This morning it is much warmer and a steady rain is falling. It has melted all the snow.
We head down the valley, as usual. In this area, when the sky is cloudy in the wee hours, it is DARK! Technically the moon is full tonight but you'd never know it.
I have wispy fog on and off all the way to Trout Lake. By the time I get to the Footbridge the rain has lessened a bit but I am surprised at how dark it is, even at 7:30!
We stop at Trash Can and climb the hill, looking south, at the carcass. There is a bear on it! He is hard to see but every once in a while I see a hump or his back moving. Rick says there are weak signals for the Lamars in the direction of Specimen and weak signals for the Mollies west of here.
I watch the bear a while, then move to Dorothy's. I scope Specimen and Jasper, looking for movement. I also scope back east, and realize I can see the Hubbard carcass from here. A coyote is on it, tugging away, and two bald eagles are perched in a nearby tree.
I cannot see the exclosure carcass but I can see the cars! Then Doug M radios that the bear is leaving the carcass. I find the bear galloping across the sage flats. Boy, he is really running! Then he stops and looks back, then continues to amble at a fast walk towards the trees.
No one can figure out why the bear left so abruptly. No wolves are seen so it is a mystery.
Then we hear a lone howl, coming from Jasper Bench. A few minutes later, Laurie, Rick and Sian simultaneously find the howler. It's a wolf, a black, sitting just at the edge of trees on the western end of Jasper, right of the saddle.
This black is uncollared. Soon he gets up and moves to the west and another black appears. This one has a collar. In fact, it is 758M. So these are the same two black Mollies I saw yesterday.
Soon we see a third wolf, the large gray, 824M, that Laurie saw last night. Wow, he is magnificent. Those Mollies, especially the males, are really good-looking wolves.
The threesome is heading towards the Crystal drainage, a common route that we've seen wolves take ever since restoration. So we head to Slough to try to pick them up when they come to the other side.
And we do find them from Slough, although I only get brief glimpses. They soon are out of sight again.
A little later, the Mollie males emerge again and start to move quickly through the Crystal Creek area, where the Junction Pack had been just yesterday.
We move to Long Pullout and find them trotting across the long, open slopes below Specimen Ridge. The gray is truly a gorgeous animal, with a thick coat and rippling muscles and that distinctive Mollie "chow" face.
He is the closest to us, travelling fairly low on the hillside, with great confidence, while his two mates take a route much higher up. They eat up the ground heading west. 824 turns slightly up-hill, as if reconsidering his route. It now looks like we will lose sight of all of them soon.
Laurie reminds me that these three males seem to be mirroring the path taken in 2008 by 302 and his nephews, prior to forming the Blacktail pack. Maybe these Mollie males will find some available females and start their own pack?
Eventually all three disappear into the trees. We keep our vigil, expecting them to head up to the top, but they seem to be using a different route than the Agates preferred.
Eventually Lynette sees one of the blacks top out, but it disappears quickly. None of us see the other two.
Ah well. It was a nice sighting.
Rick has invited us to attend a special Indian ceremony today at 1PM at Crystal Creek, a wildlife blessing - similar to the ceremony that was done for the wolves in 1995 when they were first re-introduced to Yellowstone.
So I park in the lot and we chat a bit, waiting for our hosts to arrive. They are four Native Americans; Scott Frazier (Crow), John (Ojibwa), plus an older man and woman, Phillip and Lily, who encourage us to follow them out the Specimen Ridge trail a little ways.
Calvin and Lynette and Annie and I walk out together with Laurie, Rick and Sian. There are a few other visitors who join us as well.
We gather around a bison wallow, and form a circle, open to the east. Scott speaks a bit about his people and where they have performed this blessing and presents a very earth/animal centric philosophy. We are all connected and that although we come to watch the animals, they also watch us.
We are given tobacco to sprinkle during the ceremony and they burn sweetgrass and we pass it over our hearts and our heads. It's nice.
Then John begins to beat the drum and sing a song of blessing in his language. Scott joins in and also says prayers in his language. It's quite moving to hear these sounds in this location, as the breeze blows. Scott fills his pipe with tobacco, first gesturing to the four directions. He prays for the winged, the walkers, the crawlers and the swimmers.
We scatter our tobacco (ahsayma) in the wind, which I learn is for truth.
When the singing stops, we talk a bit more, and everyone expresses thanks.
As we wander back to our cars, John tells us that the Ojibwa word for wolf is "Maengun" (MY-eng-gun), which means "the grandfather who shows you the path".
After this we say thanks and goodbye and I head back to Lamar. From Trash Can I see a small herd of elk (about 40) walking west in a tight bunch, about halfway between the river and the trees.
They are very wary, especially those in the front of the group. There are some older cows lagging behind, but still keeping up. I count 38 animals, with 4 calves - a ratio of 1/9. Not good but not awful, either.
The elk walk all the way onto Amethyst bench, where I lose them in the trees.
Rick confirms there are still weak signals for the Lamars up on Specimen, toward the southeast, so there is still some reason to hope they will return soon.
Everyone else has gone in so Sian, Geoff and I decide to split up to watch for them. I'm scope from Trash Can hill for the next two hours, finding elk, bison and an eagle. But the wind is fierce and I can't keep away my worries about what's happening in New York.
I finally tell Geoff and Sian that I'm heading in.
I do stop at Baronette to scope for goats but a sudden rain shower arrives. So I continue east to the warmth and comfort of Silver Gate.
While Laurie and I are watching the storm news, she gets a call from Geoff. Had I stayed in Lamar till 5:30 like he did, I would have seen the triumphant return of the Lamars into the valley.
He says they came down from Specimen and went straight to the exclosure carcass, after which a bear came onto it. The wolves tried to dislodge him but could not.
But this good wolf news pales against the horrible sights I am seeing on the TV, where Sandy is wreaking havoc on the greatest city in the world. The pictures of the storm surge, of angry, wind-whipped waves pouring over the promenade where I walked with a friend in the warm sun not two weeks ago, are devastating. Taped footage of an explosion at the Con-Ed plant on the East River, a few blocks from my sister's apartment, is chilling.
I feel guilty for not being there, and am very worried.
Today I saw: 1 grizzly bear, bison, 2 coyotes, 2 bald eagles, elk, and 3 wolves of the Mollies Pack (including 824M, 758M and an uncollared black male) and the spirit of Allison