A mule deer greets me right before the Park entrance. I smile at the memory of nearly always seeing mule deer on my drives during my early visits to YNP.
At the end of the moose meadow a bison decides to suddenly charge across the road. Boy, do I have to slam on my brakes. Luckily we both survive, but everything that had been on the seat is now on the floor!
In Round Prairie, I see a moose and thank him for being OFF the road.
Just west of Trout Lake I get caught in a huge bison jam. It is the same herd that was making such noise last night. They pass right by my window, in ones and twos, gunting and mooing. I hold up my phone and take a video (which has now become a source of much amusement to my city friends). The car in front of me and several behind me are totally surrounded. The bison just keep on coming. I think there could be close to 500 animals in this herd.
All you can do is sit back and enjoy it.
Finally the herd begins to thin and we get moving again. I start my scoping day, as usual, at Hitching Post. Dillon (Dylan?) is here which is nice because I get to thank him for helping me see wolves last night. We are talking about how they must have gone off on a hunt last night when Jeremy sensibly turns to look south and...spots a wolf.
It's a black, coming down from the Cache Creek trail into the thick grass and sage. It passes in front of some trees just below the old river bank. The wolf stops and looks around, then disappears. I dont know if it bedded or kept walking. I scan this way and that, trying to find it again.
Moments after this, someone calls out that another black is in sight. This one is quite a ways east of the one I saw, almost all the way across the lush green meadow south of the creek. I think this has to be a different wolf than the one I saw by the trees. Wolves move fast but not THAT fast.
Then I see a gray, up on the old river bank, further to the east. The wolf is stopped right at the edge of the bank, staring at a bull bison a few yards away. It looks like Big Gray to me, with his mottled sides. This makes three adults so far, so perhaps they are coming back from a hunt?
Big Gray moves quickly down the slope into the high grass, taking pretty much the same route as the black, which I believe was the Black Female. She is already out of sight and Big Gray soon disappears, too.
I swing my scope to the right to try to find the original black again, but I never do. Once we compared notes, and checked in with Rick, we figured out that the first wolf Jeremy saw was 859. He