DAY TEN - Friday, December 30


FULL CIRCLE

Warmer temps are very welcome today. Itís 22 at 6:40AM.

I get out ahead of Rick somehow so I decide to wait for him at Moose Meadow. Kara is ahead of me and radios with great excitement that she just saw a wolverine on the road at SB Picnic.

Being that she and her husband are both involved with the Michigan team (the Wolverines!) she drives back to Laurieís house so she can call him.

I stop at Round Prairie and find a moose to watch. Rick pulls in to say the Lamar signals are in the same spot as last night. We think it probably means they have a carcass in the area which makes us both happy. (Two days after I got back to Bozeman, the Lamar wolves were seen together, happy and healthy. Little T was with them, flirting with Small Dot.)

Again I stop at Footbridge but still nothing on the bison. I think it will take a week of warm days for that thing to thaw out. Once it does, boy will it be ripe!

I stop at Coyote and scope here all by myself. Rick says 969F of the Junctions could be in the area. I scope south and north in very good light but find only two coyotes Ė and they are on the Institute carcass.

But there is a world of beauty, too, this morning.

Then I hear a series of radio calls from Slough, so I head there. Rick is ahead of me and can see an Institute class up on Daveís Hill looking intently at something.

I park and pack up, intending to climb Daveís Hill but Rick learns that they are watching wolves in the flats, so I start to hike out the campground road. I share the info with a second Institute class. They are happy to be spared the climb, too!

We all gather on Bobís Knob where I am delighted to find it is NOT windy at all. But more to the point, there are wolves to watch! Itís the ubiquitous Prospects, at least 7 of them. I count four gray three black.

Boy, the Prospects have truly come through for me this trip!

When I first find them they are bedded near some willows on Slough Flats. But a bull bison comes along and displaces them, moving them west.

A few wolves begin to chase a small group of bison cows and calves (payback, I guess, for the bullís bullying). There is no serious threat but itís still cool to see. Another gray heads uphill, aiming for another small group of cows and calves. He doesnít chase them but just stands there taunting them, trying to worry them. The bisonís tails go up but they stand their ground.

The gray comes back down to join the rest of the pack. I am now up to 8, with this gray making the fifth.

The group begins trotting west and slightly south. They will soon go out of sight from here but might become visible from the Aspen lot.

But instead, the wolves show up again near the Round tree. They mill about, sniffing all over, then move back north towards the Marge Simpson tree.

They bed down in this area, choosing spots on one of two low slopes there. In fact, it occurs to me that they are bedded on the very same slope where I saw them on the first day of this trip.

As the activity slows, I scope around the whole area, one of my favorites. In addition to all its beauty, this spot tends to hold many old carcasses which wolves love to revisit and scavenge. Itís always been a popular spot for wolf activity.

Around 9:30 I figure itís time for me to make my merry way back to Bozeman. I offer a bottle of wine to Kirsty & Alan to make up for my never delivering it to their Christmas party.

I say my goodbyes here at Slough, and then stop at Crystal when I see Kara, Dora and Rhonda. I say more goodbyes and then Chloe & Becky pull in. We jabber and chat and laugh and again I start on my way.

But then Rick calls to say he has Junctions bedded to the north of Lamar valley. I remember him saying that he thought 969 was around. Looks like he was right. I am tempted to go back because I have not seen the Junctions this whole trip. So I turn my car around and head east in pursuit of having a two-pack day.

I join the group of happy wolf watchers at Mid-Point. I park next to Linda & Larry and take a peek through Lindaís scope. I see two gray bedded lumps but they count as wolves! Rick says he thinks the full pack is up there but the rest have bedded out of view.

Now Kara arrives so I pull out so she can have my spot. I thank Linda and wave goodbye to the rest. So long everybody! See you in the spring!

Iím about 20 minutes out of the Park when it starts snowing hard. It gets thicker and thicker as I go so I decide to take Trail Creek and avoid the pass. Itís fine until I make the fork at Divide. The road has become full of heavy, fresh snow, accumulating fast.

I see a pickup coming towards me, the advance for a wide load. I pull over to let them pass and get myself stuck in a drift. But I realize it in time and I wave them down before they get too far. The truck stops and two of the men come back and help me get out.

It takes a while for me to realize I accidentally engaged the parking break, but once that is released, my car moves just fine. The men go on their way and I am left to deal with the rest of my journey on my own.

Visibility is quite bad and I seem to have lost my usual nerve. I am careful to stay in the existing tracks in the road, but when I meet an oncoming car and have to move over, itís a little scary. Luckily, there is very little traffic so this only happens three times.

When I reach 90, though, itís worse than Iíd hoped. I enter the highway and drive at 40 mph with my hazards on. Itís slushy and sloppy and awful, and boy am I happy when I get to the Seventh Ave exit.

Despite the rough road I am happy to be back in Bozeman, after another great wolf watching trip to Yellowstone.

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, moose, 10 wolves from two packs (8 Prospect Peak wolves and 2 Junction Butte wolves Ė including 969F) and the spirit of Allison.




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