DAY ONE - Saturday, April 30

DOUBLE YOUR FUN

The rarity of having two active den areas in such easy view from the road (albeit from a distance) tempts me back to Yellowstone for a quick weekend visit.

Itís 10:30, a pleasant 41 degrees as I drive over the pass. The mountains are sporting a fresh blanket of snow. Bozeman had another half-day snow event, beginning with sleet, then thickening to dry snow. But today there is a light-blue sky overhead and the road is already dry.

At the gate I see elk in the meadows to the south.

I have my visit with Allison, then continue driving east, seeing several pronghorn and many bison through the Blacktail area.

As I pass the entrance to the six-mile road, I see cars stopped ahead of me. As I creep forward, I see a black bear sow with two cubs on the north side of the road. People are mostly being careful, staying on the roadside although one photographer is starting to walk closer.

I take a quick look and drive on.

At Junction Butte I see more photographers lining the road and quickly see why. An elk carcass is visible on the far side of the dry pond. I see nothing on it but birds, including a golden eagle.

I creep through this jam and keep going to Crystal.

I find a place to park and join Frank at his scope. Once I set up, I see a black wolf, 1276 come out of the den, which seems to be just a hole in the ground with compacted mud all around. She shakes off dust and walks a few feet away, then beds.

We can see the north den from here, too, although itís a pretty long look. But I see a single blac k sitting in front of the sage den. She gets up, looks into the den and disappears inside. A little later we see a gray up by the eastern trees.

Itís a nice day, although mostly cloudy and a very pleasant 47.

I head east to Silver Gate. After a nice visit with Laurie & Dan, we go back in for the evening viewing. We stop at Round Prairie to look around for 1228 and her beau but donít find them.

On to Slough. Lamar still looks wintry, but I can detect the slightest bit of green towards the western end.

We find Bill at Slough. He reports that a hunting party of 9 Junction wolves just headed out east taking the low route towards upper Slough creek.

We drive on and stop at Crystal, where we find 1276 bedded near the den opening. Dan finds the male cocoa yearling tooling around the area. He comes over and greets 1276. She begs for food from him, but he doesnít have anything for her, poor thing.

She beds again and he keeps walking. He sees some pronghorn and he just canít resist chasing them. Of course, he fails. But heís a yearling, still learning, and has big ideas. He aims for bison next.

He heads upslope towards them, but soon finds himself being charged by a young bull. Then the whole group starts after him. A few of the bison change their minds and head uphill, convincing the whole herd to follow. The yearling turns and follows them, believing himself to be an actual threat. Hah.

1276 gets up and finds a different bedding spot. Bill calls in a grizzly above the diagonal forest and we find it from here.

A few foreign tourists look through my scope. They donít know the word ďgrizzlyĒ and repeat the word several times before they understand itís a bear. I also see quite a few elk in the area.

Some ducks fly overhead.

Around 8:15 we call it a night and head east.

As we pull into the driveway in Silver Gate, Bill follows us, in order to give Laurie his report in person. While we are gabbing, a fox trots by Ė just five feet away. Oh, she is beautiful!

Today I saw: 3 black bears (including two cubs), 1 grizzly bear, bison, ducks, a golden eagle, elk, a fox, pronghorn, 4 Junction wolves (including 1276, cocoa male yearling, 1 gray and an uncollared black) and the spirits of Allison and Richard.


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