DAY FIVE - FRIDAY, JUNE 8

DISTANT WAPITIS

This morning my first sighting is a big bull moose north of Warm Creek. Wow, is he impressive!

I also see 3 mule deer and a cow elk in a meadow east of Baronette. This is the first time since the old Druid days that Iíve seen any elk above Round Prairie on the drive in.

Then a snowshoe hare in his summer coat scurries across the road in front of me. His enormous feet are still in white. And I see another moose just east of SB Picnic.

Footbridge is quiet this morning so I keep going. At Fishermanís I see a group of elk and calves attempting a river crossing. Some are swimming and some are already across, climbing out by the big boulders.

One calf gets swept down by the current and doesnít know enough to turn face forward. Again I am surprised to see what a poor choice the elk mothers make as a crossing spot. The calf finally gets its footing in a rocky spot at the top of the canyon and hauls himself out. This time, at least, the mom parallels the calf on the bank.

There is nothing happening at Slough so I continue west. I see Doug and Kathie at Curve so I join them. I am introduced to a French woman named Gwen. Melba and two friends arrive as well. While everyone is talking I find two black bears in the forest to the south. A courting pair, in fact!

Kathie and I decide to go south. Itís her last day and there seem to be no wolves available to us on the Northern Range.

The drive is very pleasant, with beautiful vistas and a nice sprinkling of wildflowers. I find lots of snow on the Canyon side of the pass. The Dunraven Picnic area looks like itís still winter. Snow patches and mud. No grass yet!

There is thick fog in Hayden (as per usual). We stop at the big Alum double lot. No point scoping yet, so we yak with the handful of people already here. One is Ron B who works with wolves in Wyo. He is a great guy. Alas, he tells me he believes 755 is no longer alive, because he has not been seen since the fall. He would have been 10 years old this year. RIP, dear 755.

At about 8:15 the fog lifts, so we climb up hill on the eastern side so we can scope to the west, where the Wapitis had a carcass three days ago. Natalie & her husband and another couple are with us. I do get a better idea of the lay of the land from here, but we see no wolves. Instead we see several elk and a lone coyote who eventually crosses the road and passes us on our hill.

Then Kathie hears from Calvin and Lynette who are looking further south. We decide to join them. After a short stop at Grizzly Overlook, where I see a heron, I continue south to a pullout near Elk Antler creek and follow Kathie away from the road to the west. I can see C & L way out there manning their scopes. Their posture suggests they have wolves in view.

And they do! Three members of the Wapiti pack, all gray. They are roaming an area of thick sage, zig-zagging back and forth, probably hunting for elk calves but maybe ground squirrels. Lynette says they had two other wolves a little earlier, a black and a gray, but they have already gone out of sight to the south.

For the next hour I watch these three grays as they move about in the sage. I am grateful we are not visited by any bison or a grizzly out here. There is not a tree in sight and itís pretty far from the road. By the time Iíve already lost two of the three I look behind me and see an astonishing number of ďnormalĒ people have walked out, without scopes or binocs to see what we are seeing. We share our scopes but the wolves are quite far away and easy to lose in the sage.

Clair is with us again. I really like her; sheís smart and very personable. Sheís from Alaska; the daughter of a woman Rick worked with when he was there. And sheís a big fan of wolves.

Itís getting hot, though, so with only one wolf still in view I pack up and head back.

The drive over the pass is uneventful. Not even a bear jam! At Fishermanís I see what I presume is the same group of elk from this morning. They are all on the south side of the river, so I stop to get a closer look.

Three adult elk are standing on a great big boulder, still as statues, ears forward, alert and listening. I can hear a calf calling. Oh, that is a hard sound to hear. You just want to help it stop crying, like you would hearing a human baby. I look and look for the poor thing but donít find it.

I move my scope about 30 feet to get a different angle and now I see one of the statue elk has left the rock. She is moving down slope closer to the river. Then suddenly I see a calf emerge from the bracken and deadfall. The calf touches noses with the cow and they walk uphill together.

I donít hear that plaintive crying anymore so I guess it was this calf Ė maybe it was stuck between logs or something. And now the other two statue elk are below the rock too, grazing normally.

Well, Iím glad it got resolved even though I donít know how!

I continue east, knowing it is too late and too hot to see any grizzlies. I find a single mountain goat on Barronette. It IS warm today, up to 71.

A moose and calf are visible across the creek just east of Soda Butte Picnic. Many photographers line the road to see them. And I have two mule deer cross the road at Warm Springs.

In Silver Gate I take a nap and head out again a little after 7PM. More mulies, this time in the Moose meadow.

Footbridge is quiet again so I continue to Picnic. I scope all the usual spots. I find several elk above the exclosure fence but only bison and cranes in the Druid R-V. Then way up high to the north I find a bear! I call Bill and he comes by. I am always happy to find a bear for Bill because he so often finds wolves for us. I tell him it looks like a big guy to me. He smiles and shakes his head. No, this is a small bear, he says.

Boy, I have a lot to learn about grizzlies!

After a while, I head back east and stop at Footbridge. Bill pulls in and tells me he has another bear to the east of Norris. He calls this one a sway-back bear and I see why. Then a coyote appears on skyline, running quickly down the slope, looking back over its shoulder. Hmm, wonder whatís up there that made him run?

We never find out, though, and the coyote eventually trots back up to skyline, then travels east along it in silhouette for a while.

Itís a gorgeous night and Iím glad I came out.

Today I saw: 2 black bears, 2 grizzly bears, bison, coyotes, cranes, mule deer, ducks, elk (with calves), a snowshoe hare, a great blue heron, a mountain goat, 3 moose (including a calf), pronghorn, 3 wolves (all Wapiti grays) and the spirit of Allison.

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