DAY THREE - Saturday, September 19


It’s a bit warmer today.

At first light from Exclosure I see 5 blacks and a gray wandering around in the short grass in front of the Middle Foothill. 1047 is bedded in his spot over in the eroded area.

The light grows a bit and I can see there is less haze today. There was some fierce wind last night and that seems to have helped.

Suddenly I see 6 puppies turn and run, really fast, to the west. They disappear into tall sage in front of the western foothill. I can see a larger wolf is now with them, an adult, who just came in from the west. Ahh, he’s bringing food.

The adult already lowered his head and now tries to move east, but the pups who missed the meal are following, licking his muzzle, trying to get a feeding. The first ones at the table are still in the tall sage gobbling.

Then another wolf approaches from the west so these pups turn and rush to him. The arriving wolf has a limp – ahh! It’s the new alpha male. While I was watching the earlier feeding, Laurie saw two black wolves to the west. One of them was collared and was running away from this limping male wolf.

She realizes the wolf running away is 1109, who remains “on the outs” with her pack. I see her now and say she seems to have just eaten. Laurie agrees.

However, 1109 does not go to the rendezvous to feed the pups but skirts it completely, avoiding contact with the entire pack, and continues east. She crosses the middle flats and continues east, towards Cache. Poor 1109.

Meanwhile, the alpha male delivers the goods to the welcoming committee. Oh those puppies are happy now!

It’s a very active morning for us today. We see a total of 6 feedings by 5 black adults and 1 gray adult.

Each time, the pups make a sudden mad dash towards the incoming wolf, swarming and surrounding it in the deep sage at the edge of the Western foothill. Each time some of those pups remain at the table while the late comers trail behind the adult who tries to get away.

One time the delivery comes from the east, which only a few pups are alert enough to notice! After this “eastern” feeding, a few pups remain in the area, and I witness one of them go over to the bedded 1047 and lick his face. So sweet.

The pack is really spread out this morning, from the eroded area all the way to the eastern edge of the big fan. There is a semi-eroded area to the west of the western foothill, that many wolves choose as a bedding spot. It looks gravelly and bare to me, so I’m not sure why that is an attraction.

One of the wolves we notice today is the “injured female yearling”. Somehow in the last couple of weeks, she managed to get what is thought to be a thermal burn on her belly. But with such a large pack hunting every day she has been well fed and seems to be recovering. What I notice is a lack of fur in her loin area. She has a slim look there, like a greyhound.

I also see two of my favorite uncollared wolves: the gray male and the husky black yearling.

With 1109, the total pack number should be 35; Laurie’s high count is 33, including all 18 pups, so she is only missing two. We speculate that those two may be back wherever the carcass is.

1229F heads back west, trotting with purpose, presumably to get more food. She has become well known for her diligence. She seems to never rest, to be always on the go. She is as dedicated a pack member as you could possibly want.

Now the pups begin to play. It is so delightful to see the whole pack in their family room, so to speak, and to be able to watch the young ones cavort and chase and ambush each other.

I say to Laurie that this is definitely one of the best overall wolf watching days I’ve had, ever.

As the pups play, the adults begin to seek bedding spots. Some walk up into the trees but the majority remain in easy view. It’s 10 AM before we leave the hill.

I see storm clouds darkening the skies to the west, which is a predicted weather change. Today Laurie & Dan have some business in Gardiner and I am happy to go along.

But first we stop at Dorothy’s to chat a bit with Bill. I see a coyote mousing in the flats and find a total of 13 sandhills squawking and flapping south of the ranch.

We have a fairly uneventful drive through the Blacktail, enjoying the fall color. As we approach Mammoth a light rain begins to fall.

It’s nice to have a chance to visit this way, being able to point out places along the way that have special meaning or hold treasured memories.

After the business is done, we head back. The rain has come and gone and we have sunny skies again. It really looks much clearer, which is a relief.

I stop at Trash Can and see the Junctions still sacked out, sleeping off their meal. It’s so nice to have a wolf pack using the Druid Rendezvous again!

At Baronette I decide to try to see goats. I find five of them: two resting billies, 2 walking nannies and one kid.

I had originally planned to return to Bozeman tomorrow but the viewing is so good I decide to stay through Monday morning. Laurie & Dan have other guests arriving this evening, so I stay in tonight, partly to help Laurie and partly because there is no way to top what we saw this morning!

Laurie and I watch the bear vs elk video again. OMG, the power of that bear is intense. We can see the elk is clearly winded and already in trouble before he even gets to the river. He almost looks resigned to his fate when the bear arrives.

Bill told me this morning that he heard the elk had just lost a fight with another bull elk and was already wounded, and he thinks that is why the bear went after him in the first place. But boy, what a thing to see.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, sandhill cranes, elk, 5 mountain goats, 30 Junction wolves (including the alphas, 907, 1047,1048. 996, 1228, 1229, gray male, injured yearling, husky male, 1109 and 18 pups) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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