This morning we have a clear sky along with a bit of frost overnight. Itís 20 degrees at 6AM.
Our viewing at Slough starts with the alpha male and 2 other blacks bedded near the goal post tree.
A herd of 30 elk graze incongruously on the western side of the sage den. A black yearling begins to stalk them from below. As the yearling moves slowly up the slope a lone cow elk comes up from below the wolf, as if intending to join the herd.
I am expecting the yearling to go after the lone cow but instead they just pass each other with barely any acknowledgement. Talk about anti-climactic!
But then I see I was mistaken. There is a grizzly above the yearling Ė thatís what heís stalking. A second wolf, 1274M joins the first and they converge on the bear.
They charge the bear, making it wheel and defend itself, but itís more annoyance or play than an attack.
But when the second wolf arrives, the group of elk bunch up, which gets the attention of the first yearling. He abandons the bear and watches the elk. The bear circles around the elk and heads west, minding his own business.
The yearling soon gives up on the elk and explores the rocks. There is a theory that wolves will not take down an elk in their den area while the pups are young, because they do not want to attract other predators. I canít say that is true, but it sure seems that elk are aware of the theory, and take advantage of it, because I have seen an awful lot of elk grazing peacefully in this den area over the years.
Meanwhile, the alpha female makes another visit to 907ís den. This time she sticks her head inside but quickly backs out.
A different black wolf sits on its haunches near the sage den. When the alpha returns here, she again adopts the submissive approach. She doesnít go inside but beds next to it.
Another bear appears down in the lion meadow. He is not challenged but leaves the area on his own, travelling below the Horizontal forest.
While I concentrate on the den area to the north, I am aware that people are again seeing wolves to the south on divide ridge. In fact, howling between the two groups has been going on all morning.
I do turn my scope and see 6 Junction wolves there, including 1048M, 1228F, 1275M and various uncollared yearlings, including the limping gray male. They seem to like bedding in the boulders just below skyline. A few of them wander further west than we saw yesterday. No one reports any 8 Mile wolves in the area today.
Taylor radios from Crystal. She has her scope on 1109F, who is bedded on a rock a bit west of the group of 6 Junctions. She must know about the carcass and is waiting her turn.
I drive to Crystal and catch a glimpse of her. I feel so bad for her. Sheís a pretty, healthy and accomplished wolf, who seems to want and deserve companions but canít seem to attract any lasting friends.
I canít help but wonder if she was trying to make friends with any of the 8 Mile wolves that were here yesterday?
Three of the six Junctions move further uphill and top out. Shortly afterwards, things go quiet on the den side, too.
So I head east for my break. On my way through Lamar Canyon I stop to join about a dozen people watching an osprey eat a fish it has just caught.
The sky has become overcast and seems to be whispering ďsnowĒ.
But so far, itís held off. We go back for more around 6PM as usual. When we arrive at Slough Bill reports that 3 wolves just went over the top heading south. He has two bears in view, though: a grizzly way up high to the north and a black bear roaming the yellow grass meadow.
Laurie talks to Ilona who tells us that a group of Junctions headed west about a half hour ago. We decide to look for them from Boulder.
John W radios from Rickís pullout that he just saw a lone black wolf wandering about the cliffs above the confluence of Lamar & Yellowstone. Bob L confirms he saw the same wolf and believes it is not a Junction.
We set up on Boulder. I find the lone black on the sheep cliffs above the Yellowstone, scrambling around the rocks. We watch this wolf a while. He is uncollared and howling every few steps. He appears lost.
He is very fluffy, more so than the Junctions are. He could be a young 8 Mile wolf who lost the scent trail.
We find elk, bison and a bald eagle, but no wolves, so we return to Slough.
We find wolves back on the skyline to the south, a gray and a collared black. John find an uncollared black lower down the slope. To the north we find the alpha female emerging from the sage den. She travels east across the crescent rock. Right at the edge of the diagonal forest she freezes, looking at something we canít see.
We scan the area and Laurie finds the cinnamon black bear. The alpha female seems satisfied that the bear poses no threat to her pups so she continues east.
The companion yearling emerges from the sage den and travels up to the natal den. This wolf enters the natal den and disappears from view.
Turning south again, I watch two Junctions at skyline leave their bedding spots and head downslope towards the carcass. I lose them in the trees but then they find them again in the gaps in the branches. I see them greet the bedded black. Then I notice a gray wolf in the area, bedded in snow, chewing on a chunk of meat.
Finally the whispered promise of snow arrives. We take that as a sign and pack up for the drive back to Silver Gate. It seems to me there are many less cars on the road this trip than last April. I make a mental note to visit during April whenever I can.
Today I saw: 2 grizzly bears, a black bear, bison, sandhill cranes, a bald eagle, elk, an osprey, 14 wolves (12 Junction: AF, AM,
1228, 1274, 1275 and others plus 1109F and a lone uncollared mystery black) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.