In terms of wolf-watching, today makes up for yesterday, and THEN some!
Itís a three-pack day - starting at 7:30 with the whole Agate pack in Little America. Last night Calvin and Lynette arrived at the motel (earlier than expected) and Iím sure it is their presence that has turned our luck. Lynette spots them just past Junction Butte on the north side of the road. They are trotting through the flats and then they climb Peregrine Hill and bed for a while. They also howl almost non-stop for a half hour. I see 12, but as it turns out, one of their number is missing - as will be later told. I have a really good chance to see the alphas relatively close by and I study their markings for quicker ID in the future.
Once they are bedded for the day, we head east. We see the Sloughs resting high on a snowy slope just east of the Institute. I am distressed to hear that alpha male 490 is not with them, and has not been confirmed by sight for a day or two. It could be that his collar is not working. It is a mystery that will need a bit more time to solve. We continue east and, after a quick stop at the Torreylet, find the Druids on a snowy slope east of the Cone (south of the road), not as close as the Agates, nor as far as the Sloughs. I name the spot Druid Slope.
Around 1:30, the Druid adults get up and walk further up the hill to re-bed. It is a nice chance for me to watch them as individuals and I take advantage. These three flop down and bed again, along with a black pup. They are visible to the naked eye but itís better with a scope. Some bison in the area decide to move close to the edge of the pullout where there is lots of tall straw-like grass so that sends me around to the other side of Heidi just to be safe!
We watch them a long time. At one point a bunch of pups suddenly come out from the trees and rush at the sleeping adults. 302 bolts up from a prone position and tears across the slope like he is running for his life! Then he turns to see itís only his own pups. I think this puts him in a grumpy mood. He was probably dreaming about Half-Black or U-Black, back in his youth. We also see the new alpha female, behaving somewhat like her famous ancestor, #40F. She gets up and trots downhill all by herself as the others remain bedded. She begins to stalk and suddenly dashes down to the carcass area. She is chasing three coyotes. One of them bolts all the way across the road, while two others stay to taunt her once she has turned around.
Then just before 3PM they begin to howl! I see four muzzles in the air but hear nothing - a trick of the wind or the landscape prevents the sound from reaching my ears. Finally something shifts and the gorgeous wolf song finds its way across the flats to my ears. I look around to see what may have prompted the howling. It seems odd, since I am pretty sure all the pups have bedded and no one is missing. Only later do I learn that this is exactly the same time that the Agates and Sloughs begin their howl-off.
A charcoal pup gets up and comes over to 302. He snaps at the pup and the pup immediately gets down low, groveling. He/she crawls back to 302 and rolls on his/her belly, licking 302's muzzle. 302 sits up and steps on the charcoal pup. Then he gets up and walks away to the left. After heís gone about 20 feet the pup jumps up and follows! But 302 is not having it and gives the pup the cold shoulder. The pup decides to mouse instead and hops up in the air then dives into the snow. 302 flops down and drops his head wearily. Not to be discouraged, the pup goes right on playing, by itself.
A little later the pack rouses itself and begins a gorgeous pack howl. Thereís lots of tail wagging and Rambunctiousness. The people in the pullout love hearing the sound. A few minutes after this rally is over, another one begins, louder and longer than the first. I love hearing the notes echo through the gorgeous valley.
I see much tail wagging, a huge dog huddle and lots of back-jumping by the pups on each other and on the alphas. Just after this, a snow-squall arrives, along with Rick. Visibility goes from perfect to dreadful. I can still see the pack gathered around the alphas and then they start to move downhill but the snow starts blowing into my scope (and my face) and suddenly there are no features to be seen whatsoever.
When the blur finally relents, there are no more Druids on the hill, no Druids on the slope. I do notice a lot of birds just above the area where the carcass is, so I am pretty sure the pack went downhill to feed again. But you can't see anything and from the looks of things, the squall is likely to last a good while. So I reluctantly pack up Layla and head back west where I hook up with Marlene and Becky & Chloe and Calvin and Lynette. They help me see the Sloughs and 4 of the Agates.
Next I learn that two males from the Agates (383 and the un-collared gray (The UCG) have been howling back and forth with the Slough girls. It suddenly dawns on me what this might portend for the future. But itís too early for that level of speculation. I canít wait to see what tomorrow may bring.
Today I saw: bison, 8 coyotes, elk, 31 wolves (including 13 Agates, 7 Sloughs and 11 Druids) 8 wolfers and the spirit of Allison.