Itís 13 cold degrees this morning at 6:40. Iím leaving a little later today in hopes of having enough light when I get to Soda Butte Midpoint. I am hoping the Mollies will be in view.
Instead of new snow overnight there is a sparkly-cold frost.
Snow begins to fall as I reach Baronette. I see a set of canid tracks along the road, then two parallel tracks. I suspect they could be from a pair foxes since they are so often in this area. I am also treated to a fair number of twinkly sparklees along the way.
I reach Soda Butte midpoint at 7AM, just as the crew arrives. Visibility is awful but Jeremy finds wolves anyway.
The first one I see is a bedded gray which turns out to be 1237M. Then two blacks appear above this gray; they turn out to be the alphas, 1090F and 890M. I am delighted to see 890 since I have not seen him since he left the Junctions, way back in 2016. He is a few weeks short of 10 years old, a major accomplishment for a wild wolf.
We enjoy the first of two howl sessions this morning. Itís been quite a while since I heard wolves howl in Lamar Valley.
Two additional grays appear, one being pretty 1239F. They both roam about, then I see a limping gray. I follow it downhill to the carcass.
There is also an intrepid fox in the area, drawn by the carcass. He carefully maintains his distance, biding his time until he has a chance to snatch a bite.
The same trapped bull elk is still up here near the cliff on the left. He becomes especially nervous when 890 and two other blacks begin to walk through the deep snow above him.
He inches further out on his cliff, wisely maintaining his defensible position. But we feel bad for him. He has barely been able to graze or browse since getting stuck up there two evenings ago.
The wolves enter the forest and do not otherwise bother the bull. Then I see three blacks and another gray suddenly running to the right through the gap in the trees, entering the forest on the right. I suspect they are chasing a coyote or perhaps the fox.
In total I see 7 Mollies this morning; 3 grays and 4 blacks.
Jeremy also spots a moose to the west of us in the flats. It crosses Soda Butte creek and disappears into the rolling hills east of Dead Puppy Hill.
Our friends to the west have been watching Wapitis at the big ski lot but now arrive to see the Mollies from here. Kathie is especially happy to see 890M. Susan & Reve & Melba are all happy to have a two pack day!
Around 10AM, only a single collared gray remains in view. The trapped elk decides to try to sneak away. He moves slightly uphill, aiming for the forest. He stops at the closest conifer and begins to nibble on the needles. He chances a few more strides eastwards, but that brings him into very deep snow, through which he cannot run. This seems to trigger his nerves and soon he has returned to his safer cliff edge.
He lowers his head, eating snow several times for water. I feel really bad for him!
The snow has not let up all day but it waxes and wanes enough for us to manage acceptable sightings. During one waning period I find two coyotes on the carcass, giving me another 3-dog-day!
A bit after 11AM Barb M arrives. She has had a great morning photographing the Wapitis but says they are now bedded out of view. By the time she gets set up, the single gray is heading downslope towards the carcass, which makes her easier to see. She sniffs the blood trail then continues down the precipitous slope.
We spot a second gray on the carcass in a slightly lower spot. Both spots look like exceedingly precarious places in which to dine. It looks to us like the act of tugging a morsel off a carcass a mere 10 feet from a sheer drop is just too scary to imagine.
But both these wolves manage it, even with a dozen birds distracting them.
The first gray breaks off a leg assembly and carries it half-way up the hill. It sits down near the blood trail and begins to gnaw. Shortly after this, the second gray carries a different leg assembly up the hill, dragging a piece of floppy hide still attached.
I realize the second gray is 1239F. She carries her prize to a spot above the first gray before she settles down to enjoy her meal.
The trapped bull is standing at stiff attention, looking across the slope into the right side forest. I suspect he can see bedded wolves there. He paws the ground and nibbles on whatever he just exposed.
Itís still snowing.
At about 1PM I call it a morning and head back to Silver Gate.
When I return, around 6PM, I find no cars in the lot, nor any wolves in view. The trapped bull, however, remains in his spot.
Laurie & Dan arrive and we decide to take a peek at the Wapitis. But when we find only a few cars at the big Ski Lot, we know the Wapitis are no longer in view. We continue to Elk Creek where we find the Crew. They update us, saying the wolves moved north out of sight.
They tell us the Junctions are not in view either, but we stay a while anyway just to chat.
We start back east around 7:30. A small elk herd crosses the road just past Wrecker and a coyote is hunting in the meadow west of Fishermanís.
At confluence I spy a moose.
We have several bison in the road near Trout Lake and one of the foxes makes an appearance at Round Prairie.
There is a full moon tonight, which looks quite spooky through the snowfall.
Today I saw: bison, coyotes, a golden eagle, elk, 2 fox, 2 moose, 7 Mollie wolves (890M, 1090F, 1237M & 1239F plus
a limping gray and two other blacks), and the spirits of Allison and Richard.