Brrr! Itís cold today, only 15 degrees! But there was no overnight precipitation. I sure hope the wind stays in bed this morning.
I spot a single moose in Round Prairie as I drive through.
I start at Fishernanís where itís even colder! But thankfully, the wind stays away. When I arrive there are two blacks on the carcass. One is 1274M and the other might be his companion from yesterday
1274 has a particularly furry neck which partially hides his collar. He is shedding out, though, so some of that fur will be gone soon. His tail looks blonde at the moment. He finishes first and trots dutifully over Secret Passage aiming for the den. Heís a very good wolf!
Like yesterday, the uncollared black continues feeding a while. When this wolf leaves, it takes a route parallel to the road for a while. I wonder if it wants to cross, maybe to get a drink from the river?
He stops and sits on his haunches, thinking about it, looking at the people, posing for photos, while still being far enough away. Eventually he continues uphill, choosing a slightly lower route over Secret Passage.
Someone sees an elk on skyline. I turn my scope and find it, then a second elk grazing just below that one. Jon W calls ďgray wolf!Ē. And I see it, right next to the elk! It seems like the elk is totally unaware of the wolf. Suddenly the wolf lunges at the elk, and she bolts uphill fast. There is a very brief chase but the wolf soon gives up.
This gray turns out to be 1228F. Perhaps she was only reminding the elk of her prowess? If so, mission accomplished. She turns away and travels quickly across the hillside directly to the carcass. I love seeing her this close without a nasty wind in my face!
She is really a beautiful wolf. She is one of my current favorites due to her independence and the special affection she seems to have for the pups in the pack. She spent two months away from her family during mating season this year, looking for love. I like to think she had a fling or two but she did not come back pregnant. Instead, at some point she received a leg injury and was seen bloodied on the Blacktail. She returned to her pack a week after the injury was observed. She seems to have fully recovered: I see no sign of the injury now.
1228F flushes a golden eagle off the carcass and begins to feed. I watch her for almost 45 minutes before she takes a break, moving slightly east and slightly downhill, where she beds in full view of us, soaking up the sun. She howls once, listening for an answer. Howls again. I hear no answer, but I suspect she does.
After about 10 minutes she goes back to the carcass and feeds again, this time tugging hard at the carcass, moving it further into the sage and making it harder to see than before.
Now sheís finished. She heads back west, very businesslike, taking the most direct route up and over the top. Itís now 9AM.
I radio Taylor at Slough, letting her know that 1228F is heading back. She relays that the two blacks already returned and fed the den females.
I hear another radio report that several Junction wolves left the den area on a hunt to the west. They were seen chasing elk & bison without success and are now continuing west. Laurie moved to Boulder so I decide to join her there.
On my way through the canyon, a bison herd is coming towards me, with a long line of cars stuck behind them. In the group is a darling newborn calf. So sweet!
I get to Boulder too late to see any hunting but not too late to see the wolves. They are now heading back east, despite their lack of success. I see the alpha male, 1048M and 1229F along with several others.
I move back to Slough to watch them return. Bill is here and has just found a grizzly right in the lion meadow, being given the stink-eye by a black yearling.
A second yearling (a gray) comes to back up the first, challenging the bear. They are doing their duty and I smile at them. Now the hunting pack returns from the west so there is plenty to watch!
The limping gray is in the area, and many visitors express concern about it, especially since it is a front leg injury and seems very painful. Laurie tells them not to worry. She relates how many times we have seen injured wolves but as long as they have a pack with which they can feed, the injured wolf will most likely survive and heal, although it may always have a limp.
The grizzly lays down and the yearlings lose interest.
A little after this, Jeremy pulls in and joins us. He casually mentions heís been getting 907ís signal! He thinks sheís in the natal den. We strain our eyes looking but donít see her.
1228F arrives in the lower part of the lion meadow. She walks past the bear, ignoring it, and dutifully climbs the trail, bringing food in her belly.
When she gets to the top, she goes straight to the sage den and feeds the alpha female. She is suddenly swarmed by a bunch of wolves, all wagging tails and happy.
Laurie calls to me ďlook at the Natal Den!Ē
I swing my scope and see a familiar gray collared wolf on the porch. Itís 907F! Yay!
I am delighted because this is the first time anyone has seen her in over a week! This is confirmation that she has likely given birth to pups in that cliffside den. She has probably been in there this whole time. She sits on the den porch in good view, looking down at the activity below. However, we notice that she does not join in. She knows the alpha female is near.
Most of the failed hunting party wolves move the rocks near the Diagonal Forest, looking for places to bed.
After a bit of fresh air and some sun, 907F goes back inside her den.
Itís now almost noon and the sun has warmed the day up to 31 degrees. Time to head east for a break.
A couple of sandhills fly overhead as I head back. A ground squirrel dashes across the road (safely) near Coyote pullout. I see two bull moose at Round Prairie and just east of Baronette a chipmunk zips safely across the road.
After a break I go back for more around 5:50
I meet the Baronette fox on the road this evening.
Laurie got a report that 13 Junctions headed west from the den a little while ago, so she suggests we look for them at Boulder. We do and I am the first to find them in the Buffalo Ford. My count is 9; 3 gray and 6 black.
They move straight through the Ford. Several bison get nervous, but nothing comes of it. They go out of sight for a while but then I find them again on a rocky knob above the river, in a spot where we sometimes find sheep.
They soon head downslope towards the river.
We relocate to Wrecker where Dan finds them. I get a quick glimpse but lose them quickly in the difficult terrain. The wind is crazy here, blowing hard in my face, which makes scoping fairly unpleasant. I spot a single elk by the basalt cliff. She is staring downslope in a way that makes me believe she is seeing the wolves.
We decide to try scoping from Elk Creek but have no luck there. We do find quite a few elk, but none being chased.
Next we try from Rickís pullout but still donít find them. Laurie thinks they have probably gone down to the river. A beautiful sunset has begins and I pack up for the drive east.
As I pass Geriatric, I see the river has turned purplish pink and my log is still stuck.
Near Warm Springs I see two moose crossing the road north to the south. They seem young and basically the same size so I wonder if they are twin yearlings?
Today I saw: 1 grizzly bear, bison, coyotes, sandhill cranes, elk, a fox, 4 moose and at least 12 Junction wolves (including
AF, AM, 1048M, 907F, 1228F, 1229F, 1274M and several others) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.