DAY TWO - Thursday, October 8

WOLVES AND BEARS

I start my wolf-watching day on Trash Can Hill. Itís normal chilly, around 30.

Susan and Reve are already here. They heard a nice group how in the dark around 6.

After the howl, a single black wolf is trotting west, visible in the gap in the tops of the cottonwoods directly south. Soon I realize there are more wolves in front of that one. Eventually I see a total of nine; 6 black and 3 gray.

There is also a fox, sneaking around behind the Middle foothill. While tracking the fox I find one more wolf, a black, still bedded in the rendezvous. So that is 10.

The group of nine have now stalled out near the western end of the Big Fan. Most of these bed down, but two have continued to the west. The view from here is partially blocked by the cottonwoods, so I decide to improve my view by driving west. I find a spot at Mid-Point while Becky & Chloe go to Hubbard.

Ahh, this is much better!

The two bold blacks are exploring the area just east of Amethyst drainage, noses down, reading the ďnewsĒ. Soon they turn around and head back to the bedded group. When they arrive I see a greeting, with lots of wagging tails. This indicates that at least one of the bedded animals is an adult, not a pup. And when I see the animal more clearly I see it is a collared black, 1229F.

Two gray pups get up and start to play with a black pup. They run back and forth a bit, in and out of a gully that comes down from the fan, having a wonderful time.

Around 8:30 they begin to howl. One of the blacks looks to me like the husky yearling. So, thatís two adults and seven pups in this group plus one bedded black pup back in the R-V.

As usual, I wonder where is the rest of the pack? Jeremy is off visiting his family so we have no telemetry to assist us.

One of the pups begins to mouse. It hops and stomps, missing about five times but finally chomping something.

Around 10AM, this group of wolves are all bedded. I hear over the radio that the grizzly sow with 2 cubs has appeared again in Soda Butte Valley. So, I go east.

As I near the Soda Butte cone I see a long line of stopped cars in both lanes beyond the cone. People are parked haphazardly and out of their cars looking south. I find a spot just east of the cone and pull over. I get out and carry my scope to a little hill to the north, which supplies a bit of elevation.

I find the bears quickly, roaming along the far bank of the creek. The view is great from here and soon several other people join me. The mama bear follows her nose, grabbing morsels here and there, meandering along.

But I am shocked to see dozens of people walking away from their cars, into the meadow TOWARDS the mama grizzly. Aiii! Bad idea!

As long as the bear stays on the far side of the creek all will be well. But almost as soon as I have this thought, she turns and splashes through a shallow channel, followed by the cubs. She is now in the creek corridor itself. I am struck by how healthy and fat all the bears look. Mom is a good provider.

The people in the meadow do not react as they should to the bearís change of direction. They want a photo and only want to be closer. More and more people are heading out that way. For a while it looks like the bears will stay in the creek or move back across the channel to the south. But then the sow crosses the next channel and step onto the near bank of the creek. To me she seems determined to get north. I am about to start yelling at the people when I see two Rangers walking quickly towards them, waving their arms and calling everyone back.

Luckily the people listen. I watch 35 people start to trudge back to the safety of the road. Meanwhile, the bears have angled further west (toward the cone) still edging to the north. They are now in the flats about half-way between the creek and the road. I see how quickly I could end up in the wrong place myself, so I shoulder my scope and head back to my car, too.

Luckily for me, the bears have moved to a place where I can watch them through the car window with binoculars. They are that close, going in and out of view as the land dips here and there, moving steadily towards the cone.

The Rangers do their best to keep one lane open for traffic that wants to proceed, but most people are content to just sit in this enormous jam and watch the bears. The three bears finally make it across to the north, to the delight of at least 200 people.

When traffic begins to move again, I see Larry & Linda at Eastern Curve so I join them. I didnít know they were in the Park! We try to find the bears now that they are on the north side. But they stay out of sight.

Eventually I drive back to Trash Can. I see two wolves bedded in the R-V now, a gray and a black. There are still a lot of cars lining the road and still a lot of people out by the cottonwoods. I also find several wolves bedded in the Big Fan.

I continue to Slough for a look around, still trying to find the rest of the Junction Pack. Instead I find bison and pronghorn and a lot of fall beauty.

On my way back east I get a 3-dog-day thanks to two coyotes mousing to the south; one fairly close to the road, the other amidst a bison herd.

At 12:30 I am back in Silver Gate.

After a rest and some dinner, Iím back on Trash Can hill.

There are about the same number of cars and people as last night. The group of wolves that had bedded in the Big Fan seem to have returned to the R-V. I recognize 1229 and the husky black yearling and seven pups. One is chewing on a bone.

Overall, there is even less activity tonight than last night. The main action comes from restless 1229. She ventures to the east, all the way to the eroded area, where she gnaws on something for a little while. I wonder if it might be a bone from the bison carcass they had in early September?

She leaves whatever it was and continues east until I lose her in the Lamar River corridor.

The night ends with a beautiful sunset.

Today I saw: 3 grizzly bears (including 2 cubs), bison, coyotes, elk, a fox, pronghorn, 10 Junction wolves including 1229, husky yearling and 8 pups 4/4) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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