DAY SIX - Tuesday, May 24

"WOLF ON THE BRIDGE"

I am greeted by a bright moon and several stars to start my day. Nice!

At Round Prairie, a moose decides to cross the road in front of me. Ok then.

My first stop this morning is Crystal, where I immediately see several pups on the den mound. The two gray yearlings are playing with each other, chasing and romping.

907 is bedded and howling. I notice a gray and a black moving to the south upslope. Then I hear someone call out ďwolf on the bridge!Ē

I grab my scope and step to my left looking towards the Lamar River Bridge about 400 feet away. Itís New Mom, with yet another black pup in her mouth. But this pup is large, not one of the tiny ones.

She rapidly crosses the bridge from east to west, hops off the road into the brush and quickly heads south. I move back to my original spot and try to find her again. Everyone is excited. She soon reappears just left of the den. Everyone agrees the pup in her mouth is larger than the one she brought yesterday.

She reaches the den and deposits the pup right at the edge. The other pups surround the newcomer, very interested. Lots of sniffing.

While watching the pups interact, I miss that New Mom has already left the area and gone back to the north. About a half hour passes with me thinking New Mom is inside the den, but then suddenly a dozen people move their scopes, aiming towards the bridge.

I do too and there is New Mom once again approaching the far side of the bridge. This time she has a gray pup, another large one. But she is carrying this one upside down! Oh, that poor pup! Since so little time has passed since she brought the black one, Laurie speculates she may have had this gray stashed somewhere close by and went back to get it.

She crosses the bridge quickly and hops down into the brush on the south side, just like she did before.

Again, I reposition to try to find her. She shows up about half-way to the south den, but this time, she is met by 907 and several other adults. She stops and puts the pup down. After another minute or so 907 picks up the gray pup, right side up (thank goodness). There is no tension between 907 and New Mom, no pinning or discipline.

907 carries the gray pup the rest of the way to the den. But she bypasses the den opening and goes straight to her usual bedding spot, about 6 feet further. She puts the pup down and beds beside it.

The pup doesnít move. Uh oh. This looks bad.

907 sits with her front paws on either side of the listless pup. She licks it over and over. It is such a sweet thing to see, her gentle caring for this pup, but we are all quite concerned that it may be too late. Perhaps the upside-down journey was just too much for the poor thing.

New Mom is seen walking back and forth a bit, slightly agitated. 907 keeps up her constant licking and finally, after 10 tense minutes, the gray pup stirs. It wobbles a bit and finally gets to its feet. 907 shepherds it carefully over to the den, encouraging it inside. When it goes inside, 907 follows and so does New Mom.

Shortly after this we get another surprise! A black yearling appears on the near side of the bridge, carrying a pup in HER mouth, a small black one. The yearling is wet, as if she swam the river.

She travels straight for the den and is quickly surrounded by other adult wolves. Now she shakes off, spraying water everywhere. The tiny pup she carried is fine and goes inside the den. Unlike the mother wolves, though, the yearling does not go inside.

Wow, what a morning!

After a half hour of no more surprises. I pack up to take a look at the north den. I see one black pup emerge from the natal den, then fairly quickly go back inside. A little later, I count three pups on the porch; 2 small ones and one large (all black). I notice a black adult (uncollared) at the bottom of the slope below the den, which Iím pretty sure is the alpha female.

Now only one black pup remains on the porch. I wonder what those pups are thinking? Hmm, where did everybody go? There sure is a lot more room in here! I wonder if they prefer to stay or if they want to be the next one to be carried off?

Someone radios that an adult black has just crossed Slough Creek and is heading north towards the natal den. I assume this is New Mom on her way back. She is on a MISSION!

We totally miss her arrival anywhere in the flats or along the lion meadow route. I find her only when she is already below the Western Trees. She goes straight to the natal den. Two pups come out, joining the one already there. She stands with them a while, panting, then they all go inside.

After about 10 minutes, she comes out, with her chosen pup in her mouth another small one.

New Mom carries the pup down through the bracken but when she reaches the bottom, 1341F races out of the den and down the slope after her. The alpha female is also at the bottom of the bracken slope. It appears to me that these two females do NOT want New Mom to take any more pups.

After a few minutes, 1341 is seen carrying that small pup back to the natal den and inside. New Mom emerges from behind 890ís tree and beds flat out. She seems tired.

Another black pup that must have been at the bottom of the hill with the alpha female starts to climb the slope back to the den.

Wow. What wolf drama!

It looks like New Momís plan has been thwarted for the moment. I still wonder why she is so intent on moving pups at all? Maybe sheís trying to get away from 1341?

I go back to the south den where all is quiet at the moment. There are no pups in view, just bedded adults.

Jeremy stops by at Crystal to let me know I am invited to join a YF group he is leading on an old-carcass visit later today. I had made a request a few days ago so I am delighted to be able to do it.

The only trouble is, I am wearing running shoes; I didnít bring my hiking boots today. Chloe overhears me and offers to loan me her own hiking boots, literally giving me the shoes off her feet! I promise her I will avoid stepping in any poop.

The day has warmed up to 56 degrees, making it feel like summer.

At 1:30 I drive to the YF meeting spot. Jeremy and Taylor are both doing the presentation. The hike is easy and quite short, not far from the road but just hidden enough. Itís a bison carcass, still stinky, about a month old. The evidence in the area is ambiguous as to whether the Junctions killed it or if the bison died a natural death and the wolves found and scavenged on it.

Jeremy and Taylor point to evidence that it was a cow bison, and not too old. Her teeth are in good shape, but her marrow is not. Many people ask questions and I really enjoy this experience.

After this I drive back to Silver Gate for a break and dinner. Then we all head back to Crystal in hopes of more wolf action.

On the way, I see a moose near the SB picnic area and a black bear at Thunderer. We pass through three separate bison jams!

There are people on Hubbard Hill looking south. There are bison out there, but I have a hunch they are seeing something else. But I donít stop to ask.

I get to Crystal and find a stiff wind has arrived. I see 907F, 1276F and the 2 gray yearlings. I count 7 pups but others see more.

Becky & Chloe arrive so I return Chloeís boots, with many thanks. After a while I head to the north den to see if New Mom is planning any more pup deliveries.

Very few people are here at the traditional den. After the excitement this morning, most people are concentrating on the south!

Peter, the Swiss photographer is here, and he fills me in. We see a total of four pups at the north den; two big and 2 little. With Peterís help I find two black adult wolves in the area which turn out to be the alpha pair.

We watch them travel west, past the Parrot Rock. Maybe itís my imagination, but the alpha female still seems low energy. There is another uncollared black bedded near the den porch Ė one of the yearlings.

After a while, the alpha female turns around and goes back to the natal den while the male continues west. I lose him near the small diagonal forest.

The alpha female goes inside the den and the yearling follows. With no wolves in sight for a while, I decide to go back to Crystal.

Laurie & Dan have just arrived. They stopped at Hubbard and talked to the people looking south. They were watching wolves, as I suspected. They had three blacks and a gray who just caught and killed a bison calf. And one of the blacks was New Mom!

When we finally leave Crystal, we find Lamar Valley nearly empty of people. Strange, but I like it!

The moose is still hanging out near Soda Butte picnic and a tiny chipmunk dashes across the road.

Today I saw: a black bear, bison and calves, a chipmunk, sandhill cranes, elk, pronghorn, 2 moose, 22 wolves (including Alpha Female, Alpha Male, 907F 1276F, 1341F, New Mom, 2 gray yearlings, 2 black yearlings, 12 pups (9/3) and the spirits of Allison and Richard

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