DAY ONE - Wednesday, December 21

A GOOD OMEN

Itís 8:30AM and a cool 28 degrees as I leave Bozeman, heading east. Itís clear and gorgeous; weíve had a good bit of snow since I got here earlier in December. Iím driving the same kind of car I was issued in October, a Jeep Cherokee. But this one has neither heated seats nor a heated steering wheel. I suppose Iíll survive without them.

I take Trail Creek since itís so pretty, but turn at Divide, because I plan to visit Jackie & Phil. On the way down to 89 there are some really high drifts, but I just plow through them easily.

My Paradise Valley friends have just gotten back from Mexico. Itís the first time Iíve seen them since the election and we are all depressed about it. But we agree to remain vigilant.

Itís now after 11AM and Iím heading south. There is a lot of snow on the mountains. Just past the rest area I see a whole lot of horses. Nice! And I see several mulies but they stay far from the road.

I reach the Park around noon. Itís 18 degrees here. Tonya is working the front gate. Itís great to see her. The Gardiner River is running low & fast. Itís a stunningly gorgeous, bright, clear day.

At Petrified Tree I see Kirsty & Alan, so I stop to chat a bit with them in the big skierís lot. They tell me they are on their way out but that I should go to Slough and look for the Prospect splinter group near the Marge Simpson tree.

So I thank them and go on to Slough. I pack up and head out the snow covered campground road. I get about half way to Bobís Knob and set up here because I can see the oddly-shaped tree from here. I meet a couple from Hamilton, MT, who are out walking their dog. They ask what Iím looking for and when I tell them wolves, the lady leaves the dog with her husband so she can go back to get her scope. She comes back and joins me and sure enough, she finds them!

They are bedded on a windblown hilltop to the left of the tree. I had seen those lumps as I was scanning but Iíd decided they were rocks! As it turns out, a couple of these rocks have ears and noses!

I see two grays and two blacks. There may be more individuals but they have not moved so I canít count them!

One of the blacks gets up and disappears over the top of the hill. A gray gets up and re-beds several times. We both see birds flitting about so I suppose there could be a carcass nearby.

I call over my radio in case there is anyone nearby. I receive a response saying Lamar Canyon wolves are visible in Soda Butte valley.

Well, thatís good news! I tell the couple thatís where Iím going next and they decide to come, too.

The roads are icy in Lamar Canyon and of course a coyote decides he needs to walk along it. I slow down and finally he crosses to the river side of the road and hops over the edge.

Just east of Soda Butte I see cars pulled over so I join them. A guide named Gene is here with his clients. He says the Lamars have a new-ish carcass and shows me where to look.

I see all five of the newly-reconstituted Lamar Canyon pack. All their former Prospect males are now gone; killed one way or another. No more Twin, no Mottled, no Dark Black, no 965. These new males are thought to have come from outside the park; at least one of them, 949M, was collared in Wyoming. He is not the alpha, though. That honor goes to one called Husky Black. The third male is also black but not quite so large. He has the good sense to sport a small white mark on his chest to differentiate him from Husky. He is being called Small Dot. Lamar alpha 926F and her daughter Little T complete the group.

Their carcass is in the creek corridor, out of sight, but they are all bedded on the slopes above the creek. 949M gets up and moves uphill so he can re-bed near a different tree. They seem sacked out for the day so after a while, I thank Gene and continue east.

I stop at Round Prairie where I see 5 moose, then head on to Silver Gate.

Today I saw: bison, a coyote, elk, 5 moose, 9 wolves from two packs; 4 from the Prospect splinter group (including 2 grays and 2 blacks) and all 5 Lamars (Husky Black, 949M, Small Dot, 926F and Little T) and the spirit of Alison.




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