I am up at 6AM. I head to the new-improved breakfast room at the Super 8. They have hot food now, eggs, bacon and taters, along with the other yummy free stuff they have always had.
I meet Becky & Chloe and we get to chatting as we usually do. Suddenly we notice it is already light outside, so we bus our table and get going.
It’s cold today, only 13 degrees. We re-convene at the Nature Trail as planned where it is a nippy 6!
There are already lots of people here, including Doug M, so I set up next to him.
Happily, the Eight Miles are in view. They are in their rendezvous area – where we watched pups last summer. There are many more wolves than yesterday-in fact it is likely the whole pack (total of 15 or 16) because they killed an elk last night.
Nick is here and tells me he stayed until almost dark and saw the whole thing. He says many elk were part of the chase and the action moved steadily to the west, all the way to the rendezvous spot where they are now.
He says at one point, the wolves chased elk right into a herd of bison. The bison bunched up and fended off the wolves. He said it was hard to tell if the wolves were still after elk or had switched to bison, but suddenly several elk burst out running with 4 wolves behind them. One bull was quite slow and they focused on him. Nick saw several points of contact and then saw the bull fall to its knees before they all disappeared into a gully. It was over soon after that, and too dark to see anymore.
There is no way to know if the now-dead elk is one of the ones they had cornered yesterday. But we know the wolves got a good meal.
When I get set up, I immediately see one gray and four blacks bedded in the narrow finger of open meadow between the converging tree lines, and I see two more blacks bedded to the left of those.
There are many birds in the bare trees growing out of the gully in front of that snow-covered meadow, which suggests the carcass is likely below that.
Very soon, three more wolves (2 gray, 1 black) emerge from the gully, walking up the open slope. They join the bedded wolves and I see several happy greetings.
Doug has had a high count of 8 so far but as more wolves come up, my count grows to 11. Rick arrives and counts 13. Then wolves from the left begin to cross the slope down to the carcass. Then 4 black wolves and a gray come out into the second, higher finger. They run and romp about, making them very likely pups. They play most delightfully, tackling one of the grays, acting very happy and carefree as pups will do.
A little later the play ends with two bedding down while the other three go back to the carcass. I notice that one black pup is really big (of course, it’s also possible that this wolf is a yearling).
All in all, we spend three hours watching these wolves, so it’s a great morning.
Rick spots a fox moving across the snow hill in front of the carcass gully. We see him stop. He must have smelled the wolves, because he turns and goes back the way he came. Later I see him running down another slope, farther away.
While the fox was still in view, I see two more wolves emerge from gully on the left side. This brings my count to 12.
There are three guys from Michigan traveling together who stopped to see what we were looking at. They tell Becky that they have been listening to “The Rise of Wolf 8” on Audible on the drive here. Becky grinned and said “would you like to meet the author? He standing right over there”. Their eyes went wide and she brought them over to be introduced to Rick.
And they all saw their first wolf today.
The activity slows and the wolves are all bedded. I follow B & C to the east, hoping to find otters.
Little America has some very pretty fresh new snow. Plus the sun is out and that always makes things extra gorgeous. And the new snow reveals tracks.
I get an official 3 dog day when we spot three coyotes in the open, south of the ranch.
By noon, the temperature has reached a toasty 18 degrees. This is by far the coldest day so far.
At Confluence we are happy to find otter tracks, but we don’t see the otters themselves. We watch dippers instead.
Further east we go, stopping at Footbridge. I show them the carcass on which the mystery gray has been feeding. We see nothing on it now, though, not even birds.
At Round Prairie we find 3 moose in the willows. One big boy is eating willow buds, and several times he stretches his neck, reaching way up for a tender shoot. The other two are in willows to the west of him. It’s hard to tell if they are bulls or cows.
Then Chloe makes an amazing spot of a big horn ram up on The Thunderer.
We move on to Pebble to look for goats. Another visitor finds them first; 4 of them, way up there, not on Thunderer but the mountain east of Pebble. Abiathar, perhaps? I see two adults and two kids.
After a while we decide to go back west to check on the Eight Miles. Even though I am staying in Silver Gate tonight I think I still have time to get there and back before Laurie & Dan arrive.
We re-assemble at the Fire Trail and sure enough, the wolves are still in view.
My count is 12 again, and includes a restless pup who amuses himself by traveling east quite far from the pack. But once he gets there he looks a bit forlorn, sitting all alone on an open snow slope. Then he notices a piece of frozen snow which begins to roll down the slope. He endears himself to us by immediately bounding down to chase after it. It is SO cute!
The rest of the pack is bedded in good view on the left end of the R-V. As I scope around I notice lots of elk in the area. We show lots of newbies their first wolf, including a family that lives in NY, in the Village, no less, who are going on to ski in Big Sky.
I lose track of time and suddenly see it’s nearly 4PM. So I pack up quickly and head to Silver Gate.
There are two coyotes traveling dangerously along the icy, windy road, one near Hellroaring and another near Floating Island Lake. But I am able to pass them safely.
I stop at Curve to call Laurie to see what progress they are making. They flew in to Bozeman yesterday, stayed at my place overnight and spent an hour or two food shopping. They are nearly to Gardiner and are bringing pizza for dinner.
I make it back just before dark. Laurie & Dan arrive at 6:30 and we have a great reunion.
Today I saw: bison, 6 coyotes, elk, a fox, 4 mountain goats, 3 moose, 1 bighorn sheep, 12 Eight Mile wolves and the spirits of Allison and Richard