DAY THREE - Monday, April 13


MOLLIES!

I am up and out at 6AM today. There is a sweet trail of fox tracks in front of Laurieís house. No new snow today. 30 degrees.

Nothing at all in Lamar or at Slough today. I drive all the way to Hellroaring where watchers have Mollie wolves in view. I see 10; 8 blacks and 2 grays Ė there is one more gray in this pack that I donít see.

They are on the wide-open slope of Hellroaring mountain. I see some playing and carousing by the pups. One black pup has a pelt of some animal, dragging it here and there, teasing other pups. The rest are bedded and we are looking right into the sun Ė so itís a very hard spot!

Eventually, the pack begins to head east. They mess with some bison but donít look very serious. They continue uphill and further east, heading for Junction pass. Itís a little odd to see this pack on the Northern Range in April. We might expect them in the fall or winter but they should be staying near their denning area at this time of year. We donít know if this means there is some upheaval in the Mollies or what.

There is a report of Prospect further west so when the Mollies are out of sight I head there. I do not find wolves but I see mule deer, elk and a gorgeous mountain blue bird.

On my way back to Hellroaring I have to navigate a bison jam, only to find out Lizzie has found the Mollies from Elk Creek. I head there and arrive in time. Sian finds some running elk, and we see the wolves running below them.

This time I get a full count of 11. The sun is higher now, so itís much easier to see. We watch a long time. They mess with elk and bison but donít get anything. Eventually they continued east. Laurie thinks the alpha female wants to go home to Pelican.

We move to Ricks pullout and people climb all over the hill. I forget who found them, but we do pick them up from here. We watch them bunch some elk around some boulders, but the elk are well protected. So they move east, then turn around and head back to the elk.

Two bull bison join us on the hill, making everybody scramble.

The wolves do get some of the elk to run. They cut out a single, but she escapes, then they switch their focus to a group of three. But these elk are very healthy and the wolves donít really have a chance. The elk turn on the wolves and are not scared. When they do run, they out-distance the wolves easily. We see two of them stotting boldly.

Some of the hungrier wolves keep at it and go for the two elk that stayed near the boulders. The elk finally start to run and I think one wolf got a bite in, but no more than that. After this the wolves give up and mess with some other bison. The bison turn the tables on the wolves, bunching up with raised tails, and the bolder individuals charge individual wolves, getting very aggressive with them.

The alpha female seems like sheís had enough. She continues to lead them east towards home.

Once we lose them from this spot we move to Aspen. Doug correctly predicts their next appearance, and we see all 11 again in thick sage. They come down the slope in scattered groups. I lose them for a while, then they appear on the crest of the next slope, heading towards the river. I donít know the topography from this spot as well as some of the other regulars. The next prediction is for them to be visible in the flats of Slough Creek, so we now head to Daveís hill.

Again, the prediction proves correct. They appear in the flats just above Slough creek. I see them running downhill towards the water. Unfortunately, whatever great rally they had happened out of sight. But they re-appear south of the Round Tree. They mill around this area and I get my closest viewing of this iconic pack. Some individuals bed but the alpha female is clearly restless. The alpha male is a big gray wolf. I watch the female try to recruit some of her pack to go with her. It works and soon they are headed south again. Yep. She wants to go home.

Now Rick is concerned that they might want to cross the road. Itís nearly noon and I think all the people in the whole park are here watching these Mollie wolves. But they give us the slip. We spread out but never find them, so I guess they bedded somewhere on the north side of the road.

I head east, checking various spots in Lamar hoping to find 926F but no luck. I see a coyote cross the road between Moose Meadow and Baronette.

I spend some time in Silver Gate with Laurie and decide to head out for the evening.

Around 5:30 I take a nice slow drive through Lamar, enjoying the beauty all around me. I end up stopping at Longs and scope both sides of the road, figuring the wolves will eventually head over the Cut.

Then Laurie & Dan surprise, joining me in the search for the Mollies. They also tell me some people are seeing a black bear at Lamar Bridge. So I drive down there to watch it a while. Itís a nice, healthy looking male, eating grass and grubbing under rocks.

I then rejoin Laurie & Dan, who have found a herd of elk on the north side looking quite alert Ė could they be looking at wolves? But they eventually calm down and a herd of bison comes up from below Ė so maybe the elk were just looking at the bison. Rick calls to say he is coming back from a task in Livingston and asks for an update. We tell him what we have Ė nothing! Ė and he confirms Mollie signals are still in the area.

We stay out until 7:30PM but the wolves do not appear. Instead we see geese, sandhills, crows, a big horn sheep on skyline, mule deer and pronghorn.

Now we head east, following Rick in hopes that he will find 926 along the way. No luck but it sure is a gorgeous evening. Warm and sunny with a light wind.

Today I saw: 1 black bear, bison, a mountain bluebird, coyote, sandhill cranes, crows, mule deer, elk, fox tracks, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, 11 wolves (all Mollies) and the spirit of Allison.



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