Today I am up early. I leave a few minutes before 5AM, accompanied by an amazing songbird symphony. My first stop today is at Dorothyís. Rick has 926ís signal quite close but it seems to be on both sides of the road. Several people stop and scope from here as well as from Coyote and Fishermanís but no one can find her.
I end up driving on to Slough.
As soon as Iím set up I see four pups, 3 black and 1 gray. They head down to the Lion Meadow with a gray adult. The adult beds. The pups play a while then somehow disappear. One of the collared adults (994) appears above the western burnt stump, chasing the bighorn rams that hang out up there. He does not really come close but itís fun to see them run.
We get a radio call that 926 has been found so I head back to Coyote.
Thank you, Jon Way! He found all three of them on the north side of the road. 926, Little T and especially 956M are very hard to see in the middle of a sage slope. They have an elk calf carcass. This time of year, when wolves are shedding their winter coats, even black wolves can be hard to see against a sage slope. The hillside is still in shade so that doesnít help either! With his mottled gray coat, 965M is almost perfectly camouflaged. Itís only when he opens his mouth to pant that I can see him! What makes it harder is that this particular slope has very few distinguishing features; no trees, no bushes nor boulders. The only way I found it was when a helpful magpie landed on part of the carcass. Otherwise you just have to luck into the right spot.
I think 965 must have caught the calf because when Little T tries to get a bite he snaps at her. Both females eventually get a chance to feed though the big male definitely eats the most. Poor guy, he still has mange on his back end. His chest and neck seem ok though. The females seem fine in terms of mange. Little T never really had it; 926 did but she has recovered. We do not see alpha male 993 with them, which is worrisome. He has not been seen in more than a week.
They bed for a while, then come back for scraps.
965 drags the hide and bones a bit to the east. 926 picks up the calf head and takes off, presumably back to her waiting pups. Maybe 993 was here earlier and has already headed back there. The elk mother comes down to express her outrage but nothing develops.
Some people drive east, in hopes of seeing 926 again but she stays out of sight. No one really knows if she has pups, but the way she took the head seems to imply she does. If she did not have pups to feed, she could make a meal of it right there on the hill, no?
Then someone finds a grizzly to the south, so we turn around.
Heís a collared bear, on the low point of divide ridge. His nose is to the ground; he appears to be eating something. Three coyotes surround the bear, behaving quite aggressively. Perhaps they caught a pronghorn fawn and the bear took it away from them?
The bear gets annoyed by the coyotes so he picks up the carcass and walks uphill a bit away from them. When he does this, we are able to tell it is a pronghorn fawn. Above him, higher on the hill, is a band of pronghorn with at least 7 fawns looking down on the scene.
The coyotes follow the bear a while, then reluctantly give up.
I turn back to the north but there are no wolves in sight. So I head to Hitching Post, still hoping to find them as they travel east. I spend a good hour trying from various angles, but no luck, so I give up and head back west, in search of black bears.
I stop at Mid-Point to watch a herd of bison with calves cross the river. I love to see them do this. The calves are all old enough now to swim on their own. Each one crosses in a slightly different place and in a slightly different way.
I move on to Slough but I find only a few adults bedded. So I continue as far as the Tower store. I seem to have missed the black bears this morning. There are tons of people in the Tower area, reminding me that summer is here!
I head back to Silver Gate. Laurie & Dan are arriving soon and I want to make sure everything is clean and ready for them.
They get in a little after 6PM. We catch up a bit, have a quick dinner and I head out again while they settle in.
At Slough the sky is quite helpfully full of cloud so it turns into a gorgeous night of easy viewing. I see 9 adults plus 5 of the 8 pups; my usual 2 gray and 3 black. Several of the adults are bedded in the spring meadow when I first get here.
911 is here, too, cooling off in the high grass. He moves around a bit and the pups seem to love climbing on him. He mostly tolerates them; every once in a while he snaps.
The gray male yearling leads a few pups to the left goal post tree and they start playing on some downed logs at its base, bouncing and falling, scrambling up again. Then big daddy 890 arrives! He greets 911 and they both bed down above the spring meadow. Some of the pups rush over to 890 to see if heís brought them a treat. If he has, I donít see him deliver it.
Then 994 arrives from the west and we see a bit of a rally with the four adults.
After the rally, 911 leads the way downhill towards the lion meadow. Adult wolves keep appearing out of the sage and soon there are 8 adults following him. The pups follow too, for a while. But then they stop, looking a bit nervous. The human crowd is a LOT nervous for them!
Now we get a howl session. Wow, thatís nice. After this, the adults continue downhill, then then curve to the east, while the pupsÖthe pups run back to the sage den and disappear inside, leaving us to wonder what kind of parental warning was contained in that howl? It seems really clear that the pups understood they were to go back up hill and stay home!
I follow the adults for a while as they move in a line towards the diagonal forest. Looks like they are headed off on a hunt. After I lose the last in line I pack up and return to Silver Gate.
It takes me a while because I get stuck in 3 separate bison jams on the way!
Today I saw: 1 grizzly, bison, coyotes, elk, geese and goslings, pronghorn (and fawns), big horn sheep, 17 wolves from two packs; 3 Lamars (including 926, Little T and 965M) and 14 Junctions (including 911, 890, 994, six more adults and 5 pups) and the spirit of Allison.