DAY ONE - Sunday, June 13

BACK IN THE SADDLE

Well, finally, Bozeman is having spring weather. The flowers are blooming, the grass is green. But itís been a very dry two weeks, so thatís not good.

Itís 75 degrees as I leave at 11:30. There are only the tiniest specks of snow left on Pointy head and Pyramid.

The temperature rises above 80 and I turn on the A/C. Just inside the arch I meet Melba who brings me my new extender and scope case. Woo hoo!

The road to the gate is now 99% paved and the arrangement seems to be an improvement all around.

Phantom Lake retains only a teeny bit of water at the western end.

There is a black bear jam at Yellowstone River Bridge. Lots of cars and two rangers (but not John K). Looks like they recalled several fishermen who had been in the river below. I see a sow with two cubs, grazing the slopes on the southeast side of the bridge.

Wow, the crowd is huge! I guess I better brace myself for summer in Yellowstone.

Little America looks pretty dry. I donít stop at Slough, because with temps this high, the wolves are sure to be sleeping in shade. Iíll get settled and drive out for the evening instead.

Lamar still looks green. Holy moly, bison everywhere!

There are only little dribbly streaks of snow on Abiathar. I see a mule deer south of road at Owl Meadow.

I reach Silver Gate and start to unload. I call Laurie to let her know all is well.

A little after 6PM I head back in for the evening viewing. My mule deer is still near the owl meadow but has moved further west

I find Missy and Andy at Slough already and happily join them on the hill. Barb comes up too Ė she has been in Hayden today and brings big news: the Wapitis have 10 pups!

The sun is pretty glaring tonight, as there are no clouds to help us, but we do get a nice breeze.

I see seven adults: 5 black and 2 gray. One of the blacks travels down the lion meadow trail into the flats and quickly crossed the campground road, to the delight of a hundred visitors.

The darling pups are three weeks older than when I saw them last. And they are so much bigger and more active. They really look like wolves, now, with longer legs and more agile. They romp and play and explore in the spring meadow and on the sage hill, chasing and ambushing each other.

1276F is here. The mystery of where she had pups has never really been solved, but since she was lactating, she must have given birth to a few. However, it is most likely that she and the alpha female lost their pups for some unknown reason and that 907 is the only mother in this pack with surviving pups.

In any case, these 8 pups are being nursed by three females and attended to by the entire pack. 1276F still seems uneasy, however, when the pups play in the spring meadow. She repeatedly tries to herd them or usher them back up to the den.

In the flats I see a small herd of elk, about 25 total, with 5 calves of the year. Thatís a pretty good ratio.

Bill calls in the grizzly sow with two coy up on the ridge to the south, but we are too far east to see her. So we content ourselves with the wolves in view plus plenty of other critters: geese, ground squirrels, pronghorn and sandhills.

Around 8:30 we pack up and head back east, only to find more Junction wolves in Lamar. From mid-point we watch a group of 8 (7 blacks, 1 gray) travel up the saddle between Amethyst and Jasper.

I see a bit of pinning between three blacks but canít identify who they are. Very likely the alpha female is acting out, again. The wolves continue uphill, right into the setting sun.

There are so many people at Picnic/Trashcan, watching these wolves. I suspect they have been in view for quite a while before I got here.

The sunset is really lovely as I head back east.

Today I saw: 3 black bears (2 cubs), bison, sandhill cranes, mule deer, elk with calves, geese, pronghorn, ground squirrels, 19 wolves (probably all Junctions) including 1276F, and 14 other adults plus 4 pups (2/2) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.


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