DAY SIX - Wednesday, July 10

MORE BEARS THAN WOLVES

Itís a bit colder this morning, 36 degrees.

I join Rick at Midpoint. A beautiful sunrise is starting; very different from yesterdayís fog.

We move on to Dorothyís. As I arrive and exit my car, Rick grins at me, saying a black wolf crossed behind me, going from north to south.

What?

He thinks itís the black female. She skirts the hill below the pullout and although we try to find her, she gives us all the slip. Rick goes on to Fishermanís.

Jeremy tells us 1047 was visible at Slough very early, on an old carcass; and that he might still be there. I find a black bear on Amethyst and then the Junction sow with her 2 coys.

Laurie & Dan arrive and I fill them in. We drive to Slough and walk out on the knob. We scope here, away from everyone else for a while. Itís so gorgeous here! We do not find wolves but we do see a great blue heron, many geese, several ducks, pronghorn and bison.

Eventually we decide to go back to Dorothyís.

Someone reports a black on the north side from Coyote. This is probably the same wolf that crossed behind me earlier.

But just as we are about to leave Slough, Carl spots a black wolf in the same place we saw one yesterday. Pull out our scopes and set up but this time we donít find it. Hmm, so far itís been quite a frustrating morning, even if it is absolutely beautiful.

We go back to Dorothyís and when I canít find a wolf, I locate the bald eagle on the nest and show people that.

Finally Jeremy comes to my rescue. He is scoping just left of the shale forest and finds 969F. Yay!

Finally I have my wolf for the day.

Under my breath I call her ďthe pup slayerĒ which isnít really fair because we donít know if the pup she killed might have been sick.

Anyway, at first she is on skyline, then she moves downhill a bit. Finding a gray wolf on a sage hill in morning sun is REALLY hard, but luckily she moves just enough for me to track her a while.

She goes out of view fairly quickly but then we notice multiple elk up there; some with calves. Aha, I bet she notices them, too. We head down to Coyote to try to find her from here but donít.

Then we get a report from Slough of a black wolf heading into the lion meadow. This could be 1047 so since 969 is out of sight, we head there.

Laurie & Dan and I park at the first lower lot and set up. We find 1047 right away far west of the lion meadow, in the river flats near the Marge Simpson tree. We have a very nice view of him so we are glad we came.

He moseys around a while, mostly in good view. For some reason he strikes me today as looking lonely & tired. Laurie and I wonder if his new alpha female is a bit much for him. In truth, I think we have something like a minor grudge against her (which of course is not really fair) simply because it seems to us that she beat up on 907 and 969 when they were already down.

But I have also noticed that at this time of year, wolves really donít look their best. Their summer coats always look a bit thin and raggedy to me, and they just look thin in general. And, of course, 1047 is getting old, so it all adds up.

Whenever we scope for wolves, we always look around for other critters. Todayís discovery is very unusual. In a quiet, marshy curve of Slough Creek, where yesterday we found a great blue heron, we now see two black crowned night herons (I knew they were night herons but had to look online for the specific type). They are both perched on a low-lying branch right above the water. I have never seen this bird anywhere else in Yellowstone. They have a distinct ďhunchedĒ shape, making then mildly sinister-looking, a bit like an Edward Gorey drawing. I think they are very interesting birds. I wonder how long theyíve been in this area and if theyíll stay?

We see the great blue, today, too, but in a different spot.

1047 has been hiding in a gully but he now pops up and begins to mosey around a bit more. Then, alas, he beds down in a spot that renders him nearly invisible.

Well, itís still early and we want another crack at finding the Phantom Packís pups. So Laurie & Dan, Kathie, myself, plus Missy & Andy all head to Hellroaring once more. We find the candidate meadows from yesterday but still see no movement. Then Jeremy arrives and we ask his help.

We learn that we have the right general area, but the wrong meadow. He shows us the right one. It has a tree in the center but what makes it distinctive is the boulder next to the tree. He checks signals and gets the Phantom alpha female.

Yay! We all scope diligently but never catch any movement. Jeremy reiterates that no one has seen them from here; only from the plane.

A little later, I notice that the branch of the tree under which Kathie is standing has spruce worms dangling from it, and one of them just dropped on her shoulder. Ewww! I brush it off and she moves to a better spot.

Now I see that two of the trees here that are always in our way are loaded with spruce worms. Yuck! I wonder if some day in the future, those trees will end up dying and fall over and our view will be better for it? And will we then praise the creepy spruce worms?

We spend a good hour here but never see any wolves. But we do find a bear. Itís a black bear, feeding on a carcass of some sort near one of the ponds. Many visitors are happy to see it.

Eventually we go back east. I think Little America is showing signs of drying out already. There is still a good deal of green but not quite as vibrant as it was when I arrived.

It also seems really hot today and it is. 78! Whew!

After dinner we get rain Ė a lot of it. Thunder, too. Itís enough to dampen my interest in an evening session. So we just hang out and talk.

Today I saw: 2 black bears, three grizzly bears including 2 coy, mule deer, ducks, 1 bald eagle, elk, geese, 1 blue heron, 2 black crowned herons, pronghorn, 2 Junction wolves 969 and 1047, and the spirits of Allison & Richard.

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