DAY FOUR - Wednesday, June 16

A FASHIONABLE BISON

I leave at 4:30 this morning and see my usual Mule Deer near the Owl meadow.

I get to Slough at 5:15. Looks like we are in for another clear, cool morning with great company and wolves in view.

My wolf-day starts with two black adults, a gray adult and three gray puppies. One of the blacks is the handsome 2 yr old male. But today he seems a bit grumpy. We see him snap at the pups and soon he moves away to the far side of the gully.

Several other adults get up from their beds and move behind the flower hill.

Rick spots a new gray coming up the Lion Meadow trail. The gray greets the grumpy, handsome black and he follows the newcomer across the hill to the eastern trees.

They disappear behind the hill, so we donít know if a feeding occurs. A short time later all the adults and 6 pups emerge from that area, pursuing the new gray. The gray turns around and disappears again, along with the rest of them, behind the flower hill.

Next we see a collared gray emerge from the Eastern Trees. Itís 1228F! She wanders down, trailing three gray puppies. They all bed near the sage den and they climb on her for a bit.

Then 1228 gets up and moves upslope to the western trees. She drops into a stalk until she stops at the edge of the trees, looking intently beyond them.

Try as we might, we canít figure out what she sees. Another wolf? A bear? Elk?

Nope.

The object of her attention finally reveals himself. Itís a lone bull bison, strutting forward between the tree trunks, proudly wearing a long, leafy branch stuck on his horn as a sort of hood ornament. The branch drapes at a diagonal over his face, obstructing one eye.

We humans have a good chuckle at his expense. Although the rut is still a month or so away, we suppose this bull is intent on ďimpressing the ladiesĒ. I struggle to put myself in the mind of a bison, but itís clear this bull believes he is rocking his fashion choice. He moves regally downslope, perhaps angling for compliments from his fellow bison.

After this, two gray pups go on a walkabout of their own in the Spring Meadow, climbing and falling off logs, getting lost in the deep green grass. One has a black tip on its tail and the other has an abundance of energy.

Missy and I playfully name them Zippy and Tippy. They continue their wander below the Crescent Rock.

Distraction arrives in the form of close badger activity Ė two of them in fact - scurrying about just below our hill. Each badger catches a squirrel while we watch. Then one of them starts to dig just below the campground road, drawing a crowd.

While this is going on, the grizzly sow with two yearlings appears on the slope high above the Horizontal Forest.

When the temperature starts to rise, I head downhill to shed some layers. I talk with Jeremy a bit and learn that a Junction hunting party headed out towards Cache earlier this morning.

So I decide to go back east. As I reach the main road, Bill radios another grizzly sighting to the south, so I join him at Lamar Bridge. Itís the sow with two coy, digging and grazing up on Specimen. I watch a while and see mom sit down to nurse her cubs. So sweet.

After their breakfast (or is this lunch?) the cubs start to box each other, balancing on their hind legs. So cute!

I head into Lamar but donít see any crowds or other indications of wolves in view. I stop at Confluence to check the area but find only people on the trail and, of course, bison.

I have my break in Silver Gate, then head back in around 3:30. I am having dinner with non-wolf watcher friends in Mammoth this evening at Wonderland, people I have not seen in 14 years!

At 21ís crossing I see a big jam for the limping coyote.

I get stuck for a while in a second jam near Junction Butte Ė for a single elk cow and her calf.

I have a great visit with my friends and a very tasty dinner. One the way back I enjoy seeing bighorn sheep on the cliffs near Rescue Creek. They are shedding like crazy and do not look their best!

A pretty sunset begins, which I watch in my rear-view mirror.

I get back to Silver Gate just before dark.

Today I saw: 2 badgers, 6 grizzly bears (including 4 cubs), bison, the limping coyote, sandhill cranes, mule deer, elk and calves, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, ground squirrels, 11 Junction wolves including 1228F, 4 other adults, 6 pups (2/4) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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