DAY FOUR - Sunday, May 22


Despite the snow last evening, this morning I find only a bit of frost on the car. I guess it melted.

As I pull onto the road, Mama moose crosses, aiming for Laurie’s marshy yard.

I stop briefly at Coyote when I notice Bill and his “bear people” in that lot, with scopes pointed south. Aha! The sow with cubs has found the Junctions’ carcass.

My next stop is at Slough – north side. Another snow squall has descended, blurring the view. While I wait for it to clear, I talk with two sisters from Driggs who have been here since 5AM. They say they are here to see wolves, so I advise them to stay warm and try to be patient.

At 6:30 the snow lessens and sure enough, 1341F emerges from the natal den, followed by a couple of pups. The sisters are thrilled!

A word about 1341F. Although she is not a mother, she has proven herself to be a steadfast protector of the pups. Of all the Junctions, she has proven to be a constant presence in their lives, watching over them, the most committed babysitter I’ve ever seen.

She moves down the slope into the bracken. Towards the bottom, her wagging tail tells us she is greeting an wolf behind 890’s tree, most likely the alpha female.

Rick is watching from a slightly different angle and confirms to me that there are four adults in that spot, including the alpha female.

I also see several pups (of both sizes) on the porch, exploring. Oh! Two of them accidentally roll off the porch only to scramble quickly back up. One looks back down, as if amazed that he climbed up all that way by himself!

The Junctions begin to howl, and the puppies join in! Oh! How sweet their high voices sound. We hear a response from the south, which is nice, too.

Some of the pups head down from the porch through the bracken and willows, joining the adults at the bottom. It’s harder to see them in that spot but we see enough to infer what’s going on.

The day brightens and warms, and the adult group comes out of hiding, moving slightly west, attended by pups.

I recognize the alpha female, two cocoa yearlings and 1229F. These last three wolves have been seen at the south den over the last few days, so they get high marks for being attentive to pups on both sides.

1229F, of course, is always on the move and today is no exception. She does not stay bedded long but soon begins to trot downhill into the lower lion meadow.

We lose her for a while, then pick her up again below Bob’s Knob, heading steadily south.

The “fluffy” gray yearling appears above the den cliff, making her way down slope and then along the trail. She goes straight to the natal den and delivers a feeding to the pups. A half hour later, “skinny” gray yearling does the same thing.

The alpha female goes back to her bedding spot near 890’s tree, where she is hard to see. The “skinny” gray yearling comes down the hill to her, with several pups in tow.

One of the small pups comes out of the den and almost immediately rolls off the end of the porch into the bracken. It gets up quickly, as if pretending that it meant to do that! The little thing wobbles its way back up to the porch, no worse for wear.

New Mom comes out on the den porch and nurses the pups which is sweet. She does not make any distinction between the larger pups and the smaller ones. She may be new at this, but she seems up to the task.

Then the alpha female walks up to the den and stands on the porch. New Mom walks to the right. The alpha female seems tired, or subdued, especially in contrast to New Mom. She walks left of the den porch, trailed by a black pup, eager to nurse. She does not seem into that and just beds in some soft grass.

There had been a report that the alpha female was kicked by a bison several days ago, so maybe she is still sore from that. To me, she just doesn’t seem to “be herself”.

Then the wind kicks up, bringing a heavy bout of rain. We pack up our scopes and retreat to the cars. Suddenly hail starts pounding down, caper sized. I love hail!

I decide to drive over to Crystal to catch up with events at the southern den.

Laurie & Dan relate yet another bison visit. The pups must be used to it by now! The hail stops and changes to a light drizzle, so I get out and set up my scope, draping an old fleece sweater over it. I see several adults and pups.

Becky & Chloe arrive. They got here last night but went back to Mammoth when it started snowing. We have a great reunion and I fill them in on where to look and what we’ve seen.

But the rain continues, so I figure it’s time to try something else. Becky and Chloe agree and make a plan to go up to the Tower Store, stopping along the way for anything interesting.

At Curve we see a small herd of pronghorn drawing a crowd and at Junction Butte pond we see a herd of bighorn sheep, with lambs.

The rain finally stops just before we get to Calcite, which is very fortuitous since there are black bears to see here. We join a growing crowd watching a black bear sow and her two adorable cubs of the year.

Oh, my goodness, the cubs are just darling. They really put on a show, climbing trees and hanging from the branches like monkeys. They dangle, they fall, they dash right back up again. One time the two of them charge toward each other from opposite sides, smashing into each other, pausing only to regain their footing, then charge off again!

Mom ignores them while she grazes and grubs, leaving them to romp and carouse. I think one is a bit more rambunctious than the other. This one climbs a tree that is really too small for him. When it bends, he falls off. He then rushes to a rotten log and starts ripping into it. He seems not to know that the purpose of ripping it is to eat the bugs he exposes. He seems very pleased with how well he rips!

Both cubs start to climb a very tall tree, then switch to a second trunk leaning against the first. The extra-rambunctious cub hangs upside down on the angled tree as though it’s a jungle-gym at a kids’ playground.

He dangles, trying to right himself, and looks over at mom for help. Eventually he falls down. He sits still a moment as if waiting for the stars to stop spinning, then back up the tree he goes.

The other cub finds him, and they begin to wrestle while still on a branch, swatting each other, stepping on each-other’s toes trying to knock the other off. Oh man, so cute! We are transfixed for a good 45 minutes before they eventually follow mom into thicker trees and out of sight.

We drive on to the next pullout where Chloe finds one of the peregrine falcon parents that nest every year in this area. We never find this year’s nest, but it’s nice to see the parent.

We go up to the Tower Store (not open yet) and explore the enlarged and re-designed parking lot. They’ve added a curb on the side near the picnic tables which hopefully will prevent people from trying to park there.

But it’s getting late now, and I need my nap, so I bid my friends goodbye and head east.

When I wake from my nap, I see more snow has arrived, so I agree to skip the evening session tonight in favor of a fireside chat with friends.

Today I saw: 3 black bears (including 2 cubs), bison and calves, a coyote, elk, 1 moose, pronghorn, 28 Junction wolves (including North Den: alpha female, 1229F, 1341, New Mom, Fluffy and Skinny gray yearlings, 1 cocoa yearling plus 7 pups (5 large, 2 small; South Den: 907F, 1048M, 1276F, 1339M, two uncollared blacks and 1 uncollared gray plus 7 pups) and the spirits of Allison and Richard

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