Iím up a tad earlier today, leaving at 5:50. Itís 17 degrees with a bit of frost on the car. The sky is clear overhead.
We set up in our usual roadside spot at Slough, where we can get a clear view of the natal den. We want to see 907 again!
Given where we lost them last evening, I had expected the Junctions to be somewhere west but when I ask Jeremy, he says the collars are ďhereĒ. And sure enough, we quickly find 7 wolves bedded on the gully ridge, just above the Spring Meadow.
A black wolf comes in from the west. The bedded wolves jump up and run to it, begging for food.
Next, 1228F arrives, trotting past the western trees. She, too, is swarmed but she is careful to serve the alpha female first. The alpha then goes on a walkabout of her domain, first going behind the eastern trees, then up the cliff to the top, where she finds a patch of un-melted snow and starts eating it. This is often how wolves drink in the winter. Next, she wanders a bit to the west and I notice a few elk above her on the rocky knob.
The alpha female then goes back downslope to the sage den.
A little while later, 1228F moves uphill towards the bow log at the back center of the den cliff. Two other wolves follow her, soliciting more food.
Suddenly someone calls out ď907 at the natal den!Ē I look there and see her body language is extremely cautious, hesitant. She shakes off a spray of dirt/dust/sand and stands on the porch, looking down, assessing the situation.
She cautiously starts down the slope and emerges at the bottom of the willows. We see a happy, waggy tail greeting between her and 1228 plus the other two wolves. I think 907F gets a feeding but itís hard to tell.
Suddenly the alpha female is rushing upslope toward the group. She plows into them, knocking 907 onto her back. The other wolves scatter as the alpha pins and punishes 907.
907 finally gets up and hurries back up to the safety of her den, followed by the alpha female. 907 does not appear to be injured, just cowed. She disappears inside the natal den and the alpha female finally relents, coming back down the slope to her own den. Itís upsetting to watch.
Laurie says the alpha female wants the food and attention to be on her and her pups, not on 907, regardless of whether or not she has pups in there.
A black yearling arrives from below the Crescent Rock, delivering another feeding. It seems wolves are arriving from all directions, bringing food.
The alpha female goes back inside the sage den. The other wolves begin to settle down and I tally up my count. 12 wolves total; 3 grays including 907F. The blacks include the alpha female, 1048M and 1229F.
1048 and 1229F plus an uncollared yearling start to travel southwest, via the small diagonal forest, then into the rocks above the flats.
We hear howling to the south, so we swing our scopes 180 degrees. Aha! More Junctions are visible on Southern Divide Ridge.
It takes a while for us to piece together what we see, but it becomes clear that they have a carcass somewhere on this side of the road. Judging from bird activity and where the wolves seem to disappear, the carcass is out of sight (naturally) and down fairly low. I see 6 wolves, including the Alpha male and 1274M.
We hear some faint howling to the southwest but canít find the wolf making the sound. But Laurie finds a collared black wolf with its tail tucked. Another black wolf appears on the slope above the tail-tucked one. Laurie wonders if we might be seeing 1109F?
Suddenly the higher wolf chases the lower one. They donít run full out and it doesnít last long. Instead, the two wolves stop and face each other for a bit about 10 feet apart.
Then the chaser relents and heads back uphill while the chased one follows at a distance. Hmm, this would make sense if we are seeing 1109 and, perhaps, a Junction who knows her. But when Jeremy returns he tells us the chased wolf is not 1109 but 1230M, an 8 Mile wolf, who he says has been known to travel apart from that pack at times.
I find this fascinating. A young male wolf is risking his life at a carcass in the middle of Junction territory. I suppose heís hungry! It could be that the wolf who chased 1230M is a young Junction, without the inclination to do him any damage.
Then Bill H finds a grizzly above the Horizonal forest, so I swing my scope 180 degrees again, only to swing it back when someone else finds a cinnamon black bear near the Junctionsí carcass.
When the cinnamon bear goes out of sight, I notice two black wolves about half-way up the slope starting to move down to the carcass. They disppear in the thick trees down there.
Higher on the slope, the alpha male moves up, almost to skyline, where he beds, posed on a rock. He howls.
Itís been a very full morning and I notice itís nearly noon. Time for a nap!
The sky is cloudless and the day has warmed to 40. On my drive back today I hear the glorious musical trill of a meadowlark, my first this season. And I see my first bluebird at Pebble. Male bluebirds have been in the Park since mid-late March but I have missed seeing any of them.
In Round Prairie I see three bull moose, including the very large one.
While we are in Silver Gate, Frank calls Laurie to say that the Junctions have been seen chasing a small group of 8 Mile wolves, south of Slough. So now we know that 1230M was not there on his own, after all. In fact, the carcass might even belong to the 8 Miles and perhaps it was commandeered by the Junctions?
We head out around 5:45, negotiating several small bison jams on our way to Slough.
Once we set up, we find a single black wolf at the den. Laurie checks in with Bill H while Dan and I look south, in the direction of the carcass. I find a beautiful, colorful bird perched at the top of a conifer. I think it might be a kestrel! We also see three bald eagles (one we suspect is a juvenile). They sit so close to each other on a single horizontal branch that we feel they must be related.
We find several Junction wolves just below skyline bedded among the rocks, including the alpha male, 1048M and another black plus three grays including 1228F.
After a little while the group gets up and heads down towards the carcass. They disappear into the thickly-treed area but 1228F appears in a gap. She is chewing on something. In another gap I get glimpse the alpha male and notice the strange divots (missing hair) on his back. Laurie has mentioned these, itís my first time noticing them.
We stay until about 8PM, then head back. Once more I find myself traveling through Lamar during golden hour. Itís just beautiful.
As an added bonus, I see the moon thru my moon roof!
This time at Round Prairie, I count 4 moose and just before the Thunderer pullout, three more moose cross the road, one large and two smaller, perhaps the mom with two ďteenagedĒ yearlings? Looks like they are going to a moose kegger in Round Prairie.
Today I saw: 1 black bear, 1 grizzly bear, bison, 1 coyote, sandhill cranes, 3 bald eagles, elk, a kestrel, 7 moose, 20 wolves
(19 Junction including AF, AM, 907F, 1048M, 1228F, 1229F, 1274M, and others) and 1230M of Eight Mile) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.