Today is a snow-free day. And a tad warmer at 21 degrees.
My first stop is at Slough where I check in with Doug. He has two wolves in view – both bedded. A black and a collared gray.
Then I hear a report of wolves being seen to the west so off I go. I find Rick and others at Straightaway, where there is ample parking. 8 wolves are in view to the south, first at the treeline, but then they move closer to the road.
They are close enough to be seen with the naked eye.
Laurie and I scope together and she recognizes right away that there is one too many collared blacks in this group. It’s NOT a Junction!
We have seven Junctions including 1229F, 1276F, 1340M, two cocoa yearlings, and an uncollared gray. The eighth wolf is a male, Wapiti 1336M.
Most of the wolves, almost all females, are very attentive to this handsome newcomer, but big gray 1340M is NOT on board. I am thrilled to witness fanny dancing, although I comment to Laurie that 1336 is a bit late in the season. First I see 1276 approach the male, who stops and faces her. Both wolves stand stiffly, nose to nose for a beat, wagging tails enthusiastically. They then each make a distinctive jerk motion. First one, then the other and the male places his head over her shoulder.
Apparently this indicates interest or at least friendliness. The male turns and moves off, with 1276 following eagerly. Then it’s 1229’s turn. She repeats the stiff-legged behavior, charmingly, with basically the same results. Every once in a while one of the younger wolves will barge in clumsily and distract one of the pair.
But I also see 1340 make his feelings known. He walks slowly toward the interloper, not aggressively but sternly, and 1336 decides to exit rather than confront the burly resident wolf.
Laurie says she thinks this male has been around before today, that the wolves seem to be somewhat familiar with him.
We note that this group does not include any of the older adult wolves and certainly not the alphas. This is mostly young wolves, yearlings and two year olds, all of whom are more likely to “get along” with a stranger wolf in their midst. I begin to hope that 1336 might become a suitor for 1229, because she seems like a future alpha to me, and I’d like to be able to say I witnessed the beginning of her future.
As 1340 gets close, the Wapiti male retreats west, with several of the females following. The yearlings’ loyalty seems to waver back and forth. They support their older brother 1340 when he is near them, but two seconds later, they follow their older sisters after the newcomer.
At one point in the morning’s drama, one of the yearlings takes a break to chew on a bison leg it found while the dance continues to the right of him. A bit later, after 1336 has moved off, 1276 commandeers that same bone and has a good chew.
There is much back and forth today. Several times we think the group is headed one direction only to see them stall out and begin moving in the opposite direction.
The handsome male sits uphill of the group for a while, watching, perhaps weighing his risks and 1340’s mood. I think if either the alpha male or 1048 had been nearby, 1336 would have exited the area far more quickly.
After a nice hour and a half of interesting wolf watching, the group moves behind some higher hills so I decide to go back to Slough.
Several more Junctions are here in the den area, perhaps oblivious to the action a mile away. The Alpha Male in in his usual spot at the base of 890’s tree. I see 1341F (gray) go towards the sage den. She disappears inside, followed a bit later by a black female. The Alpha male gets up and the fluffy gray pup (yearling) appears in that spot. The Alpha male heads towards the sage den. Now a previously unseen black yearling comes up from below and greets the Alpha male. After this he goes back to his bedding spot.
We go back to check on the romantic group, where lots of people remain, watching them.
I talk to Jeremy a bit and learn that both 1048 and 907 are somewhere to the south. 907 seems to have chosen a den below Divide Ridge that 1109 used in 2020. The den itself is not visible but the mound of dirt around it is, from the Crystal lot. It is somewhat out in the open but what strikes me is that it’s away from the Alpha Female, with whom 907 does not really get along. While I am getting familiar with the area, I see 907 herself, sitting in front of a group of trees.
Later we try an angle from Lamar Canyon West and see an uncollared black come down from above and greet 907F.
We go back once more to check on the wolves to the west and see my first pronghorn as I drive past Aspen. 1340 is resting in the short grass while one or two uncollared wolves are nosing around here and there. 1276 is also bedded in view. I don’t find 1336 nor 1229 so my hopes for her being with him remain high.
By noon, the day has warmed all the way to 40! It feels good! We head back east after a very full and satisfying day of wolf watching.
Today I saw: bison, sandhill cranes, elk, a pronghorn, 14 wolves including 13 Junctions (including
Alpha Male, 907F, 1229F, 1276F, 1340M, 1341F, both gray yearlings, both cocoa yearlings, 2 year old
uncollared black plus 2 more blacks) 1 Wapiti wolf (1336M) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.