DAY SEVEN - Monday, June 29


WAPITI WOLVES

Being in Yellowstone is always a good thing, but I have to say that this trip has been severely lacking in wolf sightings. Especially in a spring where there is an active den site, and especially one with yearlings. In the past, even when there were only four individuals (Big Gray, Middle Gray, 926 and a black yearling) we tended to see them coming and going a lot more frequently than we are seeing the current Lamar Pack.

The individuals in this pack, especially the four big males from Prospect (Twin, Mottled, Dark Black and 965) are just not as comfortable with the road as other wolves have been. 926F doesnít mind it, but she seems to be sticking with her males. Same with her two black yearling Big T and Little T. One of them is usually the babysitter when the others go out hunting, but even when they are at home, they tend to stay hidden in the trees with the road-shy males.

So even though the pack has been in residence and has puppies up there that they are regularly feeding, they are not behaving like Lamar Valley wolf packs before them. They do cross the road, of course, but tend to do it at night.

In addition, in years past, we have been treated to fairly reliable sightings of the Prospect Pack in their Blacktail rendezvous area visible from the S Curves or the Childrenís Fire Trail lots. This year, that has not occurred. So, with these two usually reliable areas falling short, the urge is strong to head to Hayden Valley. That has actually been the most reliable area to see wolves this summer. And itís especially fun since 755 is one of them. Seeing him as a proud papa again is especially rewarding, knowing his history and trauma.

So, my day starts at 5AM and itís a warm 50 degrees.

There are no Lamar signals (again!) so we head south. I see mule deer at Yellowstone River Bridge and a few more around the Tower store.

I am treated to a gorgeous sunrise, visible the whole way across Dunraven.

At 6:20 Iím in Hayden, stuck in bison jam. No matter, because itís foggy anyway. From the radio chatter, I learn that Dorothy, Chloe & Becky are in cars just ahead of me.

I park just south of Grizzly Overlook and pack up for the trudge up the hill opposite the pullout. The fog lingers but we scope anyway. Around 7AM it starts to lift. Rick arrives and immediately finds 755 coming in towards the point from the west. We had all been looking to the east.

He travels fast and disappears quickly into the trees of the Point. Chloe picks him up briefly at the small cut bank. Then heís gone again. We have a hilarious conversation about various named points in the landscape, clearing up some confusion and weighing in on our favorite (and least favorite) names for certain things: Lollypop tree, Balloon tree, cut bank, sand bank, etc.

After about a half hour of seeing nothing, Jeremy shows up and immediately finds the white alpha female at the point. Everybody gets a quick look but then she disappears. Another hour passes and this time Iím the one who sees her first. Same place Ė right at the point.

We have been seeing a lone mule deer by the sandboxes, then another one (or perhaps the same one) by the cut bank. Then the deer pops out again near the point. The alpha female has already disappeared from the point but then suddenly she bursts out of the trees running at the deer. The deer bolts to the west and the chase is on. ItĎs a really cool chase. The alpha female is a very fast wolf. But the deer is fast, too Ė she leaps very high and her tail is bobbing.

We have to move our scopes in order to follow the chase. The deer turns and heads back to the south, splashing through a braid of the creek. She heads uphill into the forest. The alpha female gives up then starts after the deer again. We wonder if 755 might be in the forest, and has the female driven the deer right to him? We know 755 loves deer meat.

The alpha female stops, panting in the meadow just below the trail marker. Then I see a elk cow appear in my westernmost scope view. Itís possible that when the alpha female first burst out of the trees that she was aiming for the elk but got sidetracked when the deer bolted.

After this, the alpha female disappears back into the trees and that seems to be it for the day. Around 10:15 I pack up and drive a bit to the south where I see a grizzly. Then I head back to the Overlook where I set up with Chloe & Becky. We see pelicans, a pair of sandhills with colts, and four swans.

Around 11 I decide to head back east. I stop at Alum Creek to watch a bull bison swim the Yellowstone River. I always love to see a big animal swim a river, no matter how shallow or deep. I especially love the moment the bull reaches the far shore and gets out with water cascading off his fur.

I check the car gauge and find out itís the warmest day yet. 90 degrees at 12:30. Whew! Thatís hot! Still, there are beautiful wildflowers to enjoy on the drive over Dunraven.

I take my nap in Silver Gate and then Laurie and I head out again together for the evening. Itís really fun to have her with me in the car, but it sure would be better if weíd see some wolves!

We find Bill Wengler at Footbridge and agree to stay in touch in case either of us sees anything. Again we drive to Dorothyís and get eaten alive by the flies. I wonder if I could stand it if I had wolves in view? But I donít get to test that theory.

The heat and the bugs ruin our resolve and we give up earlier than usual. We pass Footbridge around 8:30. And wouldnít you know it, 15 minutes after we left there, the Lamars howled and then cross the road for all to see! Oh well.

TODAY I SAW: 1 grizzly, bison, sandhill cranes (including 2 colts), mule deer, elk, pelicans, 4 swans, 2 wolves (Wapiti alpha female and 755) and the spirit of Allison.




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