I’m out at 4:55. It’s 22 cold and clear degrees. It seems like the wind has finally died down.
I start my day at Slough viewing the north dens today, which turns out to be a good decision. I see five pups, 3 black 2 gray. One black is a tiny one. It looks like there are two distinct litters, most likely older ones from the alpha female and younger ones from a 3-year-old black female we call “New Mom”.
I realize I need to be able to ID “New Mom” so I take a good look at her when she emerges from the natal den. She trots downslope into the bracken but soon she goes right back up again. Two black pups are wrestling up there on the porch; one big and one small.
It seems that both wolves gave birth to pups in the natal den this year. Apparently, New Mom gets along well enough with the alpha female. At this point in the pup-rearing process, the pups are able to be by themselves in the den for short periods, so you often see the mother wolves taking short breaks from nursing them to eat, poop and drink.
The alpha female usually takes her breaks near 890’s tree.
An uncollared gray adult comes in from the west with a feeding for the alpha female. After that, New Mom comes out of the den again. This time she continues downslope below the Diagonal Forest, all the way to Slough creek. She crosses the creek and begins to lope across the meadow to the northeast. Looks like she’s on a mission.
She is aiming for the campground road, but probably intends to go up and over Secret Passage towards Lamar. I get a good long look at her and notice a distinctive blonde patch on her right hip. Otherwise, she is dark black.
Once she is out of sight, I turn back towards the den. Above the den cliff are several elk. Some of them start to angle down towards the natal den. I think they are curious! Two of them get quite close to the opening, one on either side of the den porch. They sniff all around, heads down. Then suddenly they both spook at the same time and run off.
Rick suggests maybe a wolf inside the den growled at them.
The Middle Ridge grizzly sow & her two cubs put in an appearance. We can see Middle Ridge (on Specimen) from here, so I go back and forth between the two spots. As usual this time of year, there are also numerous sandhills in the neighborhood, making their distinctive call.
The sun finally arrives just before 11AM. Wow, what a difference that makes!
Around 11:30 I head back to Crystal and join Laurie & Dan. They have seen 7 adults so far, including the alpha male, 907F, 1048M, 1276F, 1340M, both cocoa yearlings and at least 7 pups.
Bison came through again (it really is a daily occurrence) and stepped all over the den, including some who were pawing the dirt! It really does seem that they do it deliberately.
Frank is on Dave’s Hill where you can see both den areas. He says there are wolves running above Crystal Drainage. Dan finds them: two blacks which turn out to be the alpha male and 1048M. A little later I see a collared gray in the same general area, a bit lower on the hill.
This turns out to be 1340M.
A cocoa yearling arrives in the den area from the south. Many pups rush over to greet him and receive the food he brings.
Some elk appear at the edge of the trees in the background. They skirt the den area warily. Both wolves and elk are quite aware of each other. Most of the adult wolves remain bedded but the cocoa yearling can’t help himself. He rushes the elk, making them run quickly up slope and over the top. The yearling stops about half-way up, then turns around, proud of his ability to scare those elk!
We get a radio call from Joe in Lamar. He went there after New Mom headed up Secret Passage about an hour ago. He says there is a new carcass in Lamar on the south side.
We go there to check it out. I find Joe at Coyote Overlook. He tells me he did find New Mom north of Fisherman’s. He says she spotted a single cow bison with a calf, that she chased the calf and made contact but the bison mom quickly drove her off.
He shows me the area where he thinks the carcass is, but says it might be more visible from Dorothy’s. I go there and start scanning. To my delight, I find several wolves in view, moving in two directions on Northern Divide Ridge. Looks like the “conveyor belt” is in operation.
I radio Laurie and soon my fellow wolf watchers begin to arrive. A gray travels north up Divide Ridge while a black travels downhill. I stay with the black as the wolf enters a rock-strewn area. I see lots of birds. Aha!
The carcass itself is not visible but the presence of so many birds tells the tale. Suddenly I start seeing wolves all over the place. One is bedded, chewing on a chunk of something. I recognize 1048M walking slowly uphill. He looks quite full, so perhaps he’s looking for a shady spot to sleep off his meal.
An uncollared black runs downhill towards the carcass with two other wolves behind it. One is an uncollared gray and the other is 1229F.
In addition to this handful of Junction wolves, the grizzly mom with two is visible again, drawing a big crowd. She is further east than she was yesterday, still on the north side.
Below us in the flats is a large herd of bison with many calves. One of them practices its moves, dashing here and there; wheeling, stopping on a dime. Pleased with itself, the calf runs back to mom and starts nursing, letting out one more kick of a back leg.
A curious coyote appears on the hill above the carcass. He assesses the scene and decides to stay far away. Smart coyote.
Around 1PM, with most of the wolves now out of view, I decide to head east for my nap. On my way past Baronette, I see a red fox, giving me a Three Dog Day.
Back in Laurie’s house, I glance out the bathroom window and see a marmot. It runs along the west side of her deck to the front. Laurie & I watch it sit there in the sun for a bit. She says she’s never seen a marmot on her deck before.
We all go out again around 6:30. It’s a very pleasant 48 degrees but the skies look a bit threatening. By the time we reach the Soda Cone, rain has started to fall.
As we reach the confluence, the rain turns to snow. The top of Specimen Ridge is completely shrouded from view. And just 5 hours ago we were standing in bright sunshine with our coats off!!
Since the snow prevents us from checking on the new carcass, we continue to Crystal. Despite the falling snow, we manage to see two wolves, a gray and a black, at the south den. But the snow grows thicker and thicker, so it’s kind of pointless to stay.
Someone checks the north side but visibility there is even worse, so we turn tail and head home.
Near Trout Lake a bull moose walks into view, a very good-looking animal.
The snow gets heavier the further east we go and it’s already starting to stick. I slow down but have no trouble. Before it gets dark, the moose family pays us another visit. We watch them through the picture window, staying dry and warm inside.
Today I saw: 6 grizzly bears (including 4 cubs), bison and calves, a coyote, sandhill cranes,
elk, a fox, a marmot, 4 moose, pronghorn, 22 Junction wolves (including North Den: New Mom,
1341F and 5 pups; South Den; Alpha male, 907F, 1048M, 1229F, 1276F, 1340M, 1 cocoa yearling,
one gray yearling plus 7 pups) and the spirits of Allison and Richard