I am out at 7AM again. The temp is a chilly 11 degrees and skies look clear. I have some frost to deal with this morning but no new snow! And there is a beautiful sunrise.
Last night Laurie got a report from the people who stayed at Dorothyís after I left. They saw the Junctions run downhill from skyline at the western edge of Amethyst mountain.
And, sure enough, I can see Mid-Point pullout is jammed. No room for me, so I go on to YES, followed by Dan & Laurie.
The view is not as good because of some cottonwoods, but on either side of the treetops we can see wolves. First I see several sacked in the open, half-way between the riverbank and the tree line. To the left of these, a group of pups is putting on a wonderful wolf show. Again, like yesterday, the beautiful gray male is right in the thick of it. I tell Dan he is behaving like 8 did, and 21, too, letting the younger animals tackle him, jump on him, ambush him.
He will be an alpha someday, thatís for sure.
The feistiest pup in the group today is the smallest gray, just-collared female 1228F. She tears around, back and forth, full of vim and vigor. And she seems to really love her older brother/uncle.
She charges out into deep snow, then flops down, legs in the air. A black pup and a cocoa colored pup come running over, pouncing on her. She jumps up and tears off in a different direction. Itís just wonderful to see these wolves being so playful.
Someone finds a pretty fox trotting along the riverbank, heading west away from the wolves.
There is a second group of playful pups holding forth on the other side of the bedded adults. This group explores the edge of the forest, finding all sorts of interesting things, including a lone bison, minding his own business. The pups taunt and harass the huge animal, and the bison is forced to charge them a few times to teach them a lesson. After a while, the wolves lose interest and they leave the poor beast alone.
The pups become interested in a depression beneath a large, toppled tree trunk. They take turns tumbling into it, then biting any other pup who tries to get in there, too. Or the one inside might suddenly bolt out, letting the next one roll inside. We call it high man/low man. So cute to watch!
After a while the crowd at Mid-point thins out so we move over there. The view from here is considerably better!
I can now see the adult group without cottonwood branches obstructing my view. I see the alphas plus 996M, 907F and 1048M. I donít see 1109. As usual, 996 is bedded away from the others. This group of adults has mostly slept while their pups were playing.
Around 10AM, a group of pups starts to move into the forest. Laurie says she thinks they got something last night and quite likely they are headed back for a second breakfast.
We follow them through the trees until they disappear. Then someone sees them emerge to the west on a partially open slope. I recognize the gray male and his adoring companion, the feisty gray pup. The others in this group are all black.
They cross the open slope and stop at the edge, looking down. Thatís where we think their carcass is. You can imagine them looking at whatever is feeding there now, birds, perhaps, or the fox we saw earlier? One by one they disappear over the edge, taking a trail down into a thickly forested area.
After this, we donít see this group anymore.
So, I swing my scope back to the bedded adults.
At about 12:15, 996 gets up. He walks over to say hello to the alpha group of four. 907 gets up to greet him. Then she and 996 go together to pay homage to the alphas.
Now 996 sets off with determination to the west, taking an entirely different route than the pup group took, but aiming for the same forested spot where we lost the others. He stalls out for a while and when I look back, I see the rest of the adults are now up, following his trail. 996 continues, taking a route up the middle of the partially open slope, which is, in fact, an eastern hump of Amethyst bench.
I follow the adult group as they head uphill. When I lose them, I pack up and drive west to join Sian at Dorothyís. She has found them again from here.
Just as I locate them, it starts snowing again. I have 1048 in view. He seems to be having a hard time getting up the hill. Heís last in line, tongue out, panting. I guess heís getting old.
Luckily the snow clears pretty fast and I find the adults once more in roughly the same spot. The two females bed for a little while but then get up and disappear down into the same forested area where we lost the pups.
This seems to confirm that they have a carcass down there.
Itís clear that the Junctions remain a very successful pack.
With no wolves in view I scope around for a while but nothing else develops. Still, itís been a lovely full day, so I head back east.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, a golden eagle, elk, a fox, all 17 Junction wolves and the spirits of Allison and Richard