I am out in the dark at 6:10 this morning, only to find 2 inches of icy snow on the car. But once I get the heater going it comes off just fine. And driving is no problem.
By the time I reach the Soda Cone it has stopped snowing. The overnight dusting makes the valley very pretty. As I pass the YES pullout I spot a coyote in the little meadow there. I stop to glass it with binocs. The coyote turns to watch me a moment, then continues on his way.
As I pass Fishermanís a car ahead of me stops in the road, flashers on. Two people get out of their car and search the ground, looking for tracks in the snow. I pull over and walk up, asking quietly what happened. They said a black wolf just crossed the road ahead of them. The woman points and sure enough, I see fresh tracks.
We walk to the opposite side and see the wolfís tracks on this side, too. He/she is heading towards Secret Passage. I ask if they thought it had a collar and they say yes.
The couple is very excited to have seen a wolf and I congratulate them.
I drive on and find Rick stopped at Slough. I pull over to join him. I tell him about the sighting east of the Canyon and he tells me he has good signals for the Junction Buttes on the south side of the road and that we should be looking between Crystal and Longs. I meet two wolf project people, Blake and Lizzy. I set up my scope near them and a black wolf stands up, right in my scope! Itís always so nice to be the one who finds the wolves for the group and today itís me!
Rick and Lizzy look but donít find it, but then Rick finds a grey nearby. Soon we have six wolves in that area; two blacks, four grays (890, 970, 907, 911 and two more grays). We move a bit west to have a closer view.
There is a third black in this pack with a collar that does not work and I suspect that is the wolf that was seen crossing the road east of the Canyon. We never do see this wolf this morning, though.
After a while 890 gets up sharply and runs uphill. The rest of them get up and look to the east as if they see something that troubles them, then move uphill, disappearing into the trees. I move to Longs where Sian has found them again, up higher, but by the time I get there they have disappeared, heading towards the cut.
Soon afterwards, someone sees a single black up at the cut. I wait but never see the others. They have given us the slip somehow.
A bunch of us head west to Elk Creek to see if we can find them up on Specimen Ridge. I have mule deer cross the road just before Yellowstone Picnic Ė two fawns with one adult. Then there is a group of bighorn ewes and calves in the little meadow to the north.
A lot more snow has fallen on the Blacktail than in Little America (as usual). The trees are all flocked nicely. We donít find anything from Elk Creek so we go on. Next stop is the Nature Trail to look for Prospects.
Rick is here. The Prospect collars were seen from here earlier but are now out of sight. We try from S curves, but still no luck.
I head further west and stop at Wraith, where there is howling to the west, in the area of the new growth forest. We all suspect it is the Lamar pups. Only one of the pups is collared but Rick does get his signal. But we donít see them.
There is a lot of forest in this area, making scoping very tough. But I do find a mule deer, whose head is turned towards the howling. It stands stock still for a while. The next time I look, the deer is gone.
I follow some of the others back to Hellroaring to scope for Mollies Ė some of their signals were detected here earlier. Hmmm. Nope. The day is partly cloudy with a good deal of sun. Itís windy at times but still nice enough for me.
I see a big bull elk at Floating Island Lake.
I end up heading back to Lamar. I meet up with Larry & Linda at Coyote Overlook. While I was journeying west, they saw a chase by 926 and Twin of a herd of elk across the north side hills. They were driving west from the Institute when they spotted the running animals. The chase lasted all the way to the shale slope, behind which they lost them. The wolves got close but no contact was made. We try various locations to try to find them or at least birds but no luck. The wind has picked up and makes scoping difficult.
The weather gets colder and every time I step out to scope the wind blasts my face, so I wimp out and head in to Silver Gate. The wind howls the whole time! I have a pleasant evening with Laurie & Dan, then Kai & Lisa come in. They are doing a moose study. They snow-shoe or ski away from the road, following moose tracks and gathering scat and moose fur. They preserve it in plastic bags for the DNA.
Today I saw: bison, a coyote, mule deer, elk, bighorn sheep, 6 Junction Butte wolves (911M, 970F, 890M and 907F) and the spirit of Allison.