DAY TWO - Saturday, September 9


I leave extra early this morning to give myself a chance at a good parking spot. It’s a chilly 37 degrees and still dark at 5:20 AM.

There are still stars in view when I arrive at the mid-point lot. I’m able to grab one of the few good spots left. The gang’s all here so I set up with them, even though it’s still too dark for me to see.

We remain quiet, waiting for howling. The chorus begins around 6AM, along with a tiny bit of light. In addition to the group howl, I hear one voice much closer to the creek.

Rick finds that lone howler, a black, just above the bank, in the largish meadow to the right.

I can just barely see it. With a bit more light, I can see the black has gained two gray companions. One of these grays goes down the bank towards the water, heading east.

Gary, who can see in the dark better than any of us, says there is a bear at the carcass. I can’t see that but I do begin to see more and more wolves entering the big meadow. Their movement makes them a little easier to see. They play a game of chase with the pup as “it”. At least eight wolves are now carousing and jumping about, having a wonderful morning “recess”.

The light keeps growing, and I enjoy seeing this exuberant behavior. I keep revising my count as more and more wolves join in the fun. I have a feeling that a few Junctions may have just arrived from the west and were greeted by the group bedded up the hill among the trees.

The play is part rally, part fun and games.

Eventually they get down to business and move towards the carcass. The light is good now, and I confidently count eight grays and five blacks, including the pup.

I see the alpha male heading to the carcass, perhaps to object to the bear’s presence. Another black wolf, very dark, follows the alpha as back-up. Suddenly I see a grizzly moving upslope of the carcass.

Oh, but it’s not the same bear. Gary thinks this is a second bear and the one he saw is still feeding, despite the wolves being close.

Most of the wolves that were playing do not really seem interested in eating right now. Or perhaps they just don’t want to challenge the bear. Instead, they wander about the area, with some quickly disappearing back into the trees.

I focus on where the carcass is, getting maddening glimpses of movement but nothing clear enough to determine what I’m seeing.

The bear confusion is resolved when a big, brown lumbering shape appears to the left. This is Gary’s bear, now leaving the carcass. This bear is twice as big as the one I saw moving upslope.

A gray wolf follows the big bear for a while, then gives turns back.

While this is going on, a collared gray wolf appears in the flats, on our side of the creek. This wolf is traveling straight west at a good clip. We watch it continue down the valley until it disappears into some trees south of Footbridge.

The Junction wolves do not seem to be aware of this wolf, or if they are, they are not concerned about it. This leads to speculation that we are seeing 1347M, a Wyoming wolf that has been seen off and on this summer, casually courting various Junction females and sometimes being chased half-heartedly by Junction males.

I saw him way back in early July with Becky and Chloe.

Later in the day, some visitors show Rick photos they took of this wolf. He confirms it was indeed 1347M.

Around 8:30 most of the Junctions have retreated out of sight and are likely bedded down.

A largish bird flies in and perches on a stump near the carcass. It spreads its wings in the sun, holding them out for a long time. The birders among us identify this critter as a turkey vulture.

The day warms to 58 and the activity slows. Around 10AM I pack up to take a break in Silver Gate.

Around 4:30 I return to the valley, lucking out again with a spot in the main lot.

Celia and Kryzstina have been here all day. They tell me that a few more Junction wolves arrived in the area from the west around 1PM, two blacks and two grays.

Apparently, those four wolves bypassed the carcass and travelled upslope perhaps to visit the pack members already bedded up there.

I learn I also missed another grizzly, or perhaps one of the two from this morning. That bear arrived to feed around 3:30, thrilling the crowd.

The main event starts around 5PM when wolves start to re-appear. Three blacks and a gray come romping down the slope, going straight to the carcass.

One of these blacks is the pup. The gray in this group holds its tail quite high. It stays quite close to the pup, acting like her bodyguard.

As these wolves disappear in the thick brush, another gray appears, coming down the same “runway”. This gray is followed by three more, but each arrives by itself, like they are attending a Hollywood premier.

Finally, a collared black with a very gray face makes her entrance. This wolf noticeably hesitates before reaching the carcass. I tell Celia that this might be 1382F, the former alpha female who has lost her status in the pack around the time the two pups were moved to the Jasper rendezvous.

Her visible hesitation makes sense as a way to gauge how welcome she is. She wants to see if any higher ranking wolf is here, waiting to pin her.

Her collar and her coat color (black going gray) supports my argument. She seems to deem herself safe and continues to the carcass.

These wolves appear to feed together for a while. Then some of them reappear on the far (west) side of the “perfect tree” in the small clearing right of the Douglas fir. This area seems to be a favorite bedding spot.

From here, most of the wolves move a bit further west and then upslope, unfortunately moving all too soon out of sight.

We begin to wonder if the evening’s viewing is over, when just before 7PM, one more gray appears on the “runway”. It’s a collared wolf, and very big. Oh! It’s 907F!

We are all fans of hers so we feel blessed to have her appearance as the finale to the evening. She feeds at the carcass for about 15 minutes, then moves to the right as the others did.

She beds down for a bit, then moves further upslope. It’s just great to see the old girl again, getting an easy meal.

I leave at 7:30 after another great evening.

Today I saw: 2 grizzly bears, bison, sandhill cranes, pronghorn, a turkey vulture, 15 wolves (14 Junctions, including alpha male, 907, the pup, possibly 1382F, dark black, white stripe gray, six other grays and two other blacks; plus Hawk’s Rest wolf 1437M) and the spirits of Allison, Richard and Jeff.

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