DAY NINE - Sunday, January 21

QUALITY TIME WITH 1048M

We get another inch of new snow overnight. Itís a mild 30 degrees.

I see fox tracks in the driveway this morning.

My first stop today is at Dorothyís, where I hear coyotes howling. I donít find any wolves, though, so I continue to Slough.

I walk out the campground road with Bob. I always enjoy talking with him, hearing about his latest film on ravens. He always has good stories.

We hear a raven grocking but canít figure out why. I watch a single bull bison walk towards the frozen creek. He inches carefully down the bank and steps onto the ice. But after a few steps, he stops.

Then he backs up! He turns and hauls himself back up to the bank, continuing south. I guess he heard the ice crack or something.

Rick and Laurie and Dan and I spread out from Nature Trail to Slough. I end up at Hellroaring for a while but see only bison and elk.

Finally, around 9:30 we hear a promising report mentioning Slough so we drive back east to follow up.

But there is no one at Slough so we continue into Lamar. Aha! Lots of cars stopped at Fishermanís.

Luckily, we find room to park and Laurie points to the north side of the road. I look there with just binocs and see a single wolf, a black-going gray, less than 50 yards from the road.

Itís 1048!

He casually crosses the pavement just east of the big lot and continues through the snow & sage towards the river.

Well, hello old friend!

I follow him with my binocs for about 5 minutes until he disappears down the slope.

We move to Dorothys. When I get set up, he has just reached the flats, having crossed the main channel of the Lamar.

I settle in and enjoy watching this well-known wolf, traveling up the valley that used to be his central home. We assume heís here checking out any available females. He reminds me, today, of 302M, not in looks, but in his easy, breezy confidence.

After a while, most people drive further east. I stay at Dorothyís until Iím the only one here, enjoying the view. 1048 stops many times to sniff certain spots but doesnít seem to linger. Itís like heís checking the headlines. I wonder if he can smell 907, his old love? Her scent must be here.

When he reaches the cottonwood grove south of the ranch I pack up and move for a closer look.

I end up on the crest of Hubbard Hill, where I join various other folk. Everyone is happy to have this opportunity to see this well-known wolf.

At the moment, though, heís out of sight for most of us. A group of watchers at the ďYESĒ pullout have him in view, temporarily bedded near one of the cottonwoods, but from here, the trees block our view.

He rests for about 20 minutes, then gets up again. He picks his way through the deadfall and reappears in sunlight at the eastern end of the grove.

He continues east at a casual trot, traveling for a while in the river corridor itself. Heís just

below the cut bank among the riverbed detritus. He walks on ice for a bit, slowing down to be more careful. He stops briefly now and again to sniff here and there at items of interest.

He jumps up one steep section of the cut bank, revealing both his agility and overall health, then carries on eastward, remaining close to the river course, unlike the Junctions a few days ago, who used a route much closer to the tree line.

I enjoy seeing him cross little streams and gullies along the way.

As he nears the cottonwood stand south of Picnic, he seems to consider crossing the road and heading north. He curves a bit left, traveling about half-way there. But either the cars lining the road to watch his progress or his own wishes change his mind. Soon heís again following the riverís edge.

I move further east, ending up on Trash Can Hill. He seems to speed up when he reaches this area. His ground-eating trot takes him well north of the Old Druid rendezvous area. Soon I load my scope into my car once more, following Laurie and Dan.

I find myself in a slow-moving caravan of 1048M paparazzi, paralleling his route through the river bottoms of the Confluence.

Cars ahead of us stop right on the road, so we pull over briefly right at the Confluence lot to watch him outside of our cars for a short time, then we re-join the caravan.

We make another brief stop at the western end of Hitching Post. He is very easy to see, now in the middle flats, moving past the stand of trees lining the Lamar.

Laurie and I expected him to head south, the route back to Pelican Creek, but something makes him turn east instead.

We go on to Footbridge, where a huge, happy, camera-toting crowd is already set up. Everyone speaks in hushed tones except one camera guru who warns his group about over-exposing due to snow.

I set up and find him quickly. He has paused for a bit in the sage-covered flats above the old bank of Soda Butte Creek.

A herd of about 30 bison cows and almost-yearling calves grazes the flat below the old bank, just left of a thick stand of willows that line the creek.

Itís always nostalgic for me to see wolves from Footbridge, since my early Druid watching days began here. I have so many happy memories of wolf activity seen from this lot during many early mornings and evenings.

And I am about to get a brand new one.

The sage is high enough to hide most of 1048, but I can follow his back and ears as he gets closer and closer to the bend of the creek.

He has passed numerous bison herds throughout his journey through the Lamar and has taken no interest in them. He reaches the bank and follows a diagonal trail down to the flat, just left of the willows.

The herd sees him and bunches up, with a few raised tails, but he is just one wolf, and they do not seem overly agitated. 1048 skirts the herd, passing on the right side. He gets a bit too close to a cow and calf pair grazing about 50 feet from the main group, so the cow charges him.

1048 side-steps but but immediately turns and grabs the cow by her nose.

She is surprised, just like we are. She stands still a moment, as if she doesnít seem to know what to do. She pulls back to try to free herself but the wolf holds on. Her calf is agitated but definitely doesnít know what to do. Neither the cowís head nor her horns are of any use to her when a wolf has her determinedly by the nose. 1048 actually manages to get a better grip on the poor cow. Oh wow, how that must hurt!

The cow begins to buck and tug but 1048 digs in his back heels, preventing her escape. Now the cow gets very agitated. She starts to move in a sideways motion to get closer to the herd, dragging 1048 with her, kicking up sprays of snow.

She tries to kick with her front leg but sheís off balance and has little force. The second time she tries this itís enough to break his grip. But he rushes back again. She kicks a back leg at him which sets him back on his haunches, but when she turns his way once more he grabs her nose again.

The herd has not had enough. A large cow steps forward and charges him. He turns quickly to avoid her, but now has lost his chance.

He faces the larger cow, baring his fangs. It looks to me like heís growling.

The sore-nose cow has reached the safety of her herd. Her still upset calf stays velcroed to her flank. Multiple cows join the large one staring down this one wolf, letting him know playtime is over. He stands his ground a little longer, mulling his chances, then turns and trots nonchalantly away.

I am thoroughly amazed. I have seen wolf packs take bison before but Iíve never a single wolf attempt to grab an adult bison so close to her herd. What chutzpah!

Laurie is smiling. She thinks he did it just to see if he could. I wonder if his time with the Mollies has taught him a few new tricks? (The Mollies were the first Yellowstone pack to hunt and kill bison)

1048 travels a bit further to the east, towards us, actually. I would like to award him a trophy for Most Audacious Move By A Single Wolf.

He takes a well-earned drink from the creek and looks off to the east contemplating his next move. His plans remain mysterious, because he turns around. He circles the herd, this time south of them, and eventually climbs back up the same diagonal trail he came down. He enters the thick sage of the middle flats, finds a suitable spot and beds down for a well-earned rest.

We are all in awe. Several people are lucky enough to have caught some of this action on video, including Melba. I suspect social media will soon be flooded with photos of this fascinating event in no time.

While 1048 naps and the bison relax back to grazing, we chat among ourselves, clients scramble back inside their vans. Soon the pullout is nearly empty again.

Just before 2PM I head in for the day. I reflect that today, seeing just one wolf was plenty.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, one wolf (1048M a Mollie/former Junction) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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