DAY EIGHT - Friday, July 12

THE BRAVE LITTLE FAWN

My last day looks like it will be clear.

For a change, I stop at Confluence just because I love the area and havenít spent much time here this trip.

I look out into the R-V and see something suspicious. I catch up to Rick at Picnic and tell him. He says he thinks he saw something, too. We climb Trash Can hill. Itís still barely light yet. We scope Chalcedony and he says ďI think I have somethingĒ. I say ďI do tooĒ but when we compare notes we find we each have separate wolves!

Rickís wolf is eating on an old carcass with two birds flitting nearby. My wolf is west of that spot, moving towards the one on the carcass. The wolves meet, interact and then set off together towards the apex of the fan.

Rick thinks viewing will be better on Confluence hill. I tell him go ahead; I want to stay here until Laurie & Dan arrive. Missy & Andy arrive first and I help them see both wolves. They have wandered to the edge of the tree line, heading towards the river corridor, sniffing and roaming about. I have learned that this behavior suggests they are searching for pronghorn fawns.

Weíre going to lose them soon so I suggest we reconvene at Geriatric. When we arrive we are joined by Evan and his clients, and then Laurie & Dan climb up.

Missy makes an amazing spot, finding a bedded black wolf in the middle of a muddy bison wallow. The dirt and the wolf are the same color, so I donít know how she did it. Thank you, Missy!

We find the second wolf nearby. In a little while Rick and Jeremy join us.

Rick IDís our wolves as Junctions, the un-collared black adult and one of the yearlings. The two wolves move a bit further east towards the river corridor. Then the larger one goes uphill and beds under a tree.

To our delight, they remain mostly active, taking only a few short breaks to bed. The larger of the two seems quite restless and soon begins moving at a fast walk/trot to the west, right at tree-line. He goes in and out of sight fairly often, then we lose him for a while, finding him again much further west. Most people on the hill get a bit chatty but Missy and I are steadfast.

When the larger wolf first begins his trek, the yearling is bedded. As we try to follow him, we keep checking on the yearling and eventually see him get up and start to trail his pack mate.

The yearling is now scent-trailing, moving right along the treeline. Missy and I keep going back and forth between the two wolves, calling out what we see. The adult reaches the eastern foothill, then the middle foothill and is now heading for the western foothill. When Missy checks the yearling she adds that she sees a pronghorn mom with twins.

Just as I swing my scope back to find the twins, Missy calls out ďHeís chasing the pronghorn! The fawn!Ē

I find the chase in progress. We yell to the other scopers. They quit chatting and start watching. The tiny fawn runs fast, for its very life, across the open flats. The wolf is close behind, sometimes gaining, sometimes losing ground. The fawn knows enough to wheel suddenly and change direction. Each time the fawn does that, wolf loses a bit of ground. These lightning-fast directional changes happen at least 6 times and the chase continues.

The fawn is fleet and determined, but the wolf has greater stamina. He drives the tiny thing out of the short grass into the heavy sage where the wolfís larger size will give it an advantage. The brave little fawn enters the sage and a moment later all movement stops.

The sage shields us from witnessing the tragic end, which is a relief. Itís hard to see a tiny animal try so hard to save its own life and still fail.

Through the sage we can just barely make out the dark back of the yearling. It does not seem to be feeding. I say to Missy, I expect it needs to catch its breath before it can eat. That was a long chase!

She is upset and understandably so.

I search for the adult wolf and find him still traveling along the treeline. The adult does not seem to have been aware of the chase, and seems even now to not be aware of the kill.

Rick and Jeremy climb higher on the hill and are able to confirm the body of the poor brave fawn. We are all sad about it but I remind Missy that this yearling has been a diligent provider of food to the new litters of pups, and that it worked hard for this meal, so we have to be fair. Circle of Life, you know.

All in all, an eventful morning for my last day.

Most of us start to head down the hill to our cars. I say my fond farewells.

Just before I leave I learn that Jeremy saw 7 Junction pups today northeast of Slough: 6 black and 1 gray. We still donít know how many pups 1109 is raising, but even if itís just one, the Junctions are going to be a sizeable pack for a while.

Since itís still fairly early, Laurie & Dan travel west with me and stop at the Frog Rock to look once more for Eight Mile pups.

And while we are looking, Jeff MacIntyre arrives. I have not seen him in quite a while so itís a very nice reunion. We do not see any wolves but itís still fun to be together.

On my way out I get stuck for a little while in Mammoth; some road construction is going on near the Post Office, but itís not very long. By the time I get to the highway itís risen to 83 degrees! Iím glad I have A/C!

Today I saw: bison, elk, pronghorn and 2 fawns, 2 Junction Butte wolves (black adult and black yearling) and the spirits of Allison & Richard.

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