DAY TWO - Sunday, April 18

LIFE AT THE JUNCTION DEN

Iím out at 6AM. There is a bit of frost on the car and 22 degrees. Itís quite light already so I think Iíll leave earlier tomorrow.

There is a moose in Round Prairie.

I set up at Slough and see two uncollared grays bedded between the eastern and western trees. A small herd of elk walks through the area but the wolves stay bedded.

Over the last several days, people have seen adult wolves sticking their heads in or going all the way in both dens, so it looks like there are at least two litters.

The current thinking is that the alpha female gave birth to pups in the sage den a few days ago, and that someone gave birth to pups in the natal den. It could be 907 or perhaps 1276 (or both).

The alpha female appears, emerging from the sage den. A second wolf (uncollared black yearling) emerges, too. The alpha goes back in fairly soon. She seems nervous to me. The black yearling goes back inside too, and things get quiet.

Laurie says the females need to stay inside the den in the early days because the pups need her milk and her body for warmth. Itís still pretty cold and they are vulnerable. She says itís fairly common for a yearling or two to be inside the den with the birth mother, partly out of curiosity, and partly to help, especially if they were born in that same den.

Bill H calls in a grizzly from Straightaway. With no wolves in view at the moment, I hop back in Arrow and drive west. I find them both, plus Barb M and Becky B. We enjoy the bear together. Heís asleep under a big Douglas fir right at the edge of the forest.

He wakes up and stands, still looking very sleepy. He moves slowly, this way and that, then disappears into thicker trees.

Laurie & Dan radio that there is activity Hellroaring.

I say thanks to Bill and head further west. I arrive in time to see 5 wolves Ė all Junctions. They got an elk here yesterday, but itís already gone! They are already high on the east side of the open slope (Little Buffalo) heading back to Slough with full tummies.

I see two grays and three blacks. Two are definitely pups, judging by the way they playfully chase each other.

I drive back to Slough, figuring I might see these wolves come into the den area and feed the females. Once I get set up again, the alpha female emerges from the sage den along with her yearling companion. Iím told 1048M is here, too, bedded up near 890ís tree.

Another black emerges from behind the eastern trees. He pins 1048, telling us he is the alpha male. The alpha male has shown himself to be a ďmodernĒ dad, by spending quite a bit of time in the den area, tending to the females, curious about the pups. Everyone finds this a bit unusual and also endearing.

Barb then makes an odd but important discovery. She sees a human, a man, with yellow gloves, crouched on the edge of the Diagonal Forest! What on earth is he doing there?

A Ranger is called. Shortly afterwards, the man disappears, then is seen again walking down the slope towards Slough Creek.

We continue watching, worried now that this disturbance might make the wolves move the pups.

The 5 wolves we saw leaving Hellroaring show up, coming into the den area in front of the western trees. There is a rush of wolves from many directions, running to greet the incoming group, eager for a feeding.

I see wild, happy waggy-tail greetings and many lowered heads (the telltale gesture of a feeding). The alpha female rushes out of the sage den, gobbles food and dashes back inside.

1229F is one of the wolves that just arrived. She busies herself pinning two younger wolves.

Bill finds another grizzly out by the mixed conifer aspen forest, ambling around. There are several elk up on the rocky knob where I usually see bighorn.

The day has warmed nicely, itís now 55.

The Ranger is here and Barb fills out an incident form. And now here comes Yellow Glove man. He looks to be about 50, in great shape. My impression is that this is not his first time in Yellowstone (!). His shorts and legs are wet from having forded the river Ė not something Iíd recommend in April!

The Ranger talks with him. I later learn that the man claims he was just going on a hike, that he didnít know there was a wolf den in the area.

None of us, including, apparently, the Ranger, buys his story. He gets cited and he is now in the system. No punishment for this infraction, but it will be a different story if he gets caught again.

The sun is out in full and makes the day feel much warmer. But the weather is about to deteriorate Ė we know rain is coming. So, I call it a day and head back to Silver Gate.

The rain arrives, pounding down, with big wind, too, convincing us to stay in tonight.

Today I saw: 2 grizzly bears, bison, elk, 1 moose, 12 Junction wolves (including AM, AF, 1048M, 1229F and several others) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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