I am surprised by how light it is at 4:45, so I resolve to leave earlier tomorrow. And at a warm 53 degrees, I feel overdressed!
I see my morning mule deer near the owl meadow.
I have a bison herd all over the road between Trash Can & Picnic., but I get through it, only to find another large herd crossing the road at the Ranch. This is par for the course now, just summer in Lamar.
I join early birds Susan, Reve and Scott at Slough up on our usual hill. There are several adults and several pups in view in the den area, including a gray adult zonked out flat below the sage den which turns out to be 907F.
A largish collared gray (not 907F) walks east below the Crescent Rock, past a bedded black and a pup. This wolf does a lean forward and enters the trees of the Diagonal Forest. We speculate that this could be 1272M who sometimes travels with 1154’s group.
In the flats, I notice the same elk herd I saw last night with 5 calves. They are grazing on the thick grass.
The pups are not very active this morning, but they do wander here and there, while an occasional bedded adult will raise a head, only to put it back down.
Bill finds a grizzly sow with two coys above the Horizontal Forest. They are a nice distraction for a while. Then Doug M. alerts us to a collared gray in the flats. When I find it, it strikes me as the same largish male I saw near the Diagonal forest a while ago.
This collared gray begins to stalk the elk herd. They bunch up, on alert, and start to run. He chases them, but the elk turn the tables on him and chase him back the other way.
Two uncollared blacks come racing down from the den area through the Lion Meadow. They want to chase elk, too! They quickly go out of view but in a few more minutes we see two more wolves for a total of three blacks and two grays.
The elk exit the area, using the trail west of the Southern Round tree. The five wolves follow.
A little while after this, Taylor (scoping from Bob’s Knob) alerts us to more wolves arriving in the flats from behind the Marge Simpson tree. I swing my scope and see 8 wolves total: four and four. One of the grays is quite large but uncollared.
As first I assume this is the group I saw before, chasing elk. We don’t realize is that this is 1154’s group! The collared blacks are 1154F, 1273M and 1274M. The big gray is the alpha, Gray Male.
We also learn that the big collared gray male who first started stalking the elk was 1278M. He is part of 1154’s group, but as a former Junction, he is welcome in both packs.
These 8 wolves roam the flats, sniffing in all the places the elk (and the other wolves) had been. Eventually they move southwest, following the same route that the elk and their pursuers took.
My last glimpse of them before they head out of view is of them running downhill into a forest, tails up in excitement. At the time I figured the tails up was because they saw elk to chase, but now I believe they saw the smaller group of Junctions ahead of them.
Soon, we hear from Scott at Aspen that wolves are chasing elk. They catch a calf and the chase stops.
Meanwhile, 907F, who has been bedded flat out on the gully ridge all this time, gets up and walks slowly up to the eastern trees. She is followed by whole line of pups. I count seven, with four grays.
For a while there is a lull but then an uncollared black appears at the bottom of the lion meadow, carrying most of a fresh carcass. This is the alpha female. She toils all the way up the hill with her heavy prize, followed at a distance by an uncollared gray.
When she reaches the gully, a bunch of pups come running down from the eastern trees. They all disappear into the gully. The gray rushes forward at the last minute and snags a big chunk for itself, which does NOT go over well with the alpha female!
At the same time, an uncollared black suddenly appears on the campground road to the left of us, having snuck down from Secret Passage. This wolf carries a prize, too, a bison-calf head.
A second uncollared black trails this wolf. I follow them both as they make their way up the Lion Meadow. These two wolves are halfway across the hill when pups begin to gallop towards them. The adults disappear behind a place we call the “yellow flower hill” and the feeding occurs out of sight.
When I am able to talk with Jeremy, I learn that the 1154 group had a rally and then headed back west. Missy and Andy and I try to find them from Boulder but have no luck.
The day has become quite hot, 80 degrees, so I head back to Silver Gate for a break a shower and a nap.
I go back around 6:30, and see a mule deer cross the road at Trout Lake.
I set up at Bob’s Knob tonight, so I can see the flats as well as the den area. The lot is empty, so I position my car as a sun-shade. The clear sky makes viewing is difficult plus we have some smoke haze in the sky from distant fires today.
It’s also still hot at 86, but a light breeze helps. I do locate two black adults, one gray pup and one black pup.
The black pup takes a short adventure to the spring meadow on his own. Besides that, I don’t see much activity tonight. A little after 8PM, the breeze drops away and the bugs arrive. So, I pack up and go back east.
When I reach Dorothy’s I see the road ahead is lined with cars on both sides, all the way to the Ranch. I am not used to seeing so many people I Lamar! I find a spot to pull over and get out with just my binoculars to see what’s going on.
I find a single uncollared black wolf in the flats about half-way between the road and the river. I watch this wolf move about in a confident and carefree manner, just tooling around this way and that, looking for snacks.
He/she finds quite a few! The wolf is dark, solid black and might have been the “handsome black” 2-year-old male I’ve seen in the den area in May.
All these people, perhaps 300, seem to be watching this one wolf.
I never saw this many people in the Druid or Lamar Canyon eras. It’s good and bad both, but I guess, overall, it’s better for wolves to have advocates than not.
Around 8:30 the evening finally begins to cool, the light is gorgeous and the sun is behind me. I decide to stay a while longer, enjoying this young wolf, knowing he/she’s made the day of so many visitors.
Around 9PM I call it a night and head east. On my way I experience the new Yellowstone visitor phenomenon I call the “slow goes”. Between Trash Can and Footbridge, I am the fourteenth car in a nineteen-car line, all trapped behind a lead car driving at 12 MPH. There are no animals blocking the lead car’s path, but no one can pass because there are just enough oncoming cars to make it dangerous.
I prefer that visitors drive slow, but they need to use the pullouts so that others can continue.
I see my usual muley near the entrance gate.
Today I saw: 3 grizzly bears (2 cubs), bison, mule deer, elk with calves, pronghorn, 24 wolves from two packs (8 from
1154’s group including the alphas, plus 1273M, 1274M, 1278M and 3 others and 16 Junctions, including the alpha female,
907F, 4 uncollared blacks & 2 uncollared grays plus 7 pups (4/3) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.