I step outside my cabin in the quiet of first light. I'm the only one up!
Wow, it's a beautiful morning!
The distant honking of geese fill the air and I see elk grazing in the several clearings along the way. Steam rises from Alum creek.
I am the only car out here. I pull in to Grizzly Overlook and get set up to search the point for the Canyons. It's chilly but not as cold as yesterday. I scope all over the flats and all over the hills for about an hour but find no wolves. The couple from last night shows up and we chat.
If the Canyon Pack has a regular routine, I am not aware of it. I have heard of sightings of them both north and south of here, as well as way out along the Mary Mountain trail, so after this much time and no sightings I begin to think of other options.
I remember seeing numerous elk on the hills east of Trout Creek so I head there.
But before I get there I find a bear. Well, anyone could have found him - he is beautifully backlit on the crest of a hill, standing broadside, with his head down. I pull into that wide lot close to the river, where I often find bison grazing. The grizzly is eating something, in fact he sort of looks like he is licking the ground.
The couple from Colorado pulls in and the man suggests he may be eating ants. Hmmm, I think it's a great suggestion. The location makes sense for an anthill and the movements of his paws and tongue support that theory.
He scrapes the ground gently as well, changing position from time to time, and delicately licks his paws, as if the little buggers are tickling him as they crawl over his toes.
Encouraged by this sighting I decide to head further south. I stop at Trout Creek and begin to scan the area to the west. Then I scope to the east and suddenly see elk alerted.
I cross the road and climb the low hill just in time to see a wildlife drama begin. The elk bunch quickly, looking toward the river, then move rapidly up the slope behind them - the leaders begin to run along the ridge. I scan the flats for what I think must be approaching wolves and for a moment I am fooled when I see two brown things running quickly through the sage. Then I see the bear. It explodes from the river and dashes through the sage, hot on the heels of the brown things, two elk calves, spooked from their hiding places, running for their lives.
The bear stumbles to a stop and I hear a horrible sound. One more brown thing keeps running and catches up to the herd on the ridge. The herd now stops, frozen, looking back. One cow rushes the bear, stomping, bucking, and making such a heart-wrenching moan of anguish I nearly weep.
The grizzly has just killed her calf, the slower of the two brown things I saw running.
The herd moves again, at a brisk walk, and you can feel both their relief and their continued fear. They contour along the ridge as it follows the curve of the river. Then the leader starts down the bank and I can see they mean to cross the water to put it between them and the bear.
I watch the herd move in a pretty close group, about three or four abreast, calves close to their mothers, down the slope to the bank and into the water. The current is not as strong right here but they do have to swim, but they all get across fine. Once on the far bank, the herd trots away at a pretty fast clip. Only when they are on the next hill above the bank to they stop and look back again at the scene of the "crime".
I notice a large group of visitors at the next high pullout are obviously watching the same thing. I head up there and listen to the chatter. Most people are a little upset by what they saw, but understand that it is nature in action.
One lady tells me that she saw the bear swim the river and then she saw the elk running. She mentions the sound and I agree, it's hard to listen to that and not be affected by it.
The grizzly is clearly visible, but his prize is hidden behind thick sage, which is fine for me. A crowd of ravens and magpies waits nearby. The cow has remained in the area, but gradually seems to accept there is nothing she can do. She moves slowly down to the river to follow the herd.
Apparently, a clear sighting like this is just not close enough for some people. About 15 people have walked out along a promontory to get a "closer look" at a feeding grizzly. The bear looks up at them from time to time,
seemingly quite aware of them. Then one guy with a camera goes further. He makes his way DOWN the slope of the promontory, into the flats and begins walking toward the bear. He is still about half a football field away, but people are yelling at him. He is really taking a chance.
The bear seems to take notice, or perhaps he is just bothered by some pesky ravens, but suddenly he stands up and lunges forward. Birds fly up and the bear settles back down. Whether this bluff was meant for the birds or the approaching human, only the bear knows. But thankfully, the human finally takes the point. He turns and walks back up the hill.
The bear takes what's left of his meal and carries it back towards the river about a dozen yards, settling into a spot in the sage now hidden from the visitors in the pullout. Thus we see how one selfish fellow can ruin it for a good three dozen of his fellows.
Welp, the excitement is over now anyway. I pack up and head back to Grizzly Overlook, where I find that while I was watching the life and death drama, the Canyons have come and gone!
According to a Ranger and a knowledgeable visitor, about a half hour ago the two males of the Canyon Pack made an appearance. They walked out from the trees at the point and bedded in the sage for about 20 minutes, then moved north toward the thermal hills and disappeared into the forest.
