Iím out at 5AM. Itís a very pleasant 41 degrees.
I stop at Picnic and find a black bear roaming to the south. I end up joining Rick at Dorothyís but we find nothing. Chloe & Becky arrive so we have some excellent eyes at work. We scope all over Amethyst & Jasper but still come up short.
I notice lots of cars at Coyote and wonder out loud if they are seeing anything. But itís not until Kevin and Hunter pull in that we learn wolves have been visible from Coyote the whole time!
Itís Junctions. Kevin says he had been watching from Coyote but when one wolf started east he figured heíd move too. Lucky for us he did, because we are now looking at our first wolves of the day.
I see two blacks. One is un-collared, carrying a big chunk of meat, traveling from the dead center of Jasper Bench and heading towards the trees.
I follow this wolf a long time, losing and re-finding it, as it follows the web of game trails above the bench all the way up to the remaining snow on skyline. When the wolf reaches the snow he drops the meat & beds in the snow. Eats some snow, too.
Laurie & Dan arrive just in time to see this, so Iím happy.
Meanwhile, the second wolf, also black, follows the route of the first wolf, coming up the game trail. This wolf is not carrying meat and seems to make better time. It reaches the snowbank after the first wolf has been resting about 10 minutes.
The first one picks up the prize heís been carrying and both of them go over the top. We are pretty sure these two are heading for 1109ís den to feed her pups.
While weíve been watching these two blacks, we have also been splitting our focus looking north, where the Junction Butte sow with her two big coy are visible. Once the wolves top out, we concentrate on the bears. We also find a few elk.
Then a pair of new visitors arrives, and very excitedly tells us ďa wolf is heading our way!Ē The visitors point south to the bench saying ďthere it is, itís moving fast!Ē Becky, Chloe, Laurie, Dan & I all look but see nothing except bison and pronghorn. Then the lady says ďthere are two of them!Ē We donít know what they are seeing but they are insistent, and we are completely perplexed.
As we are trying to find what they see, the lady tells me that a little earlier she and her husband ďsaw a baby bear and a baby wolf playing togetherĒ. Um, what? I ask if they saw this through binoculars or a scope. They said ďno, we donít have anyĒ.
I donít have any idea what it was these nice people actually saw, but Iím sure it wasnít a baby wolf and a baby bear playing together (possibly a small black bear being tailed by a coyote?)
Then, a little later, another visitor I recognize (but I donít know his name) points to relatively the same place the excited couple were indicating, but in the flats, not on the bench. He says in a calm voice ďI think thatís a wolfĒ
This time, when I look, I see exactly what heís referring to. Itís 1048M, walking parallel to the river, in the gravelly former-riverbed, now dry and exposed since the spring flood receded. He passes the cottonwoods, then stops, turns in a half circle and beds down.
I donít know if he came straight west from further east or came down from the bench, but it looks like the excited couple was right all along. Laurie wonders where the second one went. We have a good laugh at ourselves.
What I find surprising about this sighting is that 1048 has chosen to bed in the sun. Itís already hot at 10AM. But Iím glad to see him, especially in plain view and relatively close.
After about a half hour, 1048 moves into the shade of the closest cottonwood and re-beds. I think the sun got to him!
Dan finds a badger family in the flats just below the pullout. A mom & 3 kits. They waddle to the east and mom starts digging.
Around 11:15, 1048 gets up and starts to trot to the west. It looks like he wants to cross the road. He looks up the hill and sees all the cars, turns around and heads back east. He hops across a channel of Rose Creek and it looks like he will try to cross the road between the eastern end of this pullout and the Institute. Car doors slam and people begin to drive east to intercept him Ė for a photo I guess. We watch his progress and see him stop to re-assess.
He turns west again and trots casually back below the pullout, then changes course and aims for the river. When he reaches it he has a long drink. Next he amuses us by walking in the stream a while, cooling himself up to his belly. Ahh, that must feel good!
He climbs back out and shakes off.
Now he begins to trot with renewed determination to the west, clearly aiming to cross the road. We thought heíd pick the spot between our lot and Coyote, but he goes further west and ends up crossing between Coyote and Fishermanís. We see people rushing to drive down there (for a photo I guess), but he is savvy and gets across.
We see him again on the north side, climbing up below the shale forest. He heads over Secret Passage toward Slough.
We stay a while longer, watching elk, sandhills and a group of pronghorn with 5 fawns. Laurie & Dan and I pack up to head back to Silver Gate.
I need my nap!
Itís Becky & Chloeís last night in the Park so around 6:30 Dan & Laurie and I decide to drive back in to join them for an evening viewing. We set up at Dorothyís. Itís a warm but pleasant 71 degrees; a beautiful night, and thanks to a breeze, nearly bug free. We spend 2 happy hours here, although we see no wolves.
We watch some feisty bison calves, some elk and an eagle. Chloe and I try to find a grizzly but end up settling for a black bear. I say a fond farewell to Becky & Chloe and head back to Silver Gate.
Today I saw: 4 badgers (including 3 kits) 2 black bears, 3 grizzly bears (including 2 coys), bison and calves, sandhill cranes, a bald eagle, elk and calves, pronghorn and fawns, 3 Junction wolves (1048, plus two un-collared adult blacks) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.