Instead of new snow this morning, there is a bit of frost to greet me. Arrow’s great heater clears right off.
The roads are mostly clear with some ice patches. A far cry from yesterday! But the sky still whispers “snow to come”.
I see a moose at Soda Butte picnic this morning, and several bison at Round Prairie
Nothing in Lamar today so we continue west. Laurie and I are expecting to find the Junctions back at Lower Hellroaring but Fay and Dale call in from Curve. The Junctions have a carcass to the south!
When I arrive, the Curve lot is full and I see a group of visitors has walked out from the lot and are crowded around their guide on a little hill to the south. To me it’s the wrong place to be, since this pack has human-habituated pups. The carcass is “close” so in this situation, it's better to keep the road between you and the wolves.
(Later events prove that this was not a wise move on the part of the guide, nor on the part of a photographer with a tripod).
I join Rick on another hill to the north.
When I get set up I see not only three wolves on a carcass but several more moving uphill into the trees, and…a grizzly is visiting. I can’t help but wonder if it’s the same bear as yesterday – perhaps he followed them?
The carcass is in a depression just below the lowest set of trees. Three blacks are still feeding – I see four above it near the bear and three more making their way through the scattered trees.
Rick says before I got here, he saw one of the wolves nip the bear and drew blood! The bear does not seem fazed, though. His head is down, he’s carried up something and is eating, whether the wolves like it or not.
Two more blacks arrive at the carcass from the east. Rick says these five are all pups. But they don’t stay long. They move up into the trees following the others. Two of them are carrying chunks of food with them
So my count is up to 12 so far.
Jort reports from Straightaway that the Junction alphas are visible south of there. There is a nasty wind up on this hill, making my face hurt, so I decide to head east instead.
I end up at Longs and find the adults to the south from here. I count 7 so far, moving from west to east in a thin-ish forest, well above the flats. I love seeing wolves move within a forest; it’s just a particularly beautiful sight to me.
I also find a large herd of elk, much higher on the hillside but below skyline. They seem to be on a trail through very thick forest. This is a pretty large herd, with a 6 point bull at the end. The elk are moving west, opposite the wolves.
More wolves appear in the clearing, emerging from the trees along the same west-to-east route. I’m now up to 15, with four grays, and the rest black.
Laurie & Kathie have arrived at Straightaway so I join them. The clearing I was watching is easier to see from here. We also find bighorn up on Specimen and a coyote in the flats.
Eventually the Junctions move higher into the forest and out of sight. Rick stops by, getting some last minute advice before he flies to Sundance tomorrow. He was invited to promote his book (Robert Redford wrote the forward). We are all happy to tell him our opinions of “what to pack”.
I have some work duties to complete so at 12:30 with no wolves in view I head back west. I stop in Mammoth to talk with my office and Laurie meets me here.
I say goodbye for now to Allison and we are on the road around 1PM. The sun comes out, making the Absarokas look their spectacular best. This trip has been full of good wolf sightings, and a crazy amount of snow!
Today I saw: 1 grizzly bear, bison, coyotes, a bald eagle, elk, a moose, bighorn sheep, 15 Junction wolves and the spirits of Allison & Richard.