Ah well, I am sorry I missed them, but very glad they were seen. One can't be in two places at once now, can one?
I head down to the west-facing lot and scan the area from there. Then I hear people say "wolf" and look in the direction they are pointing. I see three coyotes running, then four, then five! They seem to be chasing the fifth one because it is running faster and looking back. They stop chasing and I can see from their behavior that these four are a family group. They mill about on the slope that is west of Grizzly Overlook and then continue trotting in the direction of the fifth animal, which is long gone by now.
I keep going north and stop in various places hoping to catch the Canyons but I never do.
So I check out of my cabin, have a bit of lunch and then head up to Dunraven Pass and back to the Northern Range.
It is now mid-day and quite sunny. In fact, I'd even call it hot! I don't expect to see much activity this late in the morning, so I am not disappointed when I don't!
At Slough I hook up with Laurie & Dan. They are trying to help Rick find the answer to a mystery regarding the Lamar Canyon wolves. Earlier today Rick believes he saw the 06 female emerge from the diagonal forest with a pup in her mouth and he thinks he saw her deposit that pup into the current den.
But no wolves have been seen since, so there is some concern about the health of the pups.
Rick is trying to find a spot high enough where he can see into the diagonal forest. Dan and Laurie and I volunteer to hike up Dave's hill to try from that perspective.
It's always interesting to see how different an area looks from a different height. Especially when you have been looking at one area from the same spot for several days. Well, it does look different but it doesn't reveal any more wolves!
I don't know where Rick climbed to, but he did finally see enough to convince himself that the Pack is fine.
It's time for Laurie & Dan to head in for the day so I follow them into Lamar as far as Dorothy's. I always see a lot from here and this afternoon is no exception. There is a small group of bison which gallop down from Secret Passage, across the road and across the river at a point where the Canyon begins. It does not look to me like a good place to cross, but they are bison so they can do whatever they want.
Several individuals have a great deal of trouble getting back out of the river on the far side, but they finally do it. Then they run like crazy up the hill.
I also find a number of bull elk in velvet up on Jasper Bench, various stately pronghorn and one intrepid coyote, nosing along the braided river channels, looking for an easy meal.
I drive up to Barronette to look for goats. It takes me a very long time but I finally find one billy goat. Hmm, where are the mamas and the kids this year. There are also some cool waterfalls just beginning, but it seems to me quite a bit of snowpack remains.
I stop in the big pullout by Warm Creek just as a storm moves in, so I let it soothe me to sleep.
Now I wake, refreshed and head back down the valley, stopping here and there for one thing or another. Eventually I end up at Trash Can where I can watch for activity in the rendezvous.
When Laurie and Dan show up we climb Trash Can hill and after about ten minutes of scoping, I find a wolf! It's the "old guy" from the Silver Pack, out for his evening constitutional.
He moves east and a bit south towards the upper Lamar river and I recognize his poor flattened ear, and his mild case of mange. He walks some and trots some and seems to be sniffing a lot, as if looking for something. While I am watching him, Dan finds a black bear at the edge of the trees.
The old guy has now reached the edge of the old river bank and I know I am about to lose him. He stops and seems quite unsure of himself. But eventually he heads pretty much straight south, as if taking a route up the Lamar and Cache.
I scan back to the rendezvous area fairly often, looking for other wolves, but don't find any. We do find elk, bison and pronghorn, and a badger entertains us for a while, wildly flinging dirt as he digs. We also find sheep on the northern hills behind us and a juvenile golden perched on a high branch of a cottonwood.
We check in with Rick who has nothing going on from Slough, so I think we are about to turn in early. Laurie & Dan head east and I spend some time re-arranging things in my car. Then I get a static-filled call from Rick and can tell something has changed at Slough.
I can't reach Laurie & Dan. I head to Slough and get there in time to see the two black adults. Yay!
Rick and Marlene fill me in that the whole family suddenly appeared, all four pups, the 06 herself, and the two males. I am glad they were seen, even it I only got a glimpse of two shadowy wolves moving between rocks just west of the diagonal forest.
I'm glad Rick's tenacity paid off, and I'm glad to know the Lamar Canyon Pack is still in good health. But it's a long drive in the dark back to Silver Gate!
Today I saw: 1 badger, 1 black bear, 2 grizzly bears, bison with calves, sandhill cranes, 2 coyotes, 3 bald eagles, a juvenile golden eagle, elk with calves, geese with goslings, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, 3 wolves (the Old Guy from the Silver Pack and 754 and 755 of the Lamar Canyon Pack) and the spirit of Allison.