DAY FIVE - Saturday, September


Today is my last day for a while. I had intended to make this a longer visit but friends from my hometown (Cincinnati) are arriving in Bozeman sooner than expected, so I want to be ready to welcome them.

I’m all packed up and out the door at 6:15, only a little bit late.

The wind was blowing really strong last night, so we might be in for different weather today.

Several of us scope from various places in Lamar but when we find no wolves, we move over to Slough. The campground road is still open so I look from several of the lower lots, listening for howling.

I do enjoy seeing the beautiful terrain at Slough, now in its new fall clothes. And we enjoy being the only ones here. I find bison and pronghorn, some ducks, and a bald eagle perched in a tree.

I continue west.

The day has warmed but it’s very smoky. I think the wind blew it in from the still-raging California fires.

Rick and I scope from Upper Hellroaring, while Laurie & Dan try from Lower. It’s even smokier over here. The radio crackles a few times but only with sad reports of “nothing”.

It’s too early in the day to give up, though, so I suggest we try the Blacktail. We have not seen any 8 Mile wolves for a long time.

We gather again at the Nature Trail.

Everybody sets up and looks to the south, not really expecting to find anything. I figure I might as well put my new scope through its paces in this new terrain. It seems a bit less hazy here. I find bison and pronghorn and after a while, it’s time for coffee.

Just as I start to pour, a guide calls out “wolves!”

Forget coffee. Back to my scope! I find several blacks and one gray, quite a long way out, slightly right of South Butte. They are in wide, open terrain.

The view is brief, though, as they quickly go out of sight behind some trees and into a gully.

Doug M arrives on his way home and puts his eagle eyes on the situation.

Of course, he finds them again. They have come out of the gully to the right of the trees – and guess what? There are twice as many now! I count 12, with 9 blacks and 3 grays. They move across the open in a wonderfully straight line.

One of the grays is quite large. Laurie counts 14. With two more blacks. What’s curious is that we do not think any are pups. We think we are seeing 8 Mile wolves so we rationalize that they left the pups in a rendezvous area.

I have lost track as to how many wolves make up the 8 Mile pack, but I know they have several pups.

The wolves kindly stay in view a good long time, even stopping to bed down in the open. After a little while, they are on the move again, led by a black. They start to run, and we see a single pronghorn in front of them.

The pronghorn gets away (natch) and the majority of them bed down again. The other ones continue to wander slowly to the northwest. It occurs to me that they are approaching an area that would put them directly south of the Blacktail Ponds.

They all get up and start a brisk walk, following the leader. They disappear into another gully but reappear once more on a windswept hill.

I mention to Laurie what a huge distance they have travelled in just an hour. She is thinking of something else, the fact that these wolves have no pups. She wonders if we might be seeing the Rescue Creek pack?

The wolves begin to angle uphill, aiming, perhaps for the north side of Swan Lake Flats. They begin to top out and we lose them.

Laurie and Rick compare notes. The wolves were really too far away for us to see collars so that part is guess work. But as it turns out, Laurie is right. We saw the Rescue Creek pack. The count of 14 (11 black/3 gray) is higher than their normal count, but she reasons that we did not see a full count of Junctions over the last three days.

So maybe the ones we were missing are yearlings who have temporarily switched allegiances as several have been known to do.

It’s now nearly 10:30 and everyone is happy to have had such a nice sighting. I say my goodbyes and set off for Bozeman.

Today I saw: 1 grizzly bear, bison, mule deer, pronghorn, 14 wolves of the Rescue Creek Pack plus a few Junction extras (including Gray Male, 1154F, 1272M, 1273M, 1278M plus an uncollared gray and 8 uncollared blacks) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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