It’s warmer this morning at 31 degrees. There’s just a bit of frost in the corners of the windshield. The birdies are singing like crazy, which is one of my favorite things about early morning this time of year.
Once more, my first stop is at the north den. I stop to say hello to Doug M in his usual spot. He reports “one gray so far”. I set up at the next lot and find his gray, who happens to be the super-diligent 1341F. Other adults appear: New Mom, the alpha female, the alpha male and the “white stripe” black yearling.
The day is cloudy and there is some wind, but as soon as the pups appear on the porch I stop caring about that!
A few puppies move quickly downslope through the bracken to join the adults bedded down by 890’s tree. Two more pups continue to boldly explore in front of the eastern trees. This causes the alpha male to get up and shepherd them back. What a good daddy!
The alpha female travels up to the den and begins to nurse the pups still in that spot. The alpha male follows and joins her on the porch, watching with interest. When she is finished, the pair of them walk together along the cliff to the west, with many pups trailing after them. I think they are still hungry!
It’s a lovely little unsteady stream of puppies. I count 8 with 5 black and 3 gray. The alpha pair stops, sitting on their haunches for a bit while the puppies mill around. I really like seeing the alpha male so attentive to the pups. He’s not overly affectionate, but he doesn’t move away from them, either.
The alpha female changes course and goes back to the den, with the pups following slowly. The alpha male returns, too. An uncollared gray arrives but I don’t see anyone get a feeding.
The pups go back inside the den and the adults bed down.
Around 8:15 I pack up and head to the south den, where I find 2 pups plus a gray adult. The clouds have moved on and the sun is still low enough to make viewing a bit difficult. But I enjoy the company and the conversation, so I stay a while.
Around 10AM I return to the north where I find Chloe, Becky and Marlene. They have had a good deal of pup activity. The first thing I see, though, is New Mom is carrying a black pup in her mouth down from the den through the bracken. Hmm, where is she taking it?
Busybody 1341F follows her in a way that looks to me like she doesn’t want New Mom to be doing that. There are now three adults behind 890’s tree with the single pup, New Mom, alpha female and 1341. The grass and sage in this spot is so thick, it’s hard to tell what’s going on.
Meanwhile, several more pups are seen climbing up the bracken slope to the den, while others are coming down. They seem to like hanging out at the bottom of that slope.
One little black pup sits on the edge of the den porch and Chloe comments that it makes her nervous. We know there is a golden eagle in this neighborhood, with chicks to feed. This tiny pup is a perfect target for such a raptor.
A second tiny pup emerges to keep its litter-mate company. This pup is gray – the first tiny-sized gray pup either of us have seen at this den. Chloe turns to me and says doesn’t this make the count 9 instead of 8?
Woo hoo! She’s right!
As usual, whenever there is a lull in wolf activity, we scan to see what else is around. We find pronghorn, bison with calves, a few elk and various sandhill cranes.
Laurie comes by to tell us she plans to make a call to our friend Jeff MacIntyre, who is ailing in hospice in Canada. It’s heartbreaking to hear him in such a state, but I am grateful to Laurie for giving us a chance to cheer him up.
Around 11:30 I head back east. On my way I stop to talk with Bill and in doing so, see two grizzlies. One is north of Picnic and the other on the third finger Norris from Footbridge.
And I see the Baronette fox just past the “pothole” bridge.
Laurie & Dan stayed at Slough longer than usual. Which was lucky because suddenly there was an unexpected development.
Remember that earlier I saw New Mom with a pup in her mouth? Well, after I left, she picked up another pup (or perhaps the same one) and managed to carry it past 1341 and the alpha female. She travelled well below the den area, all the way down the lion meadow to Slough Creek flats.
They lost track of her near the creek but suspected she was taking the pup to the South den. They drove over to Crystal and sure enough, she was seen again, crossing the Lamar River bridge! And yes, the pup was still in her mouth (Laurie saw photos).
Laurie put up her scope and saw her arrive, with the pup, at the south den.
She put the pup down right at the den hole. Once the pup recovered from its journey, it went inside and New Mom followed.
Jeremy had already gone in for the day, so once Laurie was back in Silver Gate she contacts him and Rick, to relay the news.
We decide to have dinner early so we can go back out asap.
On my way in I see a different fox near Baronette. This one is very red and thin, while the earlier one was pale in color and quite fluffy. I suspect I could be seeing both parents of a litter of kits.
Laurie and Dan and Maureen and Rick set up at the north den while I go to the south. I am delighted to see pups all over the place, going in and out, eagerly exploring all around. I make note of two tiny pups, one black and one gray. I figure these must belong to New Mom.
I don’t remember noticing any size difference in the pups at this den over the last four days. These are “new” to the south den.
Looks like she has transported at least two. Hmmm.
Rick stops by a little later and we have an opportunity to count pups. I get 10 while he gets 11.
When Laurie gets here, I tell her about the tiny gray one and suggest that the black pup she saw being carried here may not have been the first? Maybe she brought the little gray one earlier or even last night?
Over the course of the evening, I see three separate wolves nursing puppies here at the south den: New Mom, 1276F and 907F.
The other adults here tonight are the male cocoa yearling, both gray yearlings and 1339M. (He is darker than 1340M.)
Dan finds the Middle Ridge grizzly sow with her yearling cubs. We also see pronghorn and a beautiful male blue bird.
1276F continues to seem restless. Around 7:30 she gets up and begins to travel into the open meadow below Divide Ridge. She is soon accompanied by the fluffy gray yearling. They begin to zig-zag here and there often snapping at something. Laurie thinks they are catching insects, perhaps grasshoppers.
I see 907F nurse some pups from a classic standing position for a while. Afterwards she moves to her bedding spot. Several pups come her way, wanting to nurse some more but she snaps at them, and they back off.
It’s a perfect evening, temps in the 50’s, sun behind my back, watching wolves and puppies with good friends. So, we are a bit perturbed when, yet another bison herd arrives, heading straight for the den. This time, however, the pups make it inside the den in plenty of time.
I ask Laurie why she thinks New Mom is bringing her pups here. She theorizes that maybe sharing a den with the alpha female is not so pleasant. Perhaps she feels more comfortable with 907? Or maybe she thinks this south den is getting more food from the pack than the north den?
We’ve seen evidence that both dens are being well-attended, but I do think there have been generally MORE pack members hanging out on the south side than the north.
Laurie & I both feel the alpha female is “not herself” this year. The bison kick/toss may still be bothering her or maybe she is bothered by the fact that there is another den a mile away from hers? We’ll never know, of course. This is New Mom’s first litter, so perhaps she is not quite sure what to do?
Laurie thinks she’s a good mom, though. She says New Mom likely followed the pup inside the south den to make sure the pup gets acclimated and that the other pups accept it.
We agree that it’s a fascinating development, no matter how it plays out.
Around 8:15 we pack up and head back east. We learn later, that about 5 minutes after we left, a Junction hunting party headed out from the south den, traveling uphill to the west.
Today I saw: 5 grizzlies, a blue bird, bison (and calves), sandhill cranes, a deer, a golden eagle,
elk, 2 foxes, pronghorn, 30 Junction wolves including AF, AM, 907F, 1276F, 1339M, 1341F, New Mom,
2 gray yearlings, 2 black yearlings and 19 pups (9 at the north den and 10 at the south den)
and the spirits of Allison and Richard