DAY EIGHT - Wednesday, December 28

THE BLACK YEARLING

At 7AM my car registers 14 degrees and I've found another inches of snow overnight, with ice underneath.

I head straight to the Institute this morning and wolves are already in view when I set up by the barn.

The alpha male of the Prospects, 966M, is on the carcass. He feeds a while, giving everyone a good look at him. When heís had enough, he travels across the snowy flats to the west, then angles north, aiming to cross the road.

Despite the late-arriving cars, he makes it across and we pick him up again on the hill you can see above the roof of the main building. Then I notice another black on the hill above him, sitting on his haunches, watching. I pan right and see two, three more wolves up there.

My thought is these wolves may have fed overnight and are now thinking about a second feeding, but discouraged by the presence of all of us.

Well, except the black on his haunches. He is a yearling and less cautious than the others. Rick feels the whole pack is here. We see a collared gray bedded at skyline. She is 821F the alpha female. Next to her is a second gray, another female and perhaps her favorite daughter.

I see a total of 8 this morning; 3 blacks and 5 grays. Iím still missing two, or maybe three for the whole pack.

I recognize a pick-up truck that just parked along the driveway. Itís Story and her dad, Dave. They come up and we have a nice chat. I catch them up on the wolf action. Story has decided to go to Missoula for school next year, pursuing her interest in wolf biology.

Eventually the wolves on the hill get up and begin slowly moving west. All except the black yearling. He is still looking down at the carcass. You can almost hear his stomach growling.

As his family heads off, he reluctantly starts to follow, but then stops by a big boulder to consider his options. People here start to pack up and head west to Dorothyís or Coyote and I decide to do the same.

I make it to the bottom of the hill when Story calls on the radio. The black yearling has given in to his hunger. Heís left the family and has circled around behind the institute to the east. She sees him romping down the snowy hills between here and the YES lot.

I re-park in the lot south of the driveway and set up quickly. I find the yearling just as he reaches the road. He crosses to the south, then back to the north, then again to the south just east of the little creek. He leaps that creek in one athletic bound and plunges through deep snow, sending it flying, providing spectacular shots to a handful of happy photographers. He is heading straight for the carcass.

He flushes the birds away and begins tugging. For the next half hour, despite the brutal wind, I watch this black yearling grab additional bites off the frozen elk. Itís a photographers dream. Bob Landis is here, very happy. The Indian photographers and Jort and several other friendly folk are all here.

The road is quickly lined with cars on both sides. Dozens and dozens of folks get to watch this wolf have a good feed. Several times he flushes the birds and once he leaps straight up in the air. I see Jort grinning from ear to ear.

I use a piece of cardboard as a windscreen which helps a bit. There does not seem to be much left on this carcass but the yearling finds what there is.

He tugs this way and that and one time he comes up with a bunch of fur in his mouth. We get a little loud and he spooks to the south a little ways.

But when we shush ourselves, he comes back and eats some more. Finally he is finished and begins to move off straight west in very deep snow. It is a beautiful sight: this young, healthy jet-black wolf walking effortlessly through pure white snow, kicking up a sunlit spray behind him.

At first I figure Iíll wait for him to cross the road before I move west but he stays out in the flats and it looks like heís going to forge his own path back to his family.

I see Steve and Robin heading west so I follow them. It takes some doing to navigate around all the cars stopped in the road, but Steve is a good and careful leader. Once we get to Dorothyís we see the wolf is still to the south, so I believe I did the right thing.

Becky & Chloe and Kara are here. They have been seeing the rest of the pack to the north off and on but they are out of sight now.

Now the yearling has turned towards the road. The cars are not very helpful but he perseveres. He makes it across just east of Dorothyís and I see him climbing up to the north. He disappears and now I have no wolves in view.

The consensus among us is that the Prospects are most likely heading towards Slough. So most of us head there. Kirsty & Alan are here already. We all set up but there are no wolves in view. We scope the secret passage and many other areas but never find the Prospects again.

They have probably bedded somewhere out of sight.

Around 1PM I head back east. I see my 2 moose again south of Soda Butte and find another one at Round Prairie where I meet up with Kara. She tells me she saw wolf tracks on the road at SB picnic and we presume it is evidence of Lamars.

She and I are a little concerned about the depth of snow in Laurieís driveway. Rick parked in the lot across the street last night because his driveway was not plowed. But when we get to Silver Gate we see Mike has just arrived. We stay out of his way and head up to Cooke to get some cinnamon rolls for tomorrowís breakfast. When we return, Laurieís driveway is clear and packed. Thanks, Mike!

Today I saw: bison, coyotes, elk, 3 moose, 8 wolves from the Prospect Pack (including 966, 821 and six others) and the spirit of Allison.




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