Today is a bit colder, at 27 degrees, but the sky is quite clear with moon and stars visible. There is a thin coating of frost on the car but it melts off quickly.
I start the day, hopeful to see the Lamars. As I round the curve at Exclosure, a shooting star streaks overhead to the northwest. It zooms right over Lamar Canyon like a low-flying super-sonic plane! Then it just winks out. I have never seen one so bright, much less at first light! Wow.
A beautiful sunrise begins.
I drive all through Lamar Valley and all the way to Boulder before I see any other wolf watchers. I join Sian on Boulder hill and learn that Rick thinks the Junction Pack is somewhere on the north side of the road, probably down low. And also that the Lamars are probably still on Specimen.
A lone howler is heard, somewhere to the north, but we can't seem to find it.
I hear a great squawking nearby and eventually see 13 swans take to the air from a pond to the north. They wing their way east and then circle back around, honking all the way. Not sure if they are tundras or trumpeters but they sure are pretty!
Some people go to Slough and walk out to Bob's Knob while Rick climbs up Dave's Hill. I head to Lamar Canyon West and set up on a hill north of the road, scoping the river corridor.
And guess what? I find them!
They are down low, in Slough Creek flats. And they have a carcass. I see two blacks and a gray, bedded just above a braid of Slough Creek. There is quite a lot of bird activity.
But my angle here is not great, because every time a wolf moves to the right I lose it, so I end up driving down to Slough and climbing Dave's Hill.
Laurie, Calvin and Lynnette are up here, so I have lots of help identifying certain wolves. I see 7 total: four grays including 823F, Puff, and the short-tailed alpha female, as well as a gray with mange on the belly. The black wolves I see include "Patch" the one with bad mange on both sides, and two other full-coated blacks.
The other pack members are in the vicinity but they remain hard to see as the carcass itself is mostly in a gully below the bank.
We talk about how nervous we are about the Wyoming hunt, especially because we think that the Lamar wolves have such a habit of traveling east. We don't know how far out of the Park they go, but they will follow elk and won't be savvy about where the border is.
On the other side, Montana has loosened its hunting rules for the worse - not only is hunting allowed in the areas immediately adjacent to the Park (where 527 was killed in 2009) but one of those units has an open quota! And come January, they plan to allow trapping in those units for the first time in 50 years.
Unfortunately the time has come for me to head out. I say my goodbyes and head down the hill.
I drive back to Mammoth and see many elk in the area and a little coyote on the big curve by the campground.
The day has warmed up all the way to hot, so I stop to pull off a few layers for the drive back. Just as I get back in the car a gorgeous hawk soars overhead.
Today I saw: bison, 2 coyotes, 2 bald eagles, elk, a hawk, pronghorn, 13 swans, and 7 wolves of the Junction
Pack (including Puff, alpha female, 823F, mangy gray, mangy black and 2 other blacks) and the spirit of Allison.