It’s raining again this morning but slightly warmer at 44 degrees.
I could hear heavy rain pounding the roof last night which made me think that the Beartooth’s probably got a big dump of snow.
It’s a misty morning and quite dark.
The fox is near the road again, and again has something in its mouth.
My first stop is at Coyote. The rain has stopped and the temperature is pleasantly cool at 47. I see one black and one gray adult near the split rock.
Rick radios from Slough suggesting we come that way.
When I arrive I find the alphas and the lone pup. Turns out, none of us had told Rick that the lone pup had been rescued yesterday. He thought it was going to be happy news for us and instead we feel bad for not telling him yesterday!
The alpha female seems quite attentive to the pup today, which is very nice to see. She lets it bed near her, which she doesn’t always do. She stares off to the south, and I wonder what she’s thinking.
Does she miss her mate? Does she miss the other puppies? The yearlings? She’s had a rough whelping season by any measure. Tossed by a bison, abandoned by her family, losing pups every day as they are carted off south, and then her fight with 907. Yikes!
I find out later that while I’m here at Slough, Laurie and Dan were at Round Prairie with Dale & Faye, watching 1228F! I’m sorry to have missed her but I’m glad they saw her.
The day has cleared considerably, and when Rick invites me and Kathie to join him up the hill north of Coyote I say yes.
On my way through Lamar Canyon I notice that the upper indicator rock is nearly submerged under milk-chocolate-colored water!
It takes a good while for me to hike up the hill. Rick stops to scope with us for a while. Another guy is here, named Tom. I recognize his red hair – he was a wolf-project interpreter in my very early wolf-watching days. He gave talks about the wolves and stopped traffic, if necessary, when the Druids were trying to cross. I tell him I learned a lot from him and he seems pleased to hear it.
He and Rick decide to climb up higher. Way at the top I see Peter, the Swiss photographer. But Kathie and I stay here and I admit, the view is worth the hike.
When I finally get set up, the Jasper den area has just been invaded by a bison herd, a big one, maybe a hundred. They take exception to these wolves’ existence.
The adult wolves are agitated, moving all over the place, trying to herd the pups to safety. A group of pups barely avoid the hooves of the giant beasts as they take refuge in the crevices at the base of the big boulders in the area.
One poor black pup is literally chased in a circle around a small boulder by a bison bull. The pup makes a dash into the open and the bull goes right after it. The pup scampers around and turns upslope, aiming for the raven rock. That rock is currently surrounded by more bison! It looks to me like the pup is making the worst possible move but somehow, he makes it between bison in to the safety of the crevice. Whew!
Some of the adults actually taunt the bison, drawing them downhill, away from the crevices where the pups are hiding. Other wolves stay out of the way, bedding to the side, waiting for the big beasts to move on.
I notice two “new” den holes that other pups either come out of or disappear into. Laurie told me there are numerous holed up there. In all the activity, I count 14 pups (there should be more). 1276 enters one of the new dens, proving it is large enough to accommodate adults as well as pups.
The adult individuals I see include 907F, 1048M, 1229F, 1276F, 1341F, 1340M and the (formerly) limping female as well as numerous yearlings.
After the bison finally leave, we continue to see good activity, including two separate puppy parades, in different spots.
A gray and a black pup spend some quality time wrestling. 907 nurses pups several times lying down and once standing up.
Laurie & Dan come up and tell me about their great sighting of 1228. Dale & Faye come up from the opposite side.
1341 is here, being her busybody self. But I have a new respect for her, having rescued the lone pup. She seems to be everywhere at once and I swear she is counting pups. I see her pay homage to 907, rolling over on her back. She may be a busybody, but she knows her place.
Even though the main herd is now gone, there are still a few bison that wander through, creating a good bit of back and forth with the wolves. One group of pups follows some yearlings down slope into what looks like a campsite, with fallen logs in an almost square pattern. The grass is thick in the middle and the yearlings start a play session with the puppies, who seem to love it.
Behind this area is a meadow, framed by forest. We see some elk emerge into the meadow and wonder if the wolves will notice them.
Laurie reminds me that there are lakes back there. I saw them years ago on a hike with Ballpark Frank. Moonlight Lakes!
The elk make kind of a hasty exit and we wonder if wolves are about to appear back there. Instead, we see a black bear, flanked by two gray wolves…no! those are coyotes. They seem to be harassing the bear but he just ambles along, unbothered.
Bill calls from way over at Straightaway. He sees a grizzly way up on the hill behind us. We turn around to see them, a tad worried for Peter and Rick and Tom. But the bear is just a specks on the hill, much further away than we first thought.
It’s a beautiful view from up here and I’m very glad I came up.
But I am planning to drive back to Bozeman today and it’s already after 10AM. So, reluctantly I bid goodbye to the Junction Pack and to my friends, and head down the hill to my car. I remember thinking I will likely be spending many other days up on this hill in the coming weeks.
Little did I know that it would be over four months (131 days) until I saw the Lamar Valley again!
On my way through Lamar Canyon this time I see a black bear up on the Secret Passage side, causing quite a jam.
I say goodbye to Allison and as I leave Gardiner, I can see dark clouds ahead. Bad weather is coming.
Today I saw: 2 black bears, a grizzly bear, bison, 2 coyotes, mule deer, elk, a fox, 28 Junction
wolves (including AF, AM, 907F, 1048M, 1229F, 1276F, New Mom, 1341F, 1340M plus 4 others, as well
as 15 pups (14 pups at Jasper plus 1 at Slough) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.