Itís a pleasant 41 degrees this pre-dawn morning.
As I drive I catch glimpses of a beautiful sunrise beginning behind me; pink, blue & yellow. There are bison in the road at the Ranch, and it takes a bit of patience to get by them.
I set up by myself at Slough but soon Jeremy joins me. I have a lovely half hour chatting with him, watching various adults and pups. He tells me some great stories about his adventures during the closure.
The cast of Junction adults this morning include 907F, the gray male, the young mom (2 yr old), a black yearling, a collared black (likely 1229) and the alpha female. We also see at least 5 pups, including 2 grays, although they move around so much we may have seen twice as many!
To me, the pups seem less energetic overall than yesterday.
The pullout fills up with friends: Susan & Reve, Rick, Kathie, C & B and L & D. And some of my ďwinterĒ friends, as well. Larry & Linda plus Steve & Robin are here, too! How great to see them all!
Everyone needs to pay a visit to the Park now that itís open again, and everyone especially wants to see the pups. We enjoy seeing other animals too, such as pronghorn, geese & goslings and a bald eagle.
Around 9AM we get a call from Bill. He is watching a single black wolf in Lamar Valley, heading east.
I decide to pack up and head that way.
I see people on Hubbard Hill and ask if they are seeing a black wolf. They say yes and point slightly east. I find a spot and hop out. As soon as I raise my binoculars I see an odd sight. I find the wolf, which is running, but itís being chased by 3 pronghorn. What?
The wolf makes a series of zig zag turns and the pronghorn follow him. It finally it makes sense: the wolf is chasing a pronghorn fawn! The tiny thing is out in front of him, making the zig zag turns. The adults are hoping to distract the wolf, although I notice they do not get very close to him. Surely they can outrun the wolf?
Wow! I can barely see the fawn out in front of the wolf since its coloring blends into the landscape. The scene plays out in front of the western foothill, where there are sections of short grass and sections of sage. The fawn is doing its best to save itís own life but the wolf is gaining it.
Then the fawn makes a mistake. It leaves the short grass and enters the sage. Almost as soon as the wolf enters the sage everything suddenly stops.
Uh oh, I think he got it. Poor thing.
The adult pronghorn approach and stomp at the wolf but they know itís over. Oh, so sad. I can barely see the wolf in the sage (which is ok, I donít like this part). I only see a darkish smudge in the sage where he stopped moving.
The adult pronghorn move off. The wolfís head is down and I can only see its back. More and more people arrive. People are watching from Picnic and Trash Can, too. After about a half hour, the wolf moves towards the tree line.
I donít know which wolf Iím looking at but itís most likely a Junction adult. It is very black and has no collar. Itís carrying part of the fawn.
It leaves the sage and moves through a section of shorter grass, where the wolf sits and feeds a bit more.
The adult pronghorn return and harass it some more, making the wolf get back up and carry the remains into the tree line.
I ask Rick which wolf he thinks this is. He says perhaps the un-collared black male or the husky yearling.
Once the wolf disappears into the tree line, I talk with Rick and Kathie a while, then head back west. I feel like a bit of a drive so I continue west from Tower. There is a black bear jam near Rickís pullout. I continue to Elk Creek and scope from here a while, enjoying the view.
Soon, though, the day turns so warm I decide to seek shade and head back east for a nap.
Around 6:30 Iím off to Slough again.
I notice many more clouds in the sky this afternoon, which is good news because clouds will make scoping into the sun much more pleasant.
I start out by myself again. Iím not sure where B & C have gone. There are a few other visitors in the lot but we stay far apart. There are a few skeeters tonight as there is very little breeze.
Things start slow, with just a few pups and a single black adult. But then a gray emerges from the yellow-flower hill, then another and another and another. All of a sudden I have 9 Junction adults holding a rally in front of the eastern trees.
I recognize the alphas, plus 907, the gray male and five more black adults. Tonight they head west, passing the eastern trees, then the western trees, following a familiar route which takes them past the ďparrot rockĒ. But then, instead of staying high, they go low, into the creek flats. I climb the low hill and re-acquire them. The pack is moving steadily south, passing the southern round tree.
A small group of elk bunches ahead of them, near the trail to Peregrine. I swing my scope to see if the wolves have seen the elk, and when I swing back to the elkÖthey are gone.
The leaders continue up a hill and then disappear, heading south. I expect they will try to cross the road. I watch four black yearlings cross the flats. They suddenly begin to chase each other up the next hill, looking wonderfully happy and carefree.
When the yearlings disappear, I turn back to check on the pups. I find two, one in a dirt spot near the eastern trees and another wandering to the right.
I pack up and drive west, thinking I might spot the adults as they head off on their hunt. There is no one stopped at the Lamar River Bridge, so I continue west. As I near Aspen I see the road is lined with cars on both sides. People are standing in every open spot, looking to the north.
Normally I would pull over and look along with them, but it doesnít feel safe. Itís crowded and chaotic, which makes me a bit sad. I keep driving and stop at Straightaway where I see Bill. He says he caught a glimpse of them to the north, not too high. We wonder if perhaps they might want to cross to the south?
We see a small group of alert elk on Peregrine (this could be the group I had seen briefly from Slough) but neither of us see the wolves. So, I decide to be content with my eveningís viewing so far and head east.
I have a nice drive through the cool of Lamar Canyon. And now I have the beautiful valley all to myself! This is good for my eyes and good for my soul.
My last sighting of the night is a sweet mule deer doe at Baronette.
Today I saw: 1 black bear, bison, mule deer, bald eagle, elk, pronghorn, 19 Junction Pack wolves, including 907, alpha female, young mom,
1229, un-collared black male, 1047, gray male, five black yearlings, 7 pups (5 black, 2 gray) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.