DAY NINE – Saturday, June 21
Today is my last full day.
I’m up early and out at 4:37. It’s 46 warm degrees. The moon is very bright and the birds are chirping like crazy.
I see my usual few mule deer on the way in and have bison in the road at Round Prairie.
I reach Footbridge when it’s still dark but I can see elk in the flats to the south. Lamar signals seem to be all around. Hmmm
Well, off the Trash Can. One wolf is visible on the carcass, the un-collared gray yearling. He has the leftovers to himself and seems to enjoy it. While we watch him from Trash Can hill someone spots a moose in Chalcedony Creek. It’s a big bull. The yearling finds more to eat than I expected, including chewing on the hide & some bones. He made it interesting to watch him. He looked to the east with great interest for a while.
Someone else finds a matched pair of grizzlies, probably siblings, perhaps the very same two that I watched among the yellow flowers two days ago.
There is a rumor going around that I do not believe, that 755 is dead. Laurie does not believe it either. I know who started the rumor and find it based on no evidence; only on an irresponsible, emotional need. I try to convince worried wolf watchers that they must consider the source. (And of course he was alive, just headed south destined to meet his eventual Canyon mate)
I head west. There is a big bison jam with many nursing babies just east of this Institute that even Rick and Jeremy cannot find a way around.
While I am waiting for the jam to clear I enjoy hearing a meadowlark singing.
In Little America I see a coyote passing Boulder hill.
We go out to “the spot” but spend a long time wolfless. Finally Jeremy finds 763 and one black pup. Hooray! We don’t have them long but it’s sweet to see the little one doing a little “hop on pop”. He seems quite content to have one pup behave this way. Not sure he’d stay so sweet with all three.
Laurie heads west and I head back east to attend the memorial for Brian Connolly. Luckily I avoid further bison jams so I get back to the Elkhorn in time to change clothes.
Marlene has arranged a very nice tribute for Brian, whom we lost to cancer last year. Several people read, all are heartfelt and moving. Best of all is a film Bob Landis prepared. He had the foresight to interview Brian and quite beautifully edited Brian’s comments about his children’s book “Alphie” over some of Bob’s nicest wolf footage.
I headed back to the Elkhorn for my nap and then out to Lamar around 6:30. Every time enter the Soda Butte Valley in evening light I have the same feeling. It’s so gorgeous and magical. I always struggle for a way to describe it and have not yet found the words. Something about the quality of the light on the sage, combined with the wonderful fragrance just thrills me time and time again.
The shadows are long. There is a bit of haze over everything and the sky to the east is darkening. The trees are suffused with golden light. To come into the valley like this is just breathtaking.
I find Jeremy at the Footbridge walking in the flats looking for wolf sign. I tell him I’m headed to Dorothy’s for my last night.
He joins me after a while. We find a cinnamon black bear and a grizzly and four sandhills fly overhead. Then we head to Slough to try to find the Junctions. We find bison, pronghorn, ducks and lots of skeeters instead.
We head back to Dorothy’s and fairly soon thereafter are surrounded by the same big herd of bison we were stuck in earlier today. Mooing and grunting all around us, calves nursing, bison rubbing their shedding fur on the big logs at either end of the pullout.
Then a man in a camper slows down to tell us he saw three wolves digging a coyote den “down past the horse corral”. Hmm, we head east and Jeremy recommends we try Geriatric hill. We set up, and two curious visitors without any glass join us.
I am just about to call it quits when Jeremy finds them. They are out in the eastern rendezvous, in high sage, right about where we last saw the panicked coyote family two days ago.
We see the Black Female and 911M. They are digging but the coyotes we see nearby are calm, not hopping like they were the other day. So perhaps this is a decoy den and they know their surviving pups are safe.
Finally at 9:17PM, the Black Female moves out of the tall sage into grass and then we see the yearling is with them, too.
So, yay, a good end to my last day.
I get back to Cooke at 10:10, happy to crash. It looks like it rained hard up here.
Today I saw: a black bear, 3 grizzlies, bison, 3 coyotes, mule deer, ducks, elk, a meadowlark, a moose, pronghorn, sandhills, 5 wolves (911M, The Black Female and the un-collared yearling (AM and PM), and two Prospect Peak wolves (763 and the black pup) and the spirit of Allison.