This morning I start the day at Footbridge, just like old times.
Although itís still dark, Jeremy has found the alpha female, 926F out in the sage south of the pullout, eating something.
Itís only me, Rick, Doug, Jeremy & Cliff so far.
At first Jeremy thought it might be a pronghorn fawn, then elk calf but finally as the light improves, more of the coat color can be seen, and the consensus is mule deer. A little later, she carries the head of the animal in her jaws and I can clearly see the face; eyes, ears, muzzle and pretty black nose.
The family with whom we watched the bears last night followed my advice and came out early. They stayed in Cooke and I had told them to look for my car. They pulled in and now they have seen their first wild wolf. I am so pleased for them!
926 caches parts of the deer in several spots and then moves east. The route she was taking made it look like she might trot right across the bridge (as numerous wolves have done over the years). But as she nears the water she changes her mind and heads south and uphill. But in reality, she tricked us and about 15 minutes later, she is suddenly east of the Soda Cone.
Then Big Gray appears coming to meet her from the east. I am expecting an affectionate greeting but they barely say hello. 926 just stops and stares at him with the deer head in her mouth. He goes straight to what is left of the carcass.
While Iím distracted watching him, 926F has crossed the river and the road and heads north to feed her babies.
The pullout is getting full as we watch Big Gray snack on ribs a while. I see him dig a hole and cache a leg. Then he proceeds west. He toys with some bison and their calves a while, then chases another deer up a slope of Dead Puppy. He doesnít get that deer and soon comes came back into the flats again, eventually heading out towards Cache.
With no more wolves to watch I head to Slough. I find nothing there so at 9:30 Iím at Boulder, checking out a report of a black wolf bedded on the south side of the road. I never find it but I wonder if it could have been the Black Female of the Junctions.
I keep hearing about a black bear in the Rainy Lake area Ė a sow with three cubs of the year so I head there. There are bighorn in the woods across from Junction Butte causing a big jam for photographers.
Sure enough, just south of Rainy Lake I find the bears. The cubs are adorable, wrestling, climbing trees. I lower the scope and lots of kids get great close ups. Parents are very grateful. .
Then my radio comes to life. It was 890M near Boulder. Heís on the north side trying to cross to the south. I head back to Little America and set up at Longs. He has made it across to the south and we find him bedded in the shade of a tree. I watch him a while and wonder why he is alone. He moves a little but mostly sleeps in long green grass. If you hadnít seen him walk up there and lay down you wouldnít know he was a wolf at all. He looks just like a shadow.
I head back to Lamar proper. Iíve noticed a proliferation of mountain dandelions this year Ė or maybe I am just happening upon them at their peak. There are bison everywhere and the combination of green grass, yellow dots and brown bison make for beautiful photos.
At the Institute I see a coyote out mousing, or perhaps hoping for an antelope fawn.
I stop at the confluence and watch a herd of bison crossing the river. They each get swept downstream a good deal, especially the calves, but the adults, do, too. But no one gets in trouble. When they reach the other side, they donít shake off but gallop up the hill rambunctiously, kicking at each other and wheeling around. It makes me laugh.
However, the big bulls at the end of the line do NOT get swept. Some of them just stand in water up to their bellies Ė are they peeing? Possibly. Hah. But it looks like they are just enjoying the cold water.
Then I head up to Lauries for lunch and a proper nap. While Iím here it starts to rain, then hail. I hear the slush sliding off the roof.
A bit later I head back in. As I reach the Trout Lake pullout I see cars stopped. I look to the south and see a big grizzly. It crosses the road and heads up north. I pull in at Soda Butte east to watch him. A car pulls in and I see itís Doug Dance! We yak a bit and catch up on each otherís adventures. I realize I neglected to report this bear to Bill.
Once the bear is out of sight, I tell Doug I want to go to Slough to check on wolves. He is headed further east but will see me later.
But as I pull into the lot I see another grizzly roaming above Crystal. I remember to tell Bill about this one. He gets here in time to see it. Then he finds a cinnamon black bear further west. While we are watching it, we see it suddenly run towards the woods looking over his shoulder. It turns out that he is running from a bigger black bear. Then the larger one goes out of sight as well.
I hear a report of a black wolf south of the road. I donít recognize the voice or the unit number but eventually realize itís Deby D. I head west and pull over at straightaway. Itís 890M again. He is on the south side, heading for the road.
Another squall has arrived and it starts to rain. I head to Boulder hoping to pick him up on the north side but never do. I do get another rainbow, though!
Itís 8:30 so I decide to head to Dorothyís for the last hour of light. Jeremy shows up. Itís always good to have him around. Instead of bear/bison drama we watch two coyotes harassing an adult pronghorn. Itís quite serious and suddenly I see them stumbled upon the pronghornís fawn. They kill it quickly and start to feed, while the poor mother runs about anxiously. One of the coyotes is either shedding or has a bad case of mange.
We begin to lose the light so I head up to Silver Gate. Last sighting of the day are the the usual mulies.
TODAY I SAW: 6 black bears (including 3 cubs), 2 grizzlies, bison, 3 coyotes, mule deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, 3 wolves (the Lamar Canyon alpha pair and 890M of the Junctions) and the spirit of Allison.