DAY ELEVEN Ė Monday, July 4


FOGGY MORNING - PUPPY EVENING

This morning is all about fog. Cool, thick fog.

So much that I have to really slow down. Round Prairie is totally fogged in. Footbridge is the same, as is all of Lamar proper. Itís a thick white soup, a little unusual for summer in this valley.

Approaching the Institute I have to hit the brakes as a pronghorn buck suddenly emerges out of the white right in front of my car! Wow, that was a close call.

Happily, it is crystal clear at Slough. Yay!

Right off the bat I have pups playing at the sage den. I pan to the west and find a black and a gray coming in from the carcass. They are mobbed and deliver their goods.

A little later we are treated to a long play session by the pups around the burnt stump and in the small meadow just to the left of it which seems to be their new favorite spot. The gray male yearling is their playmate today and the pups seem to adore him. He bounces and romps with them Ė four blacks and three grays. The black ďruntĒ seems to have grown out of his shyness, but the gray one is still back at the den, a homebody.

Laurie is right when she says how different a pupís life is when they have yearlings to play with and learn from. In smaller packs, when itís just mom and dad protecting them and bringing home food, they donít have the energy to engage with the pups this way. Yearlings are able to give mom and dad a break, and they learn what to do when they have pups of their own.

A gray adult comes in from the west and the pups follow it back to the den area. The gray lowers his head and delivers food which the pups gobble up. Next we see 890 come in. He does the same thing in the same spot.

His duty done, 890 heads up to his usual spot by the eastern trees. He is followed by the gray female yearling.

A little later Rick spies the black male yearling coming in from the west through the mixed conifer-aspen forest, carrying a leg. I follow him as he approaches, going in and out of sight. The leg is huge and seems really hard to carry. When he re-emerges the third time he no longer has it, so he probably cached it somewhere.

I hear from Laurie that someone has seen the Lamars, despite the fact that the valley is still fogged in. I am torn about going there, because this is a nice, active sighting. But the chance to see my favorite pack once more finally wins out and I head east.

It is still massively foggy but I end up joining Laurie & Dan on Geriatric hill. I just missed seeing them but they are in the Chalcedony fan area. If I keep scoping, I might catch a glimpse if the fog lifts.

While I wait for that to happen, I follow a coyote family closer to us, moving above the river bank.

After a half hour of fog-watching I decide to go back to Slough. As I near midpoint I see two visitors stopped, pointing excitedly to the south. I pull over and see a pair of canid legs moving behind a bison, but it turns out to be another coyote. The people swear to me they saw a gray wolf, so I watch a bit longer.

I see a second coyote, looking east in a very interested way. Again my hopes are raised but when I see the coyote start to move in that direction, I think again. I pan ahead of him and find a badger. Cool!

Then I hear the Lamars are spotted again, heading out towards Cache. Shoot. Oh well.

On to Slough.

When I arrive I see a different black wolf, another yearling, coming in from the west. I watch him (or her) for a good long while until I lose the wolf in the rocks.

I ask Rick about the yearling who had been carrying the leg. He says he brought it all the way home and deposited it right on top of the sage den. Itís not there any longer because another wolf already took it up to the eastern trees. But I am very impressed with that yearling.

Around 10AM I head back east. The Lamars are long gone but I enjoy seeing a group of pronghorn with three fawns. The valley looks gorgeous and healthy.

After a nice break, I head back to Slough for my last evening with the Junction Butte pups. Itís quite pleasant as far as temperature goes and there is a steady breeze to keep the bugs away. The rain seems to have made things extra green and it is truly beautiful here.

I am watching seven puppies play on the rocks just below the burnt stump. It is impossible to keep track of them or to tell them apart Ė they move so often and in such a herky-jerky fashion as they play and explore. Itís the usual group of 4 blacks and 3 grays.

Once again, the smallest, shyest gray pup remains close to the den while brothers and sisters explore. The playful ones practice their boulder climbing skills. One puppy scales a large boulder and soon all the rest want to join him. One by one, some more graceful than others, they all get up there. Well, almost all. 6 pups balance on top of one rock while the 7th barks at them from below (we donít hear the barking but it looks like thatís what heís doing.) Then they start to tumble off and start racing back and forth, tripping, tumbling, getting back up, no worse for wear.

While this is going on, 890M is hanging out in a new spot near the western trees but he eventually makes his to his favorite tree on the eastern side. We have seen him in this spot so often, Doug now calls it 890ís tree.

Shortly after he beds there, the pups come back from the burnt stump and begin to play in the sage and grass below dad. The visitors who came tonight really lucked out Ė itís a great night to show people their first wolf.

On my way home tonight I have a sage grouse in Icebox canyon and a lone bison walking on the road near the moose meadow.

Today I saw: a badger, bison, sand hill cranes, coyotes, elk, geese and goslings, a sage grouse, pronghorn, 12 wolves from the Junction Pack (including 890, two gray yearlings and a black yearling, and all 8 puppies) and the spirit of Allison



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