DAY EIGHT – Friday, July 1


A WESTERN ADVENTURE

This morning I have a few bison on the road just past the gate. And there is some low-lying wispy fog in Round Prairie.

I get to Slough in record time and set up on Doug’s hill. The first wolf I see is the black male yearling on the rocks near the diagonal forest. He is looking downhill quite intently.

He moves down the rocky slope and into the meadow where the pups were last night. There are numerous bison in the area. As the wolf gets close they bunch up and form a line, watching him. He is not in danger because he remains on the other side of the line of willows which border a small creek. The bison seems to be telling the wolf to behave himself because they are on to him! But the wolf is a little cocky. He crosses the creek and boldly weaves his way through the herd. He continues east, looking back once as if to say “neener-neener”.

He heads to upper Slough Creek and explores the water’s edge a bit, then moves further east to a low, sandy bank where he stops to have a nice long drink.

The black continues on below the line of the horizontal forest. I finally lose him in the willows there. I don’t think anyone spotted him coming out.

Then my attention is drawn back to the den. The pups are out! One gray and one black are bounding around in the spring meadow. Then we start seeing adults by the eastern trees – we end up with four, all gray: 994M, 907F, an un-collared female yearling and the limper. 907 comes down to the spring for a drink and 994 follows soon after.

They both bed on the green hill behind the goal posts, right on the lip of the gully.

907 starts to howl and the rest of them join in, including the puppies of course. The un-collared female gray is separate from the others, close to the crescent rock. She stands broadside as she howls, giving visitors a really great view. The howling is wonderful and the visitors love it, especially when the puppy voices chime in.

I look around at all the visitors on this hill. I’ll bet, in this last week, I have shown at least a thousand people their very first wolf.

Someone sees a black bear approaching the den area from the west. When I first see him he is right at the western trees. I watch him and amble through there, past the bow logs and through the grass behind the eastern trees. At first some watchers are worried because the puppies had been in that area before but they are not there now. The bear just continues wandering to the east, past the crescent rock and out of view.

It’s a little surprising to us that none of the wolves seem to react to the bear’s presence. But then Laurie reminds me, these critters have been here for months. They all probably know each other quite well.

Other animals we see today include a group of pronghorn with 7 fawns, a different grizzly up on Specimen (not the sow with two), cranes and several deer.

Becky and Chloe are leaving today so they invite me and Dorothy & Linda to join them for breakfast up in Cooke at the Bear Claw bakery. So, soon I am headed east.

As I pass the Institute I notice a bus parked in the lot. It seems the entire busload of people has walked out into the flats towards the river to get a closer look at a herd of bison on the far bank. It looks like there are 30-40 people out there! Let’s hope another bison herd does not wander through and cut them off from the road!

Breakfast is very tasty. Bill W and John Kerr are here, too, and we have fun chatting together. If you visit Cooke, make sure to stop by the Bear Claw – the blueberry coffee cake and the cherry Danish are especially good!

I say farewell to Becky & Chloe and head down to Laurie’s for my nap.

It’s now 6:30pm and I am heading back to Slough for another chance to see puppies.

We had more rain this afternoon and it still looks cloudy to the west. I hope it remains cloudy because it’s so much more pleasant to scope in the evening when it’s overcast.

It’s yet another rewarding evening with the Junctions. Tonight, six bold pups make a journey to the west. They travel through the den area, behind the trunks of the western trees and on up to the rocky butte with the burnt stump. Some of them have been up here before but I’ve never seen all six (three blacks, three grays) on their own.

They explore the rocks below the stump, which offers all kinds of things to interest them. The rocks are very jagged and jumbled; the kind that might offer a safe home to a marmot. Three of the blacks wander even further west, above the “small diagonal forest” and even past the two “Xmas trees”. Eventually four adults realize the babies are far from home and trot over to join them. The play continues for a while but you can see the adults are trying to get them to come back.

The adults are 994M, mama 907F, the limper and the un-collared female gray. They each try in their own way to corral these little balls of energy but it’s impossible, so they settle for just keeping their eyes on them. It’s absolutely wonderful watching the pups cavort. They really have fun on those rocks. We also witness a few races back and forth. Oh, man, life is grand when you’re a pup.

After a good 45 minutes in the area, the pups finally wander back to the den area and you can almost hear sighs of relief from the adults. A while after this, the black yearling returns from the east – the same wolf I watched this morning. And he brings food!

This is the second night in a row in which we do not find the grizzly sow, so I suppose she has moved on to another meadow with her little ones. We do have a nice breeze keeping the bugs away and a couple of short sprinkles.

On the way back a particularly nice sunset develops. A rainbow forms to the south. I stop at the Confluence to enjoy it. The colors are beautifully reflected in the many channels of the river while a lone bison splashes through the water.

Today I saw: 1 black bear, bison, cranes, deer, elk, pronghorn (with 7 fawns), 11 Junction wolves (including 994M, 907F, two gray yearlings, one black yearling, and 6 puppies) and the spirit of Allison



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