I am up and out at 5AM. It’s already a warm 52 degrees.
I head out in the half-dark, hearing elk making mewling noises in various places along the drive. As I cross the high bridge I see something ahead, wobbling across the road. Probably a marmot, or perhaps a badger. It is long and low.
There is a beautiful golden/yellow sunrise, made even nicer by a soft mist rising from Blacktail ponds. I rarely drive this way during the summer and find it really pretty.
I stop at the Frog Rock and find the air pleasantly colder at 42. I set up Layla to scope for the Eight Miles. I see Susan & Reve set up on the Fire Trail side. They tease me about being anti-social.
Doug arrives just before 6AM. I show him where to look, but alas, we don’t see any pups today. I’m glad to hear him say he is game for a drive into Lamar.
Eastward we go.
When we come out of Lamar Canyon we see dozens of cars, vans and busses jammed into the Fisherman Lot. Wow, it’s really packed. Surrounding the whole pullout is a very large herd of bison, some spread over the sage hills to the north and many others in the river flats to the south. But it’s just too many vehicles for bison. This jam is for a wolf.
I find enough room for my car and hope out. I see a single black, in fact, 1109F of the Junction Pack, gnawing on the remains of a week-old bison carcass. She’s in the marshy area just across the river, in clear view of perhaps 200 hundred people.
I see Taylor, the guide who was so considerate in June. She says 1109 seems to be taking a break from raising her pups up on Specimen. She adds that she was seen earlier this morning coming down Jasper Bench, making a bee line for this spot.
When I first see her, she is moving off the carcass, apparently taking a break to digest. Her belly looks full and she beds down in the grass, remaining mostly visible. Doug finds space for his car and sets up his big camera. We spend a good hour watching her. She returns to the carcass twice while we are here, one time bracing a foot against the bones in order to tear off a few more morsels.
She begins to carry a leg assembly off with her, but it appears a bit too heavy; she puts it down after a few steps. Tries again, only to drop it again. Finally she leaves it there. We follow her as she trots up hill and over some rocks. She disappears quite quickly into the trees.
So new we turn our attention to the bison. There’s plenty to interest us. In addition to the herd surrounding us, a second large group starts to come down in single file from the eastern side of Lamar Canyon. They reach the river and start across. I notice several bulls in pre-rut mode, already annoying the cows.
One cow right below the lot grabs my attention. She seems to be trying on a fancy straw hat. The “hat” is a huge, uprooted dry clump of grass, complete with mud clinging to the roots. Several of the blades are quite long, maybe 3 feet. The cow deliberately hooks the clump with her horn and holds the whole thing up, over her head. She swings it up and down a few times, then slams it to the ground. When it finally becomes unhooked from her horn, she stomps on it fiercely with her hoof. She repeats this at least 3 times.
Maybe she is projecting her displeasure with someone, perhaps one of those annoying bulls? Her nearby calf stares at her, as if to say “mom, you’re embarrassing me”. She hooks the “hat” once more and again tosses it to the ground, stomps on it again, then moves away, leaving it “dead”. What a character!
There is a BBC photographer whom Doug met at Mammoth yesterday. He and his crew are filming in the lot. I tell the guy “I hope Bison Mom and her Straw Hat makes the cut” and he grins in agreement.
But the time has come for Doug to leave. He has to get to Old Faithful for his second day of book signings. So we bid each other adieu and off we go.
I stop once again at the Frog Rock lot but find no Eight Mile pups. Oh well. Still, I am pleased to have seen one wolf, and a close view at that, when I only had one day to try!
Today I saw: bison, elk, pronghorn, a marmot (or a badger), wolf 1109 of the Junction pack and the spirits of Allison & Richard.