DAY SIX - SATURDAY, JUNE 9

SMALL DOT AND CRANES

I leave a little late this morning. The birdies are singing like crazy as usual but I notice there is no moon. There are mulies on the drive in, as usual, and I continue to see moose! Today itís two: a big bull at Moose meadow and a cow near SB Picnic.

Again, Footbridge is quiet so I continue. I stop west of Picnic to let two cow elk cross the road. And between the Institute and Dorothyís I slowly pass three separate bison who are nursing their calves right on the road.

I stop at Slough and join Rick on Bobís. We scour the hills and flats but find no wolves. He says he might go south today.

I start west behind him but stop at Boulder to join Steve and Robin. We watch bison and their cute calves. We see scattered elk on the northern hills. Then Steve gets a brief glimpse of a black, probably a Junction, high on a sage hill Ė the route to the new den. Robin sees it for a split second but I am not quick enough.

Then I hear there is a wolf in view from Footbridge. So I go back east. Itís Small Dot. Heís peeking out of the thick willows at the bottom of Dead Puppy.

For the next half hour I watch him play peek-a-boo with the people in the pullout. A pair of cranes is pecking and grazing very near the wolf. A peculiar thing develops in that every time the wolf goes out of sight, the cranes then shift their position, and moments later, I find the wolf behind them. I think it is just coincidence, but itís kinda funny.

Around 8AM, Small Dot starts moving east with a purpose. The pair of cranes continues to accompany him. It looks to me like the wolf wants to cross the road but just cannot get up the nerve. At one point he gets very close to the river but chickens out and turns back. He moves south into a sparse forest opposite the Soda Cone and I lose him. I get one more glimpse of the cranes, though, before they fly away.

I go back west. Still nothing at Slough. As I am approaching straightaway I see people pointing north on both sides of the road. I roll down my window and ask what they are seeing. The man says ďWolves! Two young ones and two adults.Ē I pull over and take a look. Well, itís coyotes. They seem to be wrestling with their pups right at the bottom of the Peregrine hill that has a melt-lake in front of it. I am not sure what they are doing. It almost looks like the adults are trying to move the pups, but having trouble because these pups are too big to carry. Anyway, the pups seem very rambunctious.

The adults begin to walk uphill through the sage and the pups follow. Unfortunately, I lose them quickly, so I donít know if they all went inside a den or just gave me the slip.

I keep going on a slow tour to the west. At Floating Island Lake I stop to see if I can find (and hear) any yellow-headed blackbirds. I do; there are at least four here. Oh, I just love that sound they make.

I continue on to Hellroaring and scope here for a while. No wolves. No bison, no elk. Itís very beautiful, though. But then I find a bear. Oh! Itís a mom with two small cubs. I canít tell if they are grizzlies or black bears. They are roaming at the western edge of the flat sage slope that spreads out from Lower Hellroaring.

I happily share the sighting with the few people who are here.

When the bears go out of sight I head east again. I have time for another side excursion so I go up to Antelope again.

Well past the Tower store a cinnamon black bear emerges from the creek corridor and comes toward the road. Only a few cars here but everyone stops a moment to take a look.

I stop up top a while and just enjoy the view. On my way back down, the cinnamon bear has created a full-fledged jam, complete with a crazy-excited family of four running down the creek side of the road heedless of traffic, or the safety of their kids in case the bear might be coming their way.

I have to bite my tongue but I am very relieved when I see the bear is now on the far side of the creek.

Just below Calcite is a second jam, this one well-managed by rangers. This is the sow with one cub. I am not planning to stop, then when I see an easy available spot, I pull over and walk back a little ways with my binocs. Both bears are about 5 feet up the same tree. Baby is playing, mom is resting.

Very cute.

I head back to Silver Gate to get the house ready. Maureen and Rick have left but Laurie & Dan are coming back today. They arrive around 6:30 and we have a very pleasant evening.

Today I saw: 3 black bears (including one cub), 2 grizzly bears (including 2 cubs), yellow-headed black birds, bison, coyotes (including 2 pups), cranes, mule deer, elk, 2 moose, pronghorn, 1 wolf (Small Dot of the Lamars) and the spirit of Allison.

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