I leave Bozeman at noon. Itís a normal 33 degrees. I am heading back to Yellowstone for another week of wolf watching with Laurie & Dan and the Wolf Study crew.
Yesterday I got my first vaccine shot and Iíll get my second one 3 weeks from now. It took a bit of effort to get it scheduled, but the Gallatin County Health Department came through for me. My experience at the Fair Grounds was professional and compassionate; everything went smoothly.
In an open, snow-free field just east of my home I see my first ground squirrel!
I have clear skies over the pass and easy driving. There is a mule deer yearling close to the road near the line of cottonwoods just south of Livingston. The Absarokas are sporting a fresh mantle of snow. They look spectacular.
At the cattle guard, several bighorn sheep are grazing, with a few standing partly on the road itself. A car with Minnesota plates is stopped next to them. taking photos.
There are elk all over the airport runway and more elk in Mammoth (as usual). I have my visit with Allison and continue. A largish bison herd is on the move below the S curves.
At Hellroaring I see lots of cars, so I pull in. Lots of people here along with the crew. Once I get set up, I see 12 Junction wolves above the river. They have cornered two small groups of elk right at the edge of the cliffs above the Yellowstone.
I learn that they chased these elk to this spot over an hour ago and have been at a standoff since then.
I say hello to the crew and Bill H. He tells me three bears were seen from here yesterday, but he has not found any today yet.
The wolves are just milling around, somewhat unorganized. They seem hungry but the elk are in a strong position, and it looks like the wolves donít really have a lot of options.
Usually, I donít leave an active sighting, but since I have perishable food for Laurie & Dan, so I leave in order to get it safely to Silver Gate.
Later I that the Junctions gave up about 15 minutes later and moved out of sight into the river corridor.
In Lamar Canyon I see a lone coyote. As I enter Lamar proper, the landscape strikes me as quite desolate. There is still a lot of snow in the flats.
I see another coyote near Exclosure and the usual bighorn rams north of Hitching Post East of Soda Butte Cone several cars have stopped. I am about to ask what people are seeing when I see for myself a collared gray wolf on the far bank. Laurie had tipped me off that Mollie wolf 1239F was known to be in the area, so I suspect thatís who Iím seeing. People in the lot say there is an elk carcass out there.
I watch a while, but she soon disappears into the trees. I continue east and just past Pebble it starts to snow.
I get to Laurieís a little after 5PM. I unload the food and we head back out.
Our intention is to return to Hellroaring but we find The Crew at Elk Creek. They have nothing in view; their wolves travelled east but are now out of sight, likely down in the river corridor.
After chatting a bit, we head back to east. I spot a pretty fox in front of Junction Butte and a coyote crosses the road just east of Slough.
We stop at Soda Butte midpoint and turn our scopes towards the bull elk carcass. I see two coyotes feeding there but no wolves. We notice several photographers have moved all the way to the creek bank. Their presence is likely to keep away any wolf.
The Crew arrives and we learn that other Mollie signals are detected in the area. Laurie & Dan stay here while the rest of us spread out, trying various angles, hoping to find them.
I scope from Footbridge for a while and find a nervous-looking bull elk high up on a far east finger of Norris. He looks as if heís stranded up there.
I also see a trail through the snow above the elk and to his right, but I donít find any wolves, so after a while, I rejoin Laurie & Dan. Shortly after I arrive, Laurie finds 1239F directly south of us, bedded in snow on a gently sloping hill with scattered aspen about. She looks quite pretty there, all by her lonesome.
Laurie & I reminisce about how many wolves weíve seen on this particular slope over the years.
The sky is overcast and it looks like weíll have some snow overnight.
Dark starts to close in so reluctantly we head home.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, mule deer, elk, a fox, bighorn sheep, 13 wolves (12 Junctions plus Mollie 1239F)
and the spirits of Allison and Richard.