DAY TEN Ė Sunday, July 3


A BISON BEAR

Iím up a bit late today because I forgot to set my alarm!

Looks like it rained pretty hard last night, but itís clear now. No critters on the road this morning until I get to Confluence. A pair of mule deer crossing the water make a very nice sighting.

I end up spending another morning at Slough with the Junctions.

However, things are unusually quiet in the beginning. Itís a shame because there are many visitors who got up very early to see wolves but now that they are here, itís hard to call a one-second movement of ears between tree trunks ďseeing a wolfĒ. More than one family up here this morning tries hard but leaves disappointed. Those of us who watch frequently can recognize such slight movement as a wolf but itís nothing that will register with a first timer.

As one disappointed family heads back to their car I encourage them to check in with the blue Subaru parked in the first lot (Laurie & Dan) before they drive out. I find out later that they did, and by that time, a wolf came into better view and Dan showed them, so they do get their reward.

The best sightings today happen between 8:30 and 9:15, and, alas, there are relatively few visitors to share it with.

Adult wolves start arriving from the west while others depart in that direction. They must have a new carcass. First we see the black female yearling and 969F, both of them carrying meat in their mouths. 969 goes straight to the pups with her gift, passing three yearlings who beg from her. The pups eat first and she snaps at the yearlings when they try to sneak in.

The pups make me laugh, because they look like they were expecting something mushy, not something they have to chew. 969 works hard to keep the yearlings away while the puppies figure it out. Then I see 907F heading west to get her share.

While the pups are finishing their treat, the limper comes downhill and beds in the spring meadow. After a while, two black pups and one gray pup come romping down to her. She rolls on her side with her legs in the air encouraging them. They climb all over her, playing in a very endearing way. Then they move away and the limper jumps up and bounds back to them, play bowing and play fighting with them.

Once this action quiets down, we look around and find the grizzly sow with two cubs. They are visible again on divide ridge. Further west on Specimen we find a black bear.

A little closer to home are many ground squirrels right here on Dougís hill. They scamper all about to the delight of the kids up here. The squirrels have learned they can grab an easy snack of crumbs accidentally dropped by all these people.

The conveyor belt goes on a while and then things start to settle down.

Eventually the rising heat sends me back to my car and east.

I stop at Lamar Canyon West to try to find the sow & cubs from this closer angle. Itís shady here, so thatís a bonus! I find them, but not for long. They wander over a hill and out of sight. I notice a pair of hikers on the Specimen Ridge trail, sitting down as if taking it all in. Iíve been up there and I know what a spectacular view it is!

Now I continue east. Iím sorry to see a dead marmot, probably hit by a car, but I try to think how happy a coyote will be when he finds it.

I stop at the Confluence and watch the bison here. While Iím here, I find an osprey sitting on the old river bank. Iíve never seen an osprey on the ground. It seems to be eating something. After a while, it flaps off into the bright blue Yellowstone sky.

I stop at Footbridge again to watch the very large bison herd that is still here. A coyote trots right through the middle of the herd. He is very careful but none of the bison bother him at all.

Laurie & I catch up in Silver Gate and have a nice dinner.

On my way back to Slough, there is a lovely mist rising from the mountaintops. It has been raining off and on all afternoon but now there are breaks in the clouds.

There are deer in the meadow to the south just past Warm creek. There is something so nice about driving through a healthy forest after a rain. Something lush and wonderful about it. Makes me feel good.

We have three rain squalls at Slough tonight. On Danís advice, I have backed my car into the lot so now I am using my hatch as cover while I scope.

I see four Junction adults tonight, including 969F. She is bedded near the ďparrot rockĒ in the burnt stump area. I guess she needs a break now and then from those pups. I also see a gray bedded near the eastern trees. The pups play in that area even during the squalls.

On the hill above the den forest I misidentify a bison as a bear and subsequently endure endless ribbing. Iím relieved when I can finally distract everyone from teasing me by pointing to a huge double-rainbow.

Just as we are packing up, Carter Niemeyer and his wife Jennie stop by. They chat with Laurie & Dan a while and I say hello. I met them last summer when Nate was here, interviewing people for his 06 book. I tell Carter Iíve not had a chance to get his new book yet. He says, well, I have some with me, would you like one? So he signs one for me and I give him 20 bucks. I am very happy. Carter is a celebrity to me.

It begins to rain again so we stash our scopes and head east. The skies are amazing, with ever-changing colors; right now a blush of rose-red to the east and diffuse orange above.

Some of Laurieís neighbors set off some nice fireworks tonight in advance of tomorrowís holiday. Happy Fourth!

Today I saw: 3 grizzly bears (including 2 cubs), 1 black bear, bison, cranes, coyotes, deer, elk, a hawk, an osprey, pronghorn, 13 wolves from the Junction Pack (including 969F, 907F, two gray yearlings, two black yearlings, and 5 of 8 puppies) and the spirit of Allison



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