DAY SIX - Tuesday, MArch 9


I’m out at 6:05 this morning. The temp is 26 degrees and there are 3 inches of fresh snow on the car. In fact, it’s still snowing lightly.

Good for tracks, I say to myself.

As I near Hitching Post, I see the crew and Rick, so I pull in. Taylor has her scope out and Dylan has the telemetry. Taylor asks if I know where the 1239F carcass is. I say yes and put my scope on it but see nothing there.

Just as I turn to her to relay this info, she says “Ledge Trail”.

I turn my scope to that spot and catch a brief glimpse of two blacks moving quickly west. It’s clear they will soon be out of sight. Rick suggests Picnic rather than Trash Can, so we reconvene at Picnic.

I remember that 1109 was in this area yesterday. I think Laurie is right – the Junctions are doing a territory check and perhaps hoping to flush out 1109 or any other “unwelcome” wolves.

We line the pullout at Picnic, each hoping to be the first to find the pack. I have seen many wolves use this route, so I know most of the spots to try. But it’s Taylor (of course Taylor) who finds them.

They are passing from right to left a level below the Moose-head tree. I see 5 blacks but they disappear pretty quickly.

Again I try to guess where their next appearance is likely to be. Hmm, I find a gully coming down that looks like a likely option. I keep my scope there. Soon I see movement - several elk trotting quickly past, heading west.

They do not look like they are being chased, but moving out in advance of the arrival of wolves.

About 10 minutes later, the wolves appear, right in that same gully. Rick, Taylor and I call out at the same time. Some are higher and some are lower but my count rises to 10.

We move again, finding places to part near the Ranch. Before I am set up, Taylor finds them once again, this time on skyline to the right of the ranch, on the rocky spine.

I see six up there, briefly, but they quickly move out of sight. I hear the arrival of the wolf plane and I hear the crackle as the pilot radios the crew.

We learn that the pack is bedded on a snowy slope between two groups of bison. I can see a bison herd to the east but none to the west, but this helps me know where to point my scope.

But at the moment, none of us has any wolves. Someone floats the idea that we might try backtracking east in order to see them. I trust those who have been doing this longer than I. Mark and Carol go to Trash Can and climb the hill. They are the first to find them.

I end up there too and count 13 total. They are on the same rocky spine where I saw them from the Ranch, but the angle from here offers a better view even though it’s further away.

My smile broadens as several pups begin to play. One of the scrawny gray pups starts to dig in the snow. He/she is soon joined by a second gray pup.

Laurie notices that the adults are bedded but look un-settled to her. Then Taylor reminds us that 1109’s signal is in the area. Soon after I hear this, someone spots her.

She is moving west, three levels below the pack. She adeptly skirts them, then stops and turns back east, moving slightly uphill.

Uh oh. She probably should not have done that.

In an instant the pack spots her. They all leap to their feet. I don’t know how 1109 knew but she abruptly wheels and races back the way she came. Five Junctions, including the alpha female, 1229F and 907F take off after her, plunging rapidly down the slope full tilt.

The rest of the Junctions stand and stare downhill, watching the drama. Poor 1109 runs for her life. More Junctions leave the hill and set off after her. I count 10 running plus 1109.

She descends three full levels and is now only 1 level above the road. I wonder if she considers the road to be safer for her?

It’s just heartbreaking to see this happen to her. Why don’t they want her in the pack? It is really a mystery.

It is a dramatic episode in the lives of the Junction wolves to witness. 1109 is very fit, especially for a wolf making her way alone all winter. And all the wolves are running in deep snow, casting spray all over, so there is a beauty about it, despite the danger to 1109.

None of us can fathom why this lovely, competent wolf cannot find a home.

The Junctions finally give up the chase, most of them have come down only two levels. They never get anywhere close enough to catch her, but they do make their point that she is not welcome.

1109 is panting. She moves further west again, much lower on the hill than before. The Junctions turn upslope, and re-bed higher on the same knoll. Perhaps now they will sleep a while.

A few of the pups begin to test a lone bison but give up quickly.

Around 10AM I leave the sleeping wolves to head west to Hellroaring. Susan and Reve have found wolves from there, near the Tornado Drainage. We want to know if these are 1154’s group or a separate group of Junctions.

The day has warmed to 30 degrees under bright blue skies.

From Hellroaring I see 8 additional wolves; 5 black and 3 gray. Jeremy confirms they are the “missing” Junctions. This makes for a total of 23 which is the current count.

The blue skies soon darken to the west and it looks like we’re in for more snow. I leave Hellroaring at noon and stop at Trash Can. The group of 15 are still bedded in their high spot.

After a short break in Silver Gate, I return to Trash Can around 3:30. I am just in time as the Junctions are beginning to move again. They head west, staying quite high.

Only two wolves remain bedded as the others head off: a scrawny gray pup and 907F. But after about 10 minutes, they, too, get up to follow the pack.

I move to mid-point for a better angle. Hmm, the Junctions have not gone too far, they are bedded again. One of the gray pups has found an antler and starts chewing on it.

The impending snow squall arrives but doesn’t last long. I move to the Ranch.

As I get set up, someone calls “elk running”. I turn my scope to the rocky ridge and see 10 elk bunched tightly in one spot. They almost look comical, squeezing together on that tiny outcrop.

I see wolves above and below them but in a minute or two they give up and continue higher on the ridge. There are some really great views of them as they travel along the skyline. I follow them as they reach the top and disappear, only to re-emerge on the next slope.

They pause on a flat section for a bit, which gives poor old 907F a chance to catch up. Then several youngsters run down to the left into a forest, pursuing who knows what, while the adults sit on their haunches above them.

It’s now 5:30 so I decide to leave them for the day, hoping they will still be in Lamar in the morning. I wonder where 1109 is? Hopefully holed up somewhere out of reach.

On the way to Silver Gate, I see a beautiful fox near Barronette.

Today I saw: bison, a bald eagle, elk, a fox, 24 wolves (23 Junctions including the alphas, 1048M, 907F, 1276F, 1229F, 1272M, 1275M and others, plus former Junction 1109F) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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