I’m out in the dark at my usual 5AM time with the crazy wonderful bird symphony.
This morning I have a large group of bison bulls walking up the road just west of Trout Lake. I slow down and let them pass, listening to their grunts and the pattering of their hooves.
Nothing moving in Lamar so I continue to Slough.
Things start off slow this morning with some short, scattered views of a pup or two here or there. 911M is visible when I first get here but he quickly goes out of sight. I do see 907 and the un-collared gray male yearling. They bed near the eastern trees. There is a comic moment when suddenly five or six wolf heads pop into view from the grass beyond the eastern trees. Hah! Something startles them, a sound perhaps, or a smell? Anyway now we know they have been bedded there the whole time.
One by one all the heads disappear into the grass and we never find out what startled them. Most of us search elsewhere for other critters during a lull like this. We find two black bears above the diagonal forest, both black phase bears, and then a third black is seen much further east just above the horizontal forest. This is a popular area for black bears I guess.
I turn my scope south and find the grizzly sow with two on divide ridge again. Visitors who leave their cars in the lot and make the trek up Doug’s hill are always happy to see a grizzly, especially one with cubs, so we keep people entertained a while.
And we find cranes and pronghorn in the flats and a single white tail deer near the diagonal forest, as well as the resident bighorns on the western rocky knob.
Around 9AM, the limping gray yearling gets things going again by romping downhill with many pups behind her. Then I realize she is actually running after some other pups who are romping ahead of her.
Suddenly we have 6 pups, 3 gray and 3 black taking a morning adventure. They leave the shy ones back at the den. This intrepid group travels into the spring meadow by the goal post trees then move east through the top of the lion meadow towards the rocky knob left of the diagonal forest. I think they are following the route taken by the adults several evenings ago. The limping gray is having quite a time keeping them corralled. Soon a black yearling joins the group as extra security.
The crowd is thrilled; getting to watch pups explore this way is really fun – they are so cute and playful. We notice there are two especially small grays which are nevertheless quite bold for their size. They lead the way for a long time.
They reach the rocky knob and play king of the hill, romping, climbing, and sometimes they miss their leap and tumble a bit. I think the pups might be making a lot of noise as they play on the rocks because we see 890 and 911 get up from the grass where they were hiding and move to another spot, in the lion meadow. They remind me of grumpy old men when the neighborhood kids are playing whiffle ball next door.
After about an hour of exploring, the yearlings lead the pups back to the den area where they all plop down to rest.
It makes for a lovely morning. But the time has come to head east.
As I pass Round Prairie I see Rick pulled over so I stop to talk with him. He says 965 is nearby, perhaps to the north. I help him look for a while but the temperature is so warm, we figure that wherever he is, he’s unlikely to move.
I do find a coyote mousing in the meadow, though, and a lone mountain goat on the cliffs behind Pebble. I continue east and decide to stop Baronette, where I usually find goats. And I do! Just two: a nanny and a kid. I am kind of surprised to see how little snow is left on the cliff. Just a few thin waterfalls.
After dinner, back I go to Slough for another look at the Junctions.
The sky is again helpfully overcast and we have a bit of a breeze. But whenever that breeze dies down we get bitten unmercifully!
The mom grizzly with two is out again on the slope west of divide ridge. That starts the evening off right. My first wolf tonight is 911 as he comes in from the crescent rock. Two pups greet him, one black and one gray, which is very cute. Then 994 arrives and the pups follow him, begging for food. They all head behind the gully – ach! But I do think he fed them.
The limping gray spends some quality time with one of the black pups in the spring meadow. The pup climbs up the big boulder and stands there as if pretending he is now just as big as the yearling. Then he hops off and the yearling chases him around the meadow, then the pup chases the yearling to the top of the Lion Meadow and around the short stump.
Then they wander back towards the den and I lose them in the gully.
A little while later, the sky begins to darken. Hmm, looks like a storm is coming. So I decide to head in a little earlier than usual.
As I pass Footbridge I see several cars pulled over at Eastern Curve. I realize one of them is Rick so I pull over, too. Hooray! The Lamars are in view.
I see them across the creek, a little east of where Becky found them the other morning. They are bedded there, just two of them. 965M is curled up on top of the river bank and 926 is below him, a little to the left. If she had not raised her head a few times, I would have thought she was just a low bush!
I do not see Little T. 965M gets up on his haunches and scratches a bit on his belly. He starts to howl. Strangely, 926 does not join him. He has a nice, low sound and he howls again, about 6 times. I do not hear a return howl. Hmm. I wonder who he is calling? 993M? Little T?
Then he stands broadside on all fours a while, then turns and heads into the woods. I look over to 926, expecting her to follow him but she remains bedded. The squall I sensed over at Slough has arrived, or at least the precursor to it has. We get some thunder and bright flashes of lightning.
I pack up and tuck my scope in my car, climbing inside just as heavy drops begin to fall. Wow, it just pours down and all the people scatter. I sit in my car trying to see if 926 is still there, but it’s impossible.
The squall is finished by the time I get to Silver Gate. Laurie and I talk about 926’s recent behavior. I say it seems out of character for her to bed across the river if she has pups at home. Why wouldn’t she either be out hunting or bedded at the den? Laurie says that since we did not see Little T that perhaps 926 knew she was babysitting.
And she also says, why would the Lamars stay in the area if they did not have pups to feed? If they have no reason to be localized here, why not travel to where there is more game? And of course, these are very good points to which I don’t have an answer.
Today I saw: 3 grizzlies (including 2 cubs), 3 black bears, bison, cranes, coyotes, black tail and white tail deer, elk, 3 mountain goats, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, 12 wolves from two packs; 2 Lamars (965M & 926F) and 16 Junctions (including 911M, 890M, 994M, 907F, 994, two gray yearlings, one black yearling, all 8 puppies and the spirit of Allison