The same gorgeous Halloween moon is out again on my last morning.
I drive straight to Boulder and find seven Junction wolves in view, still messing with old Tuftless. They are now on a rocky knoll with scattered small trees, east of the original sage hill. Tuft-less survived the night after all.
Some wolves are bedded and others wander here and there, as if bored. I don’t see any of them get close to the bison this morning, as they did yesterday, but they do remain interested. Laurie recognizes 1047 below the others, bedded in sage near the end of the tree line.
I recognize the gray male as one of the “interested” wolves. There are also 6 blacks.
After about a half hour, 1047 gets up and heads down slope into the river corridor. This seems to be a signal to the others, because they start to follow him.
A visitor stops by and tells us he watched 18 wolves chasing elk last night, north of the road. From his description it’s hard to tell where exactly where the man was, but he insists it was not Hellroaring. From his description, he may have seen the Eight Mile pack.
But I am now wolfless, so I decide to see if the 8 Miles are still around. But first I stop at Wrecker to check on additional Junctions. I see a large elk herd to the right of the basalt cliff, but no wolves.
I go on to Hellroaring and scope with Don a while. We find elk and bison but no wolves.
Next I head back to Elk Creek and scope for a while with Laurie & Dan. We find the same elk herd that I saw from Wrecker and watch them a while, hoping to read signs that wolves are near. The elk seem alert, but the more we watch, the more we think they are just reacting to the behavior of the single bull elk that has them corralled.
It’s now after 9AM. I’ve become spoiled. Seeing ten wolves for a half hour is just not enough anymore!
Rick calls to say there is “something” at Boulder, so we head there.
But when we arrive, Rick has already left and we find no wolves in view so we are quite confused.
We keep scoping anyway, certain that something will be revealed soon. Dan notices movement on Junction Butte. Elk are running. But not from wolves – from people. A family has hiked up to the top from the road, spooking a small herd of elk. They dash across the flat top of the Butte to the northern end, then rush pell-mell down the steep slope.
It’s nice to see these elk but it’s too bad they were pushed by the hikers. The herd reaches the flats and continues running through the sage, crossing in front of us, passing the pond to the east. They finally stop at the base of the southern peregrine hill, near the exclosure fence. They are panting, poor things. The bull is a nice 5 x 5. There are two young males (2 x 2) and one spike along with ten cows and three calves/yearlings.
I take another peek at the large elk herd up on the basalt cliff. They are still bunched up there and I keep thinking wolves must be nearby. Suddenly, a guy named Bruce who is scoping next to Laurie says “I got a wolf”. And sure enough, he does.
Don’t we feel silly. They were right there the whole time! One another rocky hill a good deal further east of where they were this morning. I see six wolves 4 black and 2 gray, still harassing the bison, including Tuft-less.
We comfort each other by noting that they are much harder to see than they were early this morning because they blend in among the boulders, the shadows and the scattered trees. Even the blacks.
Laurie says the more she watches Tuft-less, the more she notices he’s just not right. He moves stiffly. I watch him lie down to rest. In a flash, a wolf bedded on a rock above the bison hops off and approaches him. So poor Tuft-less gets back up to defend himself. No contact is made but he did not get the nap, either. And this has been going on for over 24 hours.
Hmm, it’s not a happy life for him right now.
Two more blacks appear so I am now up to eight. The only one I recognize is the gray male.
The wolves begin to howl.
A minute or so later, someone calls out “more wolves!”. Perhaps they were drawn by the howl, but suddenly wolves start pouring out from the river corridor, trotting briskly in a long messy line across the meadow we call the “Buffalo Ford”. (You can’t see the actual ford from here, you can only see the terrain on the north side of it)
907F appears, carrying a leg. Hmm, perhaps they had a carcass down in the river corridor?
So now we have wolves up hill, downhill and everywhere in between. And who brings up the rear of this line? The grizzly! It’s friend bear. Of course, it is. We get a good chuckle from this!
All of the collars are in view now. They continue up the slope while the wolves on the rocky slopes come down to meet them. It looks like some of them want to be fed. Anyway, I try counting again and get 26.
It becomes clear that most of the wolves up the hill are pups because we see “begging to be fed” behavior. I watch an adult stop at the bottom of a hill. He sees a pup on the hill above him. They stare at each other a bit and then the pup comes down. The adult swerves and totally avoids the pup!
Another pup puts on a big show for a different adult, begging and groveling. I see several solicitations but the adult doesn’t give it up. I think the adults are sending a message to the pups today: you’re old enough now to eat on your own. If you want it, go down there and get it.
907 moves further up the meadow, still carrying the bone. She is met by a gray and two blacks. Suddenly one of the black wolves snatches the leg right out of her mouth and dashes off, causing a gasp from the crowd.
I watch a while longer, seeing more wolves move up into the rocks. Some get close to the bison and others bed on various boulders. The bear continues through the meadow uphill to the west. He finally disappears on the route to Junction Lake.
Well, well well. This has been a terrific sighting, but the time has come for me to get going. I always like going out on a high note!
I say my goodbyes and thanks and head west to Bozeman.
Today I saw: a grizzly bear, bison, coyotes, elk, pronghorn, 26 wolves and the spirits of Allison & Richard.