I head out a little earlier than usual today. There is a wispy fog in Moose Meadow and much more at Round Prairie.
I see Dorothy and Linda at Footbridge so I pull over to join them. Rick has asked them to scope the area for 926F. We do our duty for about 20 minutes but hear no howling and find nothing moving. The fog limits our choices so we move on.
There is thick and beautiful fog all through Lamar so I must drive more slowly than usual, but as I come out of the Canyon I see it is clear at Slough. Yay!
My first wolf today is an adult black, traveling to the west, low in the flats, heading towards the Marge Simpson tree. After this wolf goes out of sight, I turn my attention to the right where several pups are romping down from the sage den into the spring meadow.
As I pan above the sage den to the natal den cliff I notice a herd of bighorns. Many of them are looking down. Other sheep are moving up the steep den cliff itself. Then suddenly all the sheep begin to run west Ė a gray wolf is chasing them!
They run past the western trees, through the scattered aspen and come out along the trail to the burnt stump, where the pups were last night. They continue across those rocks to the next slope. The gray is never really close to them and he slows to a stop at the burnt stump. The sheep continue running, spreading out in several directions and soon we see a second and a third gray giving chase. The sheep easily outdistance the wolves in this terrain and the wolves eventually give up.
994M was one of the chasers and I think the others were 907F and the non-limping gray yearling. I have seen 994 take an interest in sheep before. Now that the chase is over, the three grays greet each other, wagging tails, ďhigh-fivingĒ and body slamming. Their celebration is joined by a black yearling. Wolves always seem optimistic to me; they cheer and encourage each other even when they fail.
We see several adult heads up in the grass beyond the eastern trees but they soon lie down again and disappear. The limper is one of the heads up there. She gets up and stretches and walks down to the spring meadow for a nice long drink. After this she joins the pups and plays with them a while.
Around 9AM several of the adults get up and move diagonally across the sage den hill from east to west. And now I see whyÖa big black wolf, 890M, has just arrived from the west. He must have food because he is mobbed by adults and pups.
He makes for the gully (always in the gully!) and I can only see wagging tails and backs, a sure sign of a delivered meal. 890M then emerges from the gully, licking his lips, and takes his preferred bedding spot under the eastern trees. Hmm, looks like the Junctions may have a new carcass.
Several adults and pups follow their dad up there and then they all disappear behind the hill, probably greeting the other wolves bedded here. Some of the pups wander back down to the sage den and bed on the porch.
Things quiet down and we look around for other critters. While scanning the skyline of Specimen, I find a black bear running downslope and into the forest. And I find the usual pronghorn, cranes and coyotes.
Things quiet down for a while but then I hear that Emile has spotted the Lamars east of the Institute, so I pack up and head there.
I find a parking spot in a dirt lot just west of YES. I am just in time to see two of the three. Iíve missed Little T but I do see 965M and 926F. Emile says they were chasing coyotes. There are still four coyotes in the area; two large and two small. They are all very upset; barking and moving about in an agitated manner. Uh oh. It looks like perhaps the Lamars may have just raided their den.
The two wolves walk slowly uphill to the north. Itís a very brief sighting as they move into forest and around a little hill. I can tell where they are by watching the coyotes.
Finally the wolves are far enough away that the coyotes lose interest. I decide to follow the coyote pack further east and see where they go. I end up parked in another dirt lot a bit west of Picnic on the north side.
There is an Exclosure fence on a low slope with thick vegetation inside. I hear magpies chattering very noisily, the way they do when they have a nest. The coyotes howl loud and long with many yips. I believe I see a coyote make its way under the fence into the dense vegetation and I wonder if there might be is a den there?
The day has warmed, so I start to drive east.
As I near Warm Springs I catch a flash of grayish-brown at the edge of the forest. Itís a mule deer doe leaping over a log right at the tree line. Oh! She has a fawn behind her. Oh, how sweet. A big-eared spotted fawn. The fawn stays close to mom as the pair moves just inside the edge of the forest. I pull over to watch them a while. At first I think they might be trying to cross the road up ahead but they end up going deeper into the woods instead.
Iím the only person who sees these two. Itís one of the sweet things Yellowstone has to offer. My own private moment with Bambi & Faline.
After a nice dinner and a nap, I make room in my car so Laurie can come with me to the evening session. It starts to rain as we near Dorothyís but it looks like clear skies to the west. Itís great to have this rain!
Itís a short squall but it helps to dampen the dust of the Slough campground road.
As soon as I get set up I find a black pup in the spring meadow.
I see a gray adult headed east and another black pup traveling with it. They move past the crescent rock towards the diagonal forest. Then I see more pups in that area Ė 2 blacks and 3 grays. Although I cannot really tell them apart yet, it probably means the two shy pups are back at the den.
Itís hard to keep track as they roam all over the rocky knob. Some of them seem to be learning to use their noses and others are just exploring and playing. Several gray adults appear at the bottom of the diagonal forest sniffing here and there. Then they turn northeast and continue past the horizontal forest, crossing the willow-lined creek and emerging into the meadow. Laurie says 907F is one of them but Iím not sure who the other two are. They continue east until we lose them.
The pups are still in view, though, in an area we call the lawn, which is actually a grassy hillside visible behind the tops of the trees of the diagonal forest. It is fairly open and the slope leads down to the horizontal forest. The pups are playing in this area, guarded by the ever-vigilant limper.
I glance back at the den and find two pups here, a gray and a black. Then I see 890 come in from the west, just as he did this morning. He joins a gray adult and the two shy pups at the edge of the Eastern Trees. They look off in the direction of the diagonal forest and it seems like they are aware the other pups are over there.
Eventually I see the black pups return. I donít see the grays but they are easy to miss in sage and high grass. The limper would not allow them to be left behind!
As I am packing up, a visitor says he sees a wolf on the hill behind us (the one we call Secret Passage) which gets everyone excited. We scope the area but none of the rest of us see a wolf there. Finally Laurie asks quietly what color is the wolf he sees and he replies ďpalominoĒ. Ahh. He is probably seeing a pronghorn, but no one says that out loud.
We head east. We have a short pronghorn jam near the Institute and traffic stops as the herd stays on the road a while. People lean out their windows with cameras & videos. Then the rain arrives and all cameras are pulled back inside.
The sky is really spectacular tonight. We see a few deer again, just east of Baronette.
Today I saw: 1 black bear, bison, sand hill cranes, coyotes, deer (and a fawn), elk, pronghorn bighorn sheep, 16 wolves from two packs; 2 Lamars (965M & 926F) and 14 Junctions (including 890M, 994M, 907F, two gray yearlings, one black yearling, and all 8 puppies) and the spirit of Allison