It’s a normal 42 degrees at 5:40 this morning.
While I’m on the straight stretch of road between Trout Lake and the Soda Cone I am surprised when a car passes me. Although I generally drive under the speed limit, especially in the dark, I was going 45 when they zoomed by.
As I crest the hill at Dorothy’s Knoll, I see flashers blinking ahead. I slow down and put mine on even though no one is behind me. The flashers are from a disabled car in the road. Two people stand outside near it. It’s still dark out.
I roll down my window and stop, asking if they are alright. “Yes” says the guy “But we hit a bison and blew a tire”. They seem ok but what an awful situation for them. I say “I have a radio, do you want me to call a ranger?” He says, “yes”.
I make a cursory sweep of the hill to the north and see a small herd of bison. Perhaps the injured animal is with them.
“You sure you’re ok?” I ask and they both say “yes”. They seem embarrassed, so I drive on. A minute later I realize this is the same car that sped past me!
I call out to “any unit”, figuring someone at Slough will hear me. I say “a car hit a bison between Dorothy’s and Coyote, people are ok but car disabled on the road and tire blown. Can anyone call a Ranger?” Luckily for me, Taylor answers and says she will help. So, I keep driving.
When I get to Slough I see a maintenance truck in front of the loo, so I go up to the guy, telling him what I told Taylor, asking if he can help. He says he will and asks if I saw where the bison went. I say no.
After this I pack up and start to climb Dave’s Hill. It’s chilly again with that pesky breeze!
There seem to be just as many people on the hill today but I don’t see Calvin & Lynette among them.
I find four pups this morning, including 1 gray, and two adults: the gray male and third mother. It’s hazy again, so not great viewing, and the wolves I see are not doing much. They are bedded, sometimes lifting a head now and again.
Still, I have wolves in view and that’s why I’m here.
Around 8AM, Rick gets a call from Bob Landis. Bob is in Lamar and has “a bunch” of wolves south of Picnic. This call starts an exodus from Dave’s hill. Barb and I go too.
Our journey east is thwarted by five separate bison jams, one in the Canyon, one at Coyote, one at the Ranch, another at YES and the final one at Picnic. So, what usually takes about 10 minutes takes more than 3 times as long!
What makes it especially frustrating, but in a comical way, is that while most of us are stopped, Unit 11 continues to relay updates every minute or so on the wolves’ progress. He means to be helpful so which pullout to aim for, but since we are totally stuck, it feels like torture!
But the kicker is when Bill calls in his third update in which he says: “my count is 12; 8 black and 4 gray INCLUDING PUPPIES”.
If it were anyone but Bill calling in this news, it might not be believed. If he is seeing 4 grays, one of them MUST be a puppy because there are only three adult grays. So it’s fascinating news and I begin to speculate to myself if he might be seeing 1109’s offspring? She is often seen in this area so maybe today is the day her pups followed her?
The idea that the Junction puppies will always be seen at Slough is oddly stuck in my head. I seem to be in denial that some of them might simply have decided to follow the adults over here.
Well, I’ll just have to get further east and see them with my own eyes.
I end up parking at Exclosure and climbing up the hill. About 30-40 people are already up here and more are arriving. Calvin and Lynette are on Confluence hill around the corner. I am just glad I’m not too late!
Of the group in sight right now, three are adults and the other 9 are puppies: 7 black and 2 gray. Wow!
I set up next to Rick because I want to ask a million questions. He tells me he has been expecting this for a few days; that the pups themselves decide when they want to travel instead of turning back.
He doesn’t think they are 1109’s pups because A. we don’t know for sure she has any and B. she is not here herself. Hard to argue with that.
The wolves (pups) are exploring the Middle Foothill and the yellow grass meadow in front of it. It sure looks like they’ve never been here before and are curious about every rock and tree. I notice other wolves moving about in the trees behind the foothill.
The adults in this group are 907F, 1228F and a black yearling. 907 leads her group slowly east along the tree line, skirting the edge of Chalcedony fan. She doesn’t seem to have a plan to go anywhere in particular; the body language suggests they are wandering or exploring. How cool to be one of the pups, having an adventure, so far from home!
At a certain point, 907 seems to feel they have gone far enough east and she turns back, retracing her steps back west. The group stalls out at the eastern foothill for a while, then proceed back to the Middle.
The day has turned quite warm. I suspect we are approaching 80 degrees. But I stick it out and continue watching. Surprisingly, the heat does not seem to bother this group of wolves; instead of seeking rest in the shade of the trees, they continue travelling west, out in the open in the middle of the flats, drawing a HUGE and happy crowd, slowing traffic from Confluence to the Ranch.
The wolves finally aim for the trees at the edge of Amethyst bench. This is when I call it quits, needing to get out of the sun.
I head up to Silver Gate for a break.
And at 4:30 I go right back out again, hoping to find the wolves still in Lamar.
I set up on Trash Can but the lack of any crowd here tells the tale. I see Gary, a fellow scoper from this morning and ask for an update. He tells me he last saw them around 1:30, heading up Amethyst drainage. We both assume 907 is leading them back to Slough and we will see them there tomorrow morning.
I continue on to Slough and find only two wolves here, both pups. Surprisingly, Rick is out this evening. He says he is interested in whether all the pups have crossed to the south or if some are still here.
As the evening deepens, we do see a few more wolves appear in the usual areas, but there is little action. We also see pronghorn, bison and a bald eagle, and have a delightful socially-distanced conversation.
Then back east I go again, winding through more bison jams. There is a single mule deer in the midst of one of the bison herds. I hope she is not species-confused.
Today I saw: bison, a mule deer, a bald eagle, elk, pronghorn, 19 Junction wolves (including 907F, 1228, gray male, third mother, a
black yearling and at least 14 pups) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.