Good morning. Itís 6:58 and a normal 26 degrees.
I find some light snow dust on the car but itís easy to brush off. The plow has been by twice. Rick and Kara have left already, maybe 45 minutes ahead of me. They are real early birds!
Looks like we may have some visibility issues today. I pass only one car on my way into the valley. I stop at Footbridge and enjoy listening to the quiet.
I also enjoy seeing fresh animal tracks in new snow. So many stories they tell!
It is still snowing lightly and Specimen is fog-shrouded. Our radios are silent. There is no telemetry this week because Jeremy is enjoying Christmas with his family, as he well deserves. We will simply have to find wolves the old fashioned way.
As I drive, I keep exclaiming how pretty everything is.
I scope for a while from Picnic and find bison and a lone coyote. I see another coyote from Mid-point. I stop to chat with Rick and Kara at Lamar Canyon West. They have no sightings to report yet.
Then we get a call from Melba. She is at Soda Butte Mid-point, back in Lamar, and has a gray in view.
We drive back east, and I get a brief glimpse of two otters at Picnic, but I keep going, giving priority to a possible wolf sighting. But alas, by the time I arrive, the wolf is gone.
Luckily, Melba has great video. Itís a gorgeous, un-collared gray, most likely a male. She watched it feed on a carcass for a while in the riverbed. This is a ďnewĒ carcass to Rick and Kara. They are such good spotters, they are unlikely to have missed a carcass. So we speculate as to whether perhaps the Lamars got something overnight and he found it, or if this gray took something down himself.
What we do know is that this mystery gray is not tolerant of cars or people Ė Melba says when the third car arrived this morning, the wolf left and moved into tree cover. There are 2 coyotes on the carcass right now and many birds, including balds & goldens. All of that activity argues for a fairly fresh kill.
The pullout here is too small for even the handful of early morning visitors, so we improvise a bit. Rick M drives back to Footbridge and finds the area from the eastern end. I join him. He says he was not aware of a carcass in this spot either. He can see enough to say it was an elk.
He also thinks the mystery gray is in Lamar looking for a mate.
A young man named Nick in a yellow car joins us. He has a naturally polite and considerate manner and I like him immediately. He was lucky enough to see the gray with Melba earlier and seems instantly hooked. I know the feeling!
I am happy to report that Nick has indeed quickly become a serious wolf watcher.
Itís still snowing lightly and has been all morning. Around 10AM, with no wolf in view, I decide to head back west hoping to see otters at Picnic. Alas they have already moved on. But I find a coyote is again visible mousing across from the Institute. He is close enough to have drawn several photographers.
I stop at Lamar Canyon West again and find 4 bull elk but no wolves.
Finally the snow lets up and out comes the sun. Oh, my goodness. Itís so beautiful!
I stop at Straightaway and scope the spot I saw a cougar last year. No cat today but I do see several bighorn pawing the snow to get at the grass below, kicking up a pretty spray of snowflakes.
I stop at Lower HR. The wind has kicked up, making scoping a bit tricky. I find bison and elk and it looks like more snow is on the way.
I head back east and notice my car has passed 1000 miles on this trip. I stop at Footbridge again and find the carcass, but nothing on it now except birds.
I move further east and look for goats from Pebble. But then the snow arrives and makes scoping a lost cause.
I head in early and have a makeshift Christmas Eve dinner with Kara & Rick.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, a bald eagle, a golden, big horn sheep, and the spirits of Allison & Richard.