DAY NINE - Saturday, April 23

DESPITE THE SNOW AND WIND

As I head out this morning at 5:40 I find another 2 inches of snow on the car. Itís 28 degrees and very dark. I guess there is still thick cloud cover.

I am happy for all the precipitation the Park has gotten but I do hope for some better visibility at Slough today!

Every morning except one I have been the only car on the road during the drive in. Itís so lovely and peaceful and relaxing to have this spectacular valley to myself. I want to remember this for later in the year when the crowds prevail!

I find limited visibility at Slough so I remove my extender. Before I get it set up, Bill calls from Little America. He has two wolves.

I join him west of Long pullout where I see two wolves to the south, a cocoa yearling and a gray. The gray is carrying something in its mouth. They move quickly to the tree line.

I am set up on a low hill north of Longs. I see a small herd of bison with three newborn calves. Suddenly the gray starts to chase them. He breaks off quickly and the bison chase him back east.

The gray goes out of sight again and despite all our efforts, we never find the wolves again. I join Laurie & Dan at Crystal but find nothing. Rick calls ďcome to SloughĒ. We join him in time to see a single black wolf emerging from the natal den. This wolf comes down through the willows into the den meadow, then goes to the sage den, sticking its head inside.

Now it goes back through the meadow, passing some grazing bison, then wanders straight north to the spot where the bow low used to be. I lose the wolf for a while, then see it move upslope towards the natal den, where it disappears inside.

Visibility here is not great and there is, at times a gusty wind. But of course, we only notice these things when we have no wolf in sight!

Now I hear more reports. One person saw a black wolf in Round Prairie (could be 1228ís mate) and others saw Junction wolves south of the ranch moving east.

Itís snowing yet again and the hillsides are shrouded.

I head east, as far as Round Prairie but of course, Iím too late. Some people see a moose but I canít find that, either!

The snow is pretty heavy, so I have an excuse at least!

I follow Laurie & Dan back to the ranch. We tuck our cars close to the barn to avoid the truly nasty wind. Boy, does that make a difference!

I do not see any wolves near the carcass, though. Instead find geese, pronghorn, bison, sandhills and a golden eagle. And a little ground squirrel pops up behind me.

I stop at Coyote on my way to check Slough and find a collared black on the western end of Jasper. The wolf is trotting quickly to the east. I lose it behind the tree tops lining the front edge of Jasper so I pan to the split rock, anticipating itís arrival there.

But instead, I find a different collared black arriving from the west, moving east. Ahh, the conveyor belt is still in motion. This wolf is trotting fast, as if itís on a mission.

Once this wolf is out of sight I get back in the car and continue to Slough.

We scope from road level and find two more wolves (one black and one gray) below Divide Ridge, wandering here and there. They are taking a meandering route up slope to the southeast, taking time to mess with a bison herd on their way.

Laurie suspects they have something to eat on Jasper so we head back to Coyote. This time we easily find two blacks heading west at on Jasper, one dark black and one light black. The lighter black is romping a bit, pegging it as a yearling. They trot behind the split rock and disappear.

Dan finds an eagle in the traditional Jasper Bench eagle nest. Once more we head back to Slough to try to see where they are taking the food.

My face hurts from the wind today. Itís past noon, almost 1:30 and the sun is trying itís best to break through. We scope again from road level at Slough. Dan is the first to find them. Laurie identifies 1048M with a cocoa yearling already half-way down the slope. We have intermittent sightings as they head towards Crystal, probably wanting to cross to the north.

I turn around to check the den area and finally find good visibility there.

There are bison in the den meadow. Then I see a flash of blonde. Itís the fluffy gray yearling with sun on her back, coming uphill below the western trees.

She heads toward the bow log area, then climbs up through the willows to the natal den. Good girl! She goes right into the den and disappears.

We have been out longer today than usual taking advantage of the better visibility. But now we head east for a break. As I pass Soda Butte east the snow returns in force along with the wind.

Iím hoping for a fire tonight!

Today I saw: bison, sandhill cranes, a bald eagle, a golden eagle, elk, geese, pronghorn, a ground squirrel, 8 Junction wolves (including 1048M, a cocoa yearling, fluffy yearling plus five others) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.

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