I find a half-inch of overnight snow on the car, and itís still coming down. The temp at 6AM is a normal 24 degrees.
The wind is from the east which is a little unusual. It creates a few drifts over the road in Round Prairie. But once I get past Trout Lake the snow lessens, leaving just a light dusting.
I set up at Slough in our current favorite spot right off the road. Right away I see the alpha female emerge from the sage den, accompanied by her black yearling companion. They both wander around a bit, then the alpha female goes up the hill to the natal den and sticks her head in. She doesnít stay long but itís enough for us to confirm that someone is in there.
She goes pretty quickly back to the sage den and Laurie comments how odd it is to see the alpha female goes into a crouch, with submissive, lowered tail as she nears the yearling just outside the sage den.
She quickly disappears inside, leaving us puzzled. We have seen so much back and forth between the females of this pack, we wonder if itís a sign of a change in status? Rick suggests that perhaps the AF just feels (at the moment) dependent upon the goodwill of other wolves, and this yearling in in particular?
Frank radios from a different vantage point that he saw the alpha male check on both dens earlier in the morning. Laurie comments that sheís happy to see it but itís a little unusual for an alpha male to be so ďinvolvedĒ. I suggest that since this is his first litter as an alpha, we should commend him.
Someone spots the limping gray male, in the flats, following the creek upriver. It's a front-leg injury, and looks quite painful. So we figure the gray must have a very good reason to travel that direction - meaning he knows there is food.
Jeremy joins us and says there could be other Junctions in Lamar.
I find that intriguing, so after watching a bit longer at the den, I drive east. But itís slow going as I get caught in a bison jam in Lamar Canyon.
When I get to Fishermanís I find people with scopes pointed to the north. I find two blacks (one collared) feeding on a fresh carcass below the shale forest.
Itís very windy here so I have to add a couple of jackets and a hat in order to remain at my scope. The collared wolf is 1274M. When he finishes he immediately heads back to Slough, taking an efficient route over Secret Passage. The other black remains a while. Then someone spots a gray just below skyline to the west. Itís 1228F!
She comes down and feeds a while, displacing the black who takes a bit of a break. She stays for a good half hour. I am happy to get such a good close look at her, enough to determine she is not lactating (nor pregnant).
When she finishes and heads back to Slough, I see visible blood around her neck! Once sheís left, the uncollared black gets up and returns to the carcass for more.
I decide to head back to my spot at Slough. Just as I arrive, the alpha female emerges again from the sage den and heads up the hill towards the natal den. She stops at the porch, sniffs around, then returns to her den.
Two yearlings are in the area, amusing themselves by chasing ground squirrels.
Someone mentions a brand new baby bison in a herd near Aspen, so I take a break to try to find it. Instead I see a pronghorn, the first one Iíve seen in Little America this spring.
There is discussion of which female might be in the natal den and speculation that perhaps 1276 might have denned somewhere other than Slough, since the alpha female is hard to get along with. We also find it a little odd that we are not seeing more pack members coming here to feed the females. Perhaps they are feeding the other females somewhere else?
Around noon, we decide to head in for a break. As I pass geriatric, I notice a log in the still-shallow Lamar river. It seems to be stuck on a gravel bed, right at the edge of the current. It occurs to me that as the water table rises, which it is sure to do, perhaps this log will be lifted enough to move downriver. I decide to monitor its progress on this visit.
We head back out around 6. On my way through Ice Box Canyon I see a large white and black bird. I think it could be a killdeer. Iíll check the bird website later.
I stop at Fishermans to check on the elk carcass. Instead of wolves or coyotes, I see a golden eagle taking its turn.
I set up at Slough and find the wind has moved from Fishermanís to Slough, chapping my cheeks.
We have a total of 6 wolves in view tonight. At first I only see two black yearlings roaming about and 1048M bedded near 890ís tree. But later, an uncollared gray appears on the Lion Meadow trail, coming up. The alpha female bursts out of her den and rushes to greet the gray. She solicits a feeding and gets it, as does her companion yearling.
The other two yearlings rush downhill from the eastern trees to get a meal. I donít see 1048 get any.
Later, one of the yearlings gets into a stand-off with a bison up by the eastern trees. The other yearling moves over the Crescent Rock and angles towards the Diagonal Forest. I lose it in those trees.
Itís chilly and my face hurts, so I suggest we check the Fishermanís carcass again. Luckily the wind here has lessened quite a bit, but I find only coyotes. They are engaged in a mini-drama. Two of them rush a third, chasing it away. But itís just a temporary spat because the third coyote comes back after a while and the three of them feed together.
Around 8:15 we call it a night and drive through Lamar during golden hour.
At Trout Lake, a big moose appears on the north side, ambling down to the road. He stops and lowers his head to drink from the little stream.
On we go, only to find another moose at the eastern end of Round Prairie. This moose crosses the road to the south.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, a golden eagle, elk, a killdeer, pronghorn, 2 moose, 8 Junction wolves including AF, 1048M, 1228F, 1274M
plus 4 uncollared blacks) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.