I head out in the dark at 5:50. It’s a pleasant 40 degrees.
Laurie and Dan feel that Exclosure Hill gives the best view, but they prefer Trash Can at night simply because it’s easier. So, I park at Exclosure and hike up in the still-dark.
Right off the bat I find pups playing. Nice! Then I pan a bit west and find many more wolves bedded. Laurie & Dan join me and we settle in to see what the morning brings.
We find 1047 bedded by himself in the eroded area. I am especially glad to see him because he was only recently deposed from his alpha position. The new alpha in charge is not 1048 or 996 but the wolf we have been calling “the uncollared black male”. Evidently there was a fight several days ago, right here in the rendezvous, involving the uncollared male, 1047 and 1048. Each combatant seems to have been slightly injured as a result, and the new alpha seems hurt the most. He now has a prominent limp. But we are relieved that 1047 has not been “kicked out” of his own pack (which happens sometimes when leadership changes). His injuries seem to have improved over the last two days. We hope he hangs in there!
A gray (907F) gets up and sets off to the west, followed by a whole bunch of wolves. Wow, there are so many! Laurie says 1047 is one of them but she thinks the others are all pups. They fall into a messy line so we start to count. We get 18 pups plus the two adults.
Mama 907 leads this group steadily to the west. I wonder where she’s taking them?
1047 moves pretty slowly and keeps looking back for stragglers. Yesterday he was seen traveling by himself in Little American while the rest of the pack was here in Lamar. People were rightly worried that he had not just been deposed but cast out completely. But, clearly we worried in vain.
1047 stops and howls. 907’s puppy group stalls out at the far end of the Big Fan. Some of the bolder pups have gotten ahead of mom, and are now wandering as far as Amethyst bench.
907 stops and 1047 howls again. A few minutes later, 907 turns and heads back east. Most of the puppies follow her but a few continue to explore the Amethyst bench area.
907 settles down near 1047. Together they watch as several pups romp past them, working off their excess energy.
And boy do they! The pups play and cavort all the way back. I am struck by how beautiful some of the gray pups are. They seem to be having a wonderful time, playing, chasing, ambushing.
Several of the black pups gang upon a gray pup. This gray’s tail is tucked tight while the tails on all the blacks are high. The gray never gives in but has to wheel and snap a good deal. I know this is play but it goes on a long time and I start to feel bad for the gray. But finally they stop and the gray is fine.
Again we find 4 sandhills out in the eroded area and there are a few pronghorn here and there.
It’s pretty smoky today. The weather report is calling for rain tomorrow, so we hope it will clear things up.
Around 10AM things have quieted down. Laurie suggests we head west to look for the rest of the pack. She says Jeremy has reason to believe they could be in the Buffalo Ford.
I am game, so off we go. Again I am amazed by the crowds. It seems like August-level numbers.
When we come out of Lamar Canyon, I see an osprey flying overhead. Could be one of the youngsters that fledged a while back.
As I arrive at Boulder, Jeremy is walking up the hill with his binocs. He nods to me and I climb up with my scope. I am expecting to have to scope a while to find wolves but when I get to the top, the wolves are already in view.
They are on our side of the river and quite CLOSE!
First I see a black, then a gray, then a limping black (the new alpha male) and then more and more and more.
Jeremy says “look across the pond” and I see five more ahead of the first group. Wow! There are 12 here, in total.
They move around the far side of the pond, very visible. Then they start to head south. It looks like they might want to cross the road. This is unusual because it’s mid-day and there are now many cars stopped to watch them. The wolves stare at the road a while but then turn and head up Peregrine instead.
We hear coyotes yipping and barking and eventually find 2 of them, each perched on a boulder, cursing at the wolves.
Laurie and Jeremy ID 996M, 1048F, 1228F, the alphas, and various black yearlings, including the husky black. They wander around on South Peregrine a while, then move out of sight.
I am a little astonished at how many wolves I’ve seen today with such little effort!
We move on to Slough to see if they might show up in the flats, but do not find them.
Its now 12:30, so time to head back east.
A few days ago, Laurie & Dan got an offer on their house. However, over the months, their feelings about selling began to change. This offer came out of the blue and now they are not so sure they want to sell after all.
Anyone who has sold a house knows there are many steps between offer and closing, and sometimes things fall through. The main topic, though, is how will they continue to watch wolves in the Park without Silver Gate as a home base? And now with Covid, some solutions are no longer available. It's pretty stressful for them both.
But we decide to enjoy what we have and leave again around 6PM for the evening session.
Tonight, the view is hazier than ever. We scope from Trash Can Hill where it is again not crowded, even though the road is chock full of cars. I think of the view of the Druid R-V as “close” but the haze really makes it difficult.
However, I manage to see 9 wolves total, all pups. Laurie sees 11 – she sees two more grays that I do. Grays just disappear into the haze for me!
Dusty finds a grizzly up on Amethyst bench so we let Bill know. A gray pup and a black pup play sweetly together, bouncing around and cavorting.
I am hoping that the adults we saw in Little America earlier today will arrive this evening with food, but that doesn’t happen.
We hear some visitors talking about what happened in Hayden this morning. A grizzly killed a bull elk in the Yellowstone River, right across from the road, with many people witnessing the whole gruesome event.
When we get back to Silver Gate, I go online and google “Grizzly bear kills Elk in Yellowstone” and sure enough there is a full video on You Tube. It’s hard to watch but fascinating nonetheless. Nature in the raw.
Today I saw: a grizzly bear, bison, coyotes, elk, pronghorn, 32 Junction wolves including the alphas, 907, 1047, 1048, 996, 1228, several
yearlings and 18 pups and the spirits of Allison and Richard.