This morning before we leave, Laurie tells me she got a late night report from someone who saw photos of 755 at Lake, so he really did some traveling yesterday. However, this news makes it less likely we will see him today.
But we go south anyway. The drive over Dunraven is easy and so gorgeous in the early morning. Some elk cross the road at Antelope. Nice! But then as I pass the Mt. Washburn lot, I can see the usual thick shroud of fog hugging the valley. It is quite typical for Hayden Valley to be fogged in early in the morning. When we arrive at river level, it is thick and soupy. We pull in at Grizzly Overlook but find visibility near zero. A decent trade off, though, for a place to park!
A fox has been hanging around this lot; it probably has a den somewhere below the pullout. We see mama fox this morning, carrying a vole in her mouth. She is very pretty in her slim and trim summer coat. She is watched carefully by a hawk perched in a tree, perhaps wishing that it had caught that vole. We have to content ourselves with these close critters until around 8AM when the fog finally lifts.
As it starts to dissipate, we train our scopes on the area where we found the Wapitis yesterday. Eagle-eyed Laurie is the first to find them; she sees a gray right at the forest edge. Itís one of the pups. This is the only wolf we see for about an hour, as it pops in and out of the forest into the sage. Itís mousing.
Then a black pup appears in the same area. I see it for a split second, then another, dashing between tree trunks, poking its head out then going back inside. We speculate that all four pups are just inside the forest, playing up a storm, and we only seeing them when they get close to the edge.
Someone spots two deer and a fawn by the point of trees but they disappear quickly. And we watch several cranes in the area that have colts with them!
I am wolfless for about 15 minutes, then a gray re-appears. Wait a minute! Thatís not a pup! Itís 755!
He is gone in an instant and some people who didnít see him doubt those of us who did. How could 755 be there with his pups when he was at Lake last night? Well, for one thing, that kind of distance is nothing to a motivated wolf. But then he comes out again and moves to the south in the open. The doubters are appeased. It is he!
We let Rick know but he is at Alum and cannot find 755 from there. So Rick returns to the Overlook and climbs the hill, then moves higher to the south.
While he is getting in place we watch 755. Another gray pup has come out and begins mousing on its own for a good while, moving steadily south (closer to us!) towards the point of trees.
755 beds down in the sage for a while and is very hard to see at the moment. We wonder if the pup is aware of him. But soon the situation changes as suddenly all the rest of the pups emerge from the forest and begin playing together in the sage. 755 gets up and approaches them. They greet him happily and then he starts playing with them! Oh, it is so sweet. They romp and chase and play bow.
The solo gray pup is still mousing separately from the group but he now turns around and begins scent trailing himself back home. 755 beds again on a slight hill. Just below him is one of the pups, sniffing something on the ground there. 755ís interest seems to be piqued, so he rises and comes down to greet the sniffing pup. Both their tails are wagging and I almost cry. They continue sniffing whatever is on the ground and then they both lay down to roll in it! Hah! 755ís legs are in the air. This activity draws the other two pups and they come bounding over to join the fun. While 755 is on the ground the three pups jump and roll on him like Hop On Pop!
Finally the solitary exploring gray pup arrives back with the group. When he gets close, he seems to realize Dad is there, so he breaks into a bouncy run and we witness yet another warm greeting between 755 and this pup. More nuzzling, more play.
Now they all bed a while, peacefully and happily. Itís so sweet to see 755 behaving as the good father he is. Then one by one they move back into the trees and disappear.
Laurie finds a message on her phone that someone to the south just reported wolves chasing elk: two blacks and one white. This is likely the alpha female and at least two of the Mollie males. So I suppose this explains why 755 is with his pups Ė he knows the males are not at home!
I decide to head south to see if I can find the alpha female and the Mollies and accidentally get myself stuck in another bison jam. I donít find the Wapitis but I do see some wary elk. But by the time I get back to the Overlook, I learn that 755 has left the area.
I continue to Alum, and once Iím set up here, I see quite a few elk wading in the river where the wolves crossed yesterday. The report is that 755 swam the river and crossed the road and hurried up the sparsely forested slope north of the Mary Mountain trail. He looked back once, then disappeared.
Laurie and Rick think this is a clear sign that the other wolves are headed back. 755 apparently sensed it and knew it was time to get outta Dodge.
Itís grown hot and time for us to leave, too.
We head back over the pass. I decide to stop at Slough while Laurie continues on to Silver Gate. I drive all the way down the campground road to the dirt pile lot. I scope around a while but donít see anything. Itís hot and buggy again.
On my way back to the road I see Bill W, so I stop to chat with him. He says the other Wapitis DID return from the south shortly after we left. He saw them sniff all the areas where 755 had been, so they know he was around.
I decide to head in. Just before the moose meadow I see two bison bulls walking down in the opposite lane. One of them has a broken front leg; making him hobble quite pitifully. But his buddy is uninjured and stays right with him, backing him up. Hmm. Something nice about that.
I see another bison at Warm Creek and this one looks awful. Heís skinny and shaggy, and his pelvic bones and ribs showing. Hmm, looks like heís found a nice place to spend his last days.
Today I saw: bison, elk, a fox, a hawk, swans and 5 Wapiti wolves (including 755 and his four pups) and the spirit of Alison.