I’m out just before 5AM, happy to hear the birdies singing away. There is a nice moon - almost full - but it is soon hidden by clouds. The temp gauge says 45 which feels great to me.
There was some rain overnight and there is a bit of mist on the road.
A cow elk crosses the road at Trash Can. I check to see if anything is coming up behind her but see nothing.
My mission today is to see puppies, so I head straight to Slough. I drive down the campground road, past Bob’s and past the first lower lot – both of which are already hosting several cars each. I pull into the empty lot on the east side and set up. I am all by myself and it feels wonderful.
It’s a cool, overcast day and I put on my hat and my gloves and two jackets. I quickly find a wolf peeking over the crest of the hill with yellow flowers, half-way between the crescent rock and the eastern trees.
Kathie L pulls in (driving a different car) and we welcome each other – from a distance. We set up a safe distance apart and get to scoping.
We suspect the wolf in view is the 2 year old mother, sometimes called “third mother”. A second black adult appears, the alpha female. The two mother wolves walk together for a bit, then lie down, rolling on their backs, legs in the air. A few puppy shapes appear, in and out of the thick grass and yellow flowers, maybe 5 or 6.
Jeremy & Taylor join us and more wolf activity occurs. 907 arrives and is almost instantly surrounded by pups. She lowers her head and feeds the pups. Jeremy’s count is 16!
907 goes back out of sight; pups are scrambling all over, gobbling any morsel they find.
Rick joins us; he was watching 1048 in Lamar. He climbs a low hill behind the pullout to keep his distance.
The alpha female stands broadside looking to the west. She howls and several other voices join her. It sounds really nice.
A black yearling appears, sneaking in from the west. The alpha female runs to greet it below the Eastern trees, trailed by pups. For the first time I can distinguish that some are gray (brownish) and others are black. I count 15!
The yearling lowers its head and feeds the alpha female. The pups swarm her and then follow her en masse up the slope towards the hill with the yellow flowers.
A gray appears at the eastern trees, in fact, the gray male. He moves down the slope to the lion meadow, making his way gradually down to the creek.
I climb up on Rick’s hill, hoping to be able to follow the gray male.
Laurie & Dan arrive, just in time to see a black yearling appear in the swale area, searching for scraps. A black pup approaches the alpha female and appears to lick her muzzle. She licks it back, and we ooh and awww. Then a gray pup joins the black pup but their combined energy manages to annoy mom. She snaps and moves away to the east. The pups follow for a while, exploring the rocks east of the Crescent, but soon they head back where they were.
Another black adult comes downhill and beds below the crescent rock. A few pups gather around this wolf and they all begin a short exploration of that area.
907 appears again and has a bit of a pup-free walkabout. She moseys around below the sage den, has a drink at the spring and heads back up.
Around 9AM the activity slows and things get quiet, so Laurie suggests we head back east to try to see 1048.
As I pass Bob’s pullout I see Calvin and Lynette. Oh! I didn’t know they were here. We look at each other, knowing we cannot hug but I let them know how good it is to see them. Lynnette says how nice it is to be in the Park in June with hardly anyone here. “At least r ight now” we say together. Will less people it’s certainly easier to keep one’s distance.
I wish them well and continue east. I see a coyote walking through the meadow north of Fisherman’s. At Mid-Point I join Laurie & Dan. Alas, 1048 is no longer in sight!
We decide to head further east and stop again at Footbridge. We are too late to see the 5 grizzlies Bill had earlier, but he does help us find a courting pair of black bears. I’ll take it!
A light drizzle has begun but not enough to stop anyone from scoping.
We go on to Round Prairie. Laurie tells me the Mollies have been seen off and on in Lamar for over two weeks. And that the plane has so far not found any den of theirs in Pelican.
Of course, the wolf project is missing all sorts of data it would normally have this time of year due to the shutdown, so everyone is playing catch up.
We look for wolves but instead find a mountain goat up on Mark’s Ridge (behind Pebble). I also notice three petrified tree stumps up there that I don’t remember seeing before. Kathie jokes “I don’t think they’re new”.
It is a welcome treat to see the Park during green-up. Truly a sight for sore eyes!
But alas it’s time for me to get back to Bozeman. I say my goodbyes and hope to return sooner rather than later.
Just east of the cone I stop for a bit to watch two sandhills doing their fluttery mating display to the north.
In Mammoth I grin as I pass the bear statues at the post office - someone has added cloth masks to their faces!
I thank Allison for another good trip and head back home. I reflect on the fact that I accomplished my goal of seeing Junction pups before they are no longer visible. Hopefully this won’t have been my last chance.
Today I saw: 2 black bears, bison, a coyote, 2 sandhill cranes, a mule deer, elk, a mountain goat, 21 Junction Pack wolves, including 907, alpha
female, 2 year old mom, two black yearlings, gray male, and 15 adorable puppies (10 black, 5 gray) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.