DAY THREE - MONDAY, June 15


WOLVES AT LAST

We head towards the Park a little after 6AM.

Our first stop is at Footbridge Pullout where I see Wolf Project tech Lizzy with dozens of folk looking but not finding. She tells me she has signals of Lamar Wolves to the south but not strong. I suggest Trash Can and she says, sure.

We go there and I scope from Trash Can Hill while Elaine & Dave wait in the car and stalwart Debbie scans the rendezvous.

Alas, we see nothing. But then Bill H suggests we head to Dorothyís because he has a bear for us. On our way we stop at the Institute to watch some feisty pronghorn who are close enough for photos. David is happy. Pronghorn are just starting to have their fawns but I donít see any with this group.

When we get to Dorothyís we scope Jasper Bench a bit. Debbie notices pronghorn running. I see the ones she means but I dismiss it because pronghorn run all the time but when I take a second look I see a wolf chasing them! Itís a large collared gray (probably 911M of the Junction Butte pack). By the time Elaine & David come over, itís already out of sight. The pronghorn stop running and stare in the direction that the wolf disappeared. Itís possible the wolf caught a fawn but I didnít see any.

We keep watching in case the wolf comes back into sight but we never see him (about an hour after we left, Bill did see him which confirmed my guess that it was 911M). Bill radios again that we should come to Coyote Overlook.

We stop there and look to the north. Itís a grizzly mom plus two coy (cubs of the year). Itís kind of a hard spot because youíre looking into the rising sun, but everyone gets a look. Bill finds another bear Ė this time a sow with one cub Ė to the south in ďThe BellĒ. Ranger Bill Wengler is here so I introduce my family to both Bills.

We have heard there is a grizzly on a carcass visible at Blacktail Ponds, so we head that way, but before we get there we have a double black bear sighting at Lower Hellroaring. I see one to the south and Debbie sees another crossing the road from north.

We stop to watch these bears, possibly siblings, possibly a courting pair. We are now up to 14 black bears!

When we get to the Black tail Ponds area, I can see how jammed everything is and I donít expect to find a parking space. Rangers are monitoring the situation. The bear is to the north, on the shore of the easternmost pond and I donít want them to miss the sighting while I look for a spot. So I drop off my group so they can climb a low hill that offers the best view, and then I just drive back and forth between Wraith and the Skierís bathroom.

At one point when the road is blocked, I take a peek and see the bear myself, or at least its back, feeding at the edge of the easternmost pond. This is our 5th grizzly!

Once we are all inside the car again we head back east. At Phantom Lake we find ourselves stuck in another jam with another Ranger. I have heard about an active coyote den in this area, but itís for another black bear! Another sow with two very small coy. This one is on the steep slope above the road on the north side. Debbie and I are almost positive this is not the same sow with two we saw on our first day. These cubs are much smaller than the ones we saw in the tall gray tree.

This is not our best sighting because a Law Enforcement Ranger (not a Bear Ranger) is pretty adamant about shooing people away. But we are now up to 17 black bears!

By this time we are all quite hungry so we stop at Tower Junction for Roosevelt Breakfast!

Heading east again we near Junction Butte. On one side we see mule deer and pronghorn on the other. We stop again in Little America and settle in to watch bison and their calves.

Next I drive down the bumpy, dusty Slough Creek Campground road to the first pullout in hopes of seeing a beaver or a moose. Instead we see yellow-headed blackbirds and many ducks.

People here tells us they saw wolves, a black and a gray, cross the road about an hour ago further west. Shoot! How did we miss that? An hour ago we were watching bison. Oh well. We head back to Long Pullout and I show Debbie ďthe cutĒ. We watch that area and I scope all over where I have seen wolves before, but we donít find them.

I learn later that it was two Junction Butte wolves, called in by Carl but not over the regular radio. Oh well.

We head further east. Debbie wants to see dippers. I am not sure where to try because I tend to see them in winter, not spring. (I find out later I should have tried Pebble Creek).

We drive further east and scope for goats at Baronette. We do not find goats but we DO see a single bighorn ram up pretty high. And some nice melt-water waterfalls.

We are back in Cooke City around 1:30, in time for another nap.

Debbie and I wander around Cooke City, visiting the General Store (first time for me!) and scoping out what our choices are for a late lunch. Debbie continues to explore while I head inside for a nap.

We meet up again at 4PM. We decide we liked the Beartooth Cafť so much we might as well try it again. David orders a steamed artichoke with melted butter that we all share.

The day has clouded up a bit and it looks like we are in for rain. We head back to the Park around 6PM, seeing numerous mule deer on our way.

We stop at Round Prairie in hopes of seeing moose. When I donít find them, I train my scope on The Thunderer, looking for goats. David looks through his camera and finds some immediately. Yay!

We see a total of ten, including three kids and one big billy. As we watch them the weather deteriorate. We get sprinkled on but my group is now so into Yellowstone that they just grab raincoats and keep watching.

I drive further west, calling for ďany unitĒ but getting no response. Hmmm. As we approach the Eastern Curve, we see several cars pulled over including one with a safari deck. A girl is sitting up there with a camera. I ask if they have anything in sight. She says yes, wolves!

Next to her is a guy with a big camera who says he has animals in sight. I beg him to let Elaine and David look. He agrees, but the wolves go out of sight almost immediately.

The girl on the safari deck says some are up on the hill to the north and two crossed to the south about a half hour ago. Shoot! We missed them again! We look north towards the Lamar Canyon den area. David and I each see a black wolf, but not the same one. He gets a photo of his and I recognize the thin-tailed female yearling. The one I saw had a normal tail but I donít know which one it was. We hear faint howling.

Then it gets very windy and the rain comes pelting down. Uh oh.

We canít see anything in this rain, so I continue driving west, hoping the downpour will blow past us. It looks like clearer skies to the west. We stop at Dorothyís Knoll and I scope a bit, but the rain does not let up.

We drive further and it starts hailing! I try to make light of it by telling everybody how normal this is for summer in Yellowstone. When we get to Slough Creek we look back to see a rainbow, which becomes a double. Elaine explains that actually ALL rainbows are doubles, mirror images of each other, but not all are bright enough to see.

I head back to Dorothyís Knoll, but the rain is not cooperating so we call it a day and head back to Cooke City.

Today I saw: 5 black bears (including two cubs), 6 grizzly bears (including 3 cubs), bison, mule deer, ducks, elk, pronghorn, 4 wolves (2 Junctions and 2 Lamars), a double rainbow and the spirit of Allison




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