Itís a normal 43 degrees this morning as I head out in the dark.
Just as Iíve done the last two mornings, I start out climbing Daveís Hill, but as it turns out I should have stopped to scope while I was in Lamar.
Surprisingly, there is nothing in view at Slough. Hmmm. Have they all left?
I soon learn that I went in too early last night. Apparently, the Junction group we had seen in Chalcedony fan didnít go back to Slough after all. They must have bedded somewhere near Amethyst drainage and around dusk they were spotted traveling east again.
People on Exclosure saw them test some bison and then give chase. It got too dark to see so the outcome wasnít known. Then the radio crackles with news that explains why we are seeing no movement from here: Junction wolves are in Lamar - on a bison carcass!
A lot of people hike back down Daveís Hill, including me!
Barb and I end up on Geriatric, since Exclosure is already packed. Our view from here is slightly blocked by the tops of cottonwoods growing out of the river, but I like the semi-solitude.
In the eroded area of the Old Druid Rendezvous I see one black wolf with its head down in a depression. Although I cannot see the carcass itself, it looks like this wolf is feeding on something. Then one by one, more and more wolves begin to climb out of the depression, and some of them are carrying meat.
To my delight, these wolves are all pups! I am watching Junction pups feed on a carcass just like grown-up wolves do. A little later I recognize 907F and the gray male, then I see a collared black adult who turns out to be 996M. He has a brand new limp, which apparently he acquired last night during the chase.
996M is his usual aloof self, bedding apart from most of the others. I watch several pups walk over to him and nuzzle him, but he gives them little response.
We see more and more wolves, more than the 12 that were seen yesterday, so somehow it seems like other Junction wolves got wind of this fresh meal. Perhaps they even came over last night and were part of the chase? With Rickís help I eventually recognize 1048M and the third mother for adults. There are at least 19 wolves here, and our pup count is 14 (8/6).
1048M is already heading west. I saw him south of Mid Point as I drove past on my way here. He was then tracked all the way to Jasper Bench and is now out of sight.
The wolves seem to be fat and happy. They begin to follow 907 towards the tree line and you can really see the belly-bulge. When they reach the trees they stop and begin to howl. Oh wow, it just sounds amazing! I wonder if they are calling the rest of the pack to let them know food is here?
They howl twice more before heading to their bedding spots.
Some bison arrive in the eroded area and have a mini funeral for their dead comrade. And then I remember that a bison was hit yesterday and perhaps it was injured enough for the wolves to finish it?
After the funeral ends, the bison move off to the east. I still see 996 bedded by himself and a single black pup near him. Then this pup and two others decide they have some room left and head back down for a second breakfast.
996M gets up stiffly and heads for the trees. Soon after this the pups that went for another helping come back out and follow him. Things settle down and now all we have are bedded wolves. But what a great morning!
Itís nearly 10AM so we go back to the cars and return to Laurieís to pack up and clean before we aim for Bozeman. On our way we see a fox east of Baronette.
We have an easy ride back to Mammoth and I bid farewell to Allison.
As we drive through Paradise Valley, the smoke is so thick you cannot see the mountains at all. Eeek!
But we get back to Bozeman with no trouble other than smoky skies.
Today I saw: bison, a bald eagle, elk, 19 Junction wolves including 907, 1048M, 996M, gray male, third mother, 14 pups and the spirits
of Allison and Richard.