I’m here, just turns his head now and then.

Joe tells me that the group of wolves we were watching from Rick’s got up around 2. They met up with other Rescues and they all crossed the road at the curve around 2:30, taking the shortcut back to the Blacktail via the 6 Mile road.

Well, I’m sorry to have missed that, but it’s still nice to see this pretty black. Laurie thinks it’s a pup that missed the “all aboard” call.

Tom talks about his new project and shows me some recent photos. He’s such a nice guy!

I start back to Silver Gate around 4:00. I pass two different cars that went off the road between Lower and Upper Baronette; a huge suburban and a little red car. No one is hurt in either situation and there are already people helping them, so I don’t stop.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, 8 wolves: 7 Rescue Creeks (including 1392M, an uncollared gray adult and five pups) plus an unknown uncollared black – most likely a Rescue, too) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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