DAY SEVEN - Saturday, February 15

EIGHT MILE EXCITEMENT

My last day starts with no new snow and 10 chilly degrees.

We find 3 bighorns on the eyebrow hill across from Hitching Post.

In Lamar Canyon, we stop so Pauline can grab a photo of a big bull elk on the north slope. He is a great looking animal.

We hear that the Eight Miles were seen on the Blacktail very early this AM but are now out of sight.

C & L tell us they scoped both Elk Creek and Ski Lot without luck. They are now at Boulder, looking for Junctions.

We scope from Slough trying to help but find only bison and bull elk. Then Pauline spots a fox running to the east of Crystal Rock. Nice! Then we hear there are 3 wolves in view from S Curves so we head there.

Surprisingly we find room to park at this small lot, and better yet, there are still wolves in view. Best of all, they are relatively close!

I see a beautiful collared black and two gorgeous grays bedded on a windswept slope just west of South Butte. They begin to howl. We hear a reply from further away, featuring many, many voices.

Obviously, the Eight Mile Pack is here, so now we have to find the rest of them!

One of the grays gets up and starts to move east. The second gray follows the first, leaving the collared black bedded. Finally he, too, gets up and trails the other two. They move towards South Butte and eventually disappear.

We move up to the Fire Trail lot in hopes of finding them again. C & L have arrived with Colleen. We all set up and start scanning. Lynette gets me up to date on the area. In the last two days they have found not one but TWO bison carcasses, fairly close together. So the Junctions are not the only pack dining on bison this winter.

I see both spots and Iíd estimate they are maybe a football field apart. Just as I get a fix on the second carcass, Calvin calls out that he has a wolf!

He helps us all find it. A single black wolf, moving through an open snowy area between two horizontal lines of trees. This animal is much further away than the three we saw earlier. Calvin believes this is a different animal, not the one we saw before.

Then Lynnette finds a gray, which seems to be following Calvinís black. They go in and out of sight for a while; we get glimpses between the trees. Then the black emerges into an open area, and I realize he is approaching the first carcass that Lynette showed me.

Wow, he got there, fast! A cloud of birds rises and scatters as the wolf arrives and begins to feed. The gray shows up a minute later. I watch them feed a while. But I check my phone and see itís already 11AM - time for me to get on the road back to Bozeman.

I say my goodbyes and as Iím walking to my car, a shout goes up. More wolves are in view. And these are close! Oh! I canít leave yet!

So I skitter back over the ice-covered pullout and re-join my friends, just using my binoculars. On the western slope of South Butte I see six wolves in a rally, tails high and wagging. Oh, how beautiful they look! How close!

This group includes the black and two grays we saw first, plus a mottled gray (Laurie says this is alpha female ďBrindleĒ) and two additional blacks. Laurie IDís the collared black as the alpha male, 1015.

These six wolves bounce and body slam and wag their tails and nuzzle each other. Then they all rush off to the south and out of sight over the edge of the slope.

But now Calvin finds a different black much higher on South Butte. We believe this black is being chased by the wolves in the alpha group that just rallied. Perhaps this black is an interloper, looking for a breeding opportunity?

Heís not in sight long enough for anyone to know. This wolf goes out of sight but we are all thrilled to have a nice close sighting like this. Now I feel I can head out, for real this time.

I drive west, enjoying a day without wind and snow to slow me down. My last sighting of this trip is a herd of bighorn near the road in Gardiner Canyon.

Today I saw: bison, 2 coyotes, elk, a fox, bighorn sheep, at least 9 Eight Mile wolves and the spirits of Allison & Richard.

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