Well, yesterdayís storm packed a punch. We found at least 5 new inches of fresh snow. The plow is no longer coming early up here, so I decided to wait for a bit more light before venturing out.
At 6AM it was 28 degrees. I am very happy that April is delivering a normal amount of precipitation. The Park needs it!
I find the road to be a little slick underneath but not terrible. I just drive more slowly and admire the beauty.
I find myself following fox tracks for a good part of my drive. The road remains icy, though. I think the bottom layer was slush and it froze in place. Itís actually bumpy to drive on, which is weird.
As I pass Fishermanís I see more tracks in the road and I think they look like wolf. But I donít stop to check because I am later than usual. Instead, I go to Slough.
Doug is in his usual spot. He has a single bedded black. Laurie radios and says ďcome back to LamarĒ so I do.
I join her and others at the Ranch. The Junctions have a new carcass across the river, below Amethyst bench. Of course, itís in a gully (they almost always are!). This gully is particularly deep, though, and can hide an entire wolf inside it.
We have Michael to thank for finding the wolves. He has become an exceptionally good spotter.
The first wolf I see is 1048 bedded on the snow-covered slope above and to the left of the gully. Then several more wolves emerge from the gully and make their way slightly east and uphill, seeking bedding spots.
I recognize the Alpha male from his size and his limp. This is the first time in several days that he has been away from the den. How do they know there is a fresh carcass? From an earlier wolf returning I guess.
I see the skinny gray yearling and a cocoa yearling.
Most of the wolves emerging from the carcass carry chunks in their mouths. A cocoa yearling heads uphill, starts to play in snow, digging and sliding.
At some point I recognize 1229F in the group. She is briefly disciplined by a two-year-old female, which is odd to me since 1229 is older (3 years). But somehow the two-year-old female has risen over her in dominance. No matter though, 1229 takes the punishment in stride.
I also see big gray 1340M and 1341F, At first I thought I was seeing 907 but Jeremy says she is not with this group. (She is likely back at her Crystal den)
After most of the wolves move up the hill, we can only see a few, so I move to Midpoint while others go to Hubbard. From both these angles you can see more of them in their bedding spots.
Around 10AM the sun finally breaks through and begins to melt the icy road. While the wolves are bedded, I scan around for other critters. I find two new baby bison in the closest bison herd, a turkey vulture perched on a tree limb near the carcass and numerous pronghorn.
Someone notices a black wolf approaching the carcass from the west. Itís 1276F, who apparently just got the news. We think she is a mother this year but no one is quite sure which den she is in. Last year she lost her pups.
Around 11:00 it becomes apparent that the snow is not finished after all.
1229 has left the area, heading back west to the dens. She is always so diligent about bringing food. I think the Alpha male already left, as well. I can still see five wolves bedded on the snow hill. The wind has made a few cornices on this hill and one of the cocoa yearlings has fun walking on it, collapsing a few sections of it.
Skinny gray has gone back to the gully for a second breakfast.
I notice more bison in the flats in Lamar and 5 eagles waiting their turn in the trees.
I decide to head in for a while, noticing some very nice atmospherics in the sky right, due to the returning snow clouds. That hour or so of sun has removed all the ice and snow from the roads but Iím driving into a squall right now.
At the soda cone I notice an injured bull bison limping his way across the river flats. He has two buddies nearby to help him.
After a nice break, we go out for an evening session, since the carcass is relatively close. We join Michael at the Ranch, roadside level. He has a bear in the carcass area!
The evening is relatively warm with very little wind. The landscape looks radically different since nearly all the snow is gone. The cornices are nearly melted out, just slashes of white on the old riverbank.
Three wolves remain bedded while several others wander below, on both sides of the gully. The bear is in the gully, feeding, but we canít see him which shows you how deep the gully is.
Michael says he saw 1276 go back west. Both gray yearlings are here, as well as 1048 and the Alpha male. We also see 1 cocoa yearling, an uncollared black female and 1229F.
One cocoa yearling and fluffy gray go on a walkabout, exploring the muddy cliff face of the bench then wander back.
A second grizzly is spotted on Amethyst bench. It wanders around grubbing in a marshy spot. A small group of bison nearby take offense at his existence and move towards him like a street gang. The bear is intimidated, it wheels and runs to the tree line. Then stops to save face by scratching his back on a tree, giving the bison time to leave. Having soothed his ego, the bear now seems to have caught a whiff of the carcass. He now heads for the river.
The closer he gets, the faster he moves. When he rushes down the bank to the flat, the wolves all alert. They band together and rush the new bear, surrounding him as he makes for the gully. He disappears inside, along with almost all the wolves, and, like part of a comedy routine, the first bear bolts out the other end!
Several wolves chase the first bear up the bank to the west. Once he tops the bank and aims for the tree line, the wolves break off the chase, letting him wander the rest of the way east with a very full belly.
I watch a cocoa yearling digging at the western end of the gully. He finds something and begins to chew. One of the grays comes out of the eastern end of the gully with a separate chunk, walking east to a favorite spot where she settles down to gnaw. I guess this second bear is more accommodating than the first.
The cocoa yearling looks up intently to the east. Then takes off running after a coyote. Several other wolves join the chase, but the coyote kicks into a higher gear and escapes.
Itís a very nice night.
Today I saw: 2 grizzlies, bison, a coyote, bald eagles, golden eagles, elk, pronghorn, a turkey vulture,
10 Junction wolves (AM, 1048, 1229, 1276, 1340, 1341, both gray yearlings, 1 cocoa yearling, a 2yr old
uncollared black and the spirits of Allison and Richard.