I find a heavy frost on the car this morning. It’s 12 degrees; the ”warmest” morning yet.
As I enter the straightaway past Trout Lake I see a shape just off the road to the south. It’s a fox, looking at something intently. Hunting, I suppose!
There is a good deal of fog at the confluence. It stretches into the valley, so I don’t stop at Trash Can, but continue on to Coyote. I find Doug here with one wolf in sight at the carcass spot.
As soon as I get out of the car, I hear a lone howl.
It’s still pretty dark but I scan all the high spots where I saw wolves yesterday, finding nothing. Then someone in the lot calls out “down by the river”.
I swing my scope low and immediately see a single black in the flats below Jasper Bench, standing broadside, howling. It’s his voice I heard. He seems to be calling to the one still on the carcass.
Rick arrives and before I can show him the black, a group howl erupts; many, many voices, coming from the southeast. Rick finds my black and then says I should look opposite Amethyst creek. “In the flats”
I pan past the single black and through the lifting fog I see a million wolves. Well, ok, at least 20!
Laurie & Dan radio for an update so I suggest they stop at the Ranch, which they do and find the wolves quickly from there.
I continue watching the pack from here with Rick. They have surrounded a large bison herd, testing it. It’s a long look from here, though, so we discuss moving closer.
I end up at Mid-point, which is a good choice. I find them again right away.
However, the leaders have left the testing of the bison herd to the younger group and are already moving steadily east. I count 29. The leader group is about 8 wolves and the rest are still scattered around the bison herd, still making advances and avoiding charges.
It’s very interesting to watch.
If there is still one back on the carcass, that would make 30, the same count we had yesterday.
The leaders have reached the foothills, though, so I relocate again to Trash Can hill. Just about everybody is here, happily watching the Junction wolves. I remind Taylor of my “prediction” yesterday that they would be in the rendezvous. She teases me back.
And the Junctions fulfill my wish completely. When they reach the old Druid Rendezvous, they bed down in the old family room for a bit of a rest. As the youngsters arrive from their bison testing event, they explode into a wild and wooly play session. They are just so delightful to watch, running, racing, stomping on each other, piling on, tumbling, rearing up, hopping over each other – endless varieties of play and such boundless enthusiasm.
I see all the collars except 1047 and 1109. The only adult missing from the group we had yesterday is the gray male. He may be the one still on the carcass.
I notice that 1229F is often in the lead. She and the alpha female have been switching off as they traveled up the valley. It’s not hard to predict she will be an alpha one day.
Twice, all the pups join into a pile, with several on their backs, four legs in the air, rolling, sliding in snow. They run downhill, get pounced on, chasing each other so fast that the snow is flying! To see them play this way is just delightful.
1228F is also a dominant individual. She gets quite aggressive pinning another wolf (probably another yearling). Seems as though she has inherited the dominance trait from her mother (969).
I see fanny dancing between the AF and 1048 and notice that the alpha male does not limp as much as in the fall. He is identifiable by his size, his high tail, his non-collar and some gray on his cheeks.
Around 10:30 the nap is over. The leaders rouse the group and set off again to the east. Laurie thinks they are doing a territory check. Jeremy confirms the Mollies visited Lamar a few days ago.
The crew relocates to Confluence, others to Hitching Post and Footbridge. I make another lucky choice and choose Geriatric, where I am soon joined by Laurie & Dan.
Initially I miss the leaders from here but find several stragglers, trailing the leaders in sage at the edge of the old riverbank. They go down into the river corridor so I scan ahead and find several wolves climbing out of the bottoms into the high meadow southwest of Norris.
Now I find the leaders, following the Cache Creek trail on the long sloping shoulder of Norris. The wolves fall into a fairly tight single line along the trail. Light snow begins falling, making the sighting look like a glimpse into ancient American history.
1229 branches off from the leaders, seemingly interested in going further east. She climbs fairly high on the slope, as if wanting to cross Dead Puppy Hill. But she eventually stops and turns back, rejoining the group.
I savor this beautiful picture and thank my lucky stars that I’m able to see it.
By 11AM they have gone out of sight. The snow continues and grows a bit heavier. And the sky promises a lot more.
So we climb down and head back east, feeling that we are unlikely to see the Junctions the rest of the day.
Today I saw: bison, a fox, 29 Junction wolves including AM, AF, 907, 1048M, 996M, gray male, third mother, 1228, 1229, husky yearling
and the spirits of Allison and Richard.