Day Three - Thursday, May 5


JUNCTIONS AND LAMARS

I start today at 5:25. It feels warmer than yesterday and there is no frost on the car. Some stars are still visible.

As I approach the YES pullout, I see Annie, so I stop and catch up with her. Bill H. is here, too, and surprisingly has seen no bears yet! I head toward Slough.

I spend the morning at the lower lot (golden eagle) with Kathie, Laurie & Dan. Itís a gorgeous morning. We hear (and see) meadowlarks, watch pronghorn behaving strangely (two males on opposite sides of the creek, huffing at each other), bison grazing nearby, then crossing the creek with a bit of struggle against the current. This is significant because Lizzie was trying to convince herself that she could float across the swollen creek on an inflatable raft in order to look for 970. We had been telling her that it was a foolish idea and now the bison proves our point.

My high count for this morning is 6 adult wolves (5 grays, including mothers 969 & 907, and alpha male 911 plus two more, and the black pup-loving yearling. In addition I see 3 pups (1 gray 2 blacks)

The sighting starts with two grays moving uphill to the den. Right away, some pups come out! Oh! They are so tiny! The two grays have a bit of a time keeping the pups on the den porch. They squirm and wiggle and nearly fall over the edge. I watch as 969 takes a journey above the den to have a look at some elk grazing up there. Nothing comes of it and she returns to the den. She is met by other gray who lowers his/her head, regurgitating for her. Both wolves wag their tails, and she gobbles up the food.

969 then disappears into the den. This is followed by a long period of no movement, so we watch other things happening in the area. Two bison fight a bit, another one rolls in the dust. We see elk, mule deer and ducks in various spots, yellow headed blackbirds, cinnamon teal, pintails, mallards, geese, two swans. Then someone spots a grizzly way to the south. This appears to be a solitary bear, not the mom with cubs.

A good deal later 890 arrives from the west, traveling along the burnt stump route. We watch him until he disappears in the western trees. Then emerges again in his favorite shady spot under the eastern trees. Another gray trots down from the den to the spring for a drink. After she has quenched her thirst she moves to the sage den, and to our delight, starts digging. We speculate that they will use the sage den when the pups start to roam (and this indeed happened later in May and into June).

Another gray (a yearling) mouses in the spring meadow, then it is joined by a second gray. The enthusiastic black yearling spends time at the den, half in, half out again. Another un-collared gray carries an antler uphill. Most of the wolves we have been seeing are now bedded in the shade of the eastern trees. They really disappear in that spot.

Then a group of white-tailed deer come walking right into that very area. When they finally smell/see the wolves, they bolt to the east and are promptly chased by a gray yearling. A few of the others sit up on their haunches and watch. White tail are pretty fast and we doubt that the gray was successful.

I suppose this means they are not hungry. A little later we see another yearling catch a ground squirrel and eat it.

The grizzly mom with 3 comes out again Ė on the same north-facing slope of Specimen. She is visible for a long time and the cubs are really cute.

Things slow down so around noon I pack up and drive west as far as Floating Island Lake in hopes of seeing black bear. But I donít find any bears but I do see coots and American widgeons on the Lake, as well as some noisy yellow headed black birds.

On my way back a band of bighorn rams crosses the road at Wrecker grade. People are all over the road taking pics. And in Little America I see lots of bison with their sweet orange calves quite close to the road. I decide to head back to Lamar instead of stopping at Slough. At Soda Butte midpoint I find people pulled off the road and learn that I just missed seeing Lamar wolves Dark Black & 965. They were after a still-born calf that Laurie saw early this AM. Two bison are now giving the calf a funeral. The wolves are likely in the area, but out of sight right now.

I head in for a nap.

I return to Soda Butte East around 5:45 and find two couples who have been sitting here all afternoon hoping for a glimpse of the Lamars. I decide to join them since the calf carcass is still there. Laurie & Dan stop too.

Finally I am rewarded with a glimpse of both wolves Ė well, at least their heads, peeking over the hill, determined to get that carcass. It must be driving them crazy that people are interested in watching them. The carcass is not so close to the road nor are any of these people mis-behaving. Itís just that these two wolves are unusually road shy.

Laurie tells me that both Dark Black & 965 still have mange, as do 926 and Little T. But they all survived the winter, so that must mean something. Laurie recounts to me what she saw this morning. The two males got a still-born calf and fought off the bison mom.

The wolves emerge from the trees and I get a better look at them. Dark Black, once such a beauty, now has a pencil tail. 965 looks awful. He, too, was once a spectacular looking wolf. His coat looks greasy and dirty. I watch for a bit, but they retreat to the trees, so I decide to move on to Slough.

Although there is some movement at Slough, it does not compare to this morning, and itís quite warm and buggy. Looks like I should have stayed with Laurie & Dan, because when I return Laurie tells me 926 showed up. She fed a while on the calf carcass, then took the head in her mouth and set off back to the den. She has just gone out of sight when I return. The two males are still in sight, waiting for darkness and for the people to leave. So we do.

Behind us a nice grizzly appears, heading west along the base of DPH.

Today I saw: 5 grizzlies (including a mom with 3 coy), birds, bison, mule deer, white tail deer, ducks, elk, bighorn sheep, 13 wolves; 2 Lamars (including Dark Black 993 and 965M) and 11 Junctions (including 8 adults and 3 pups) and the spirit of Allison.




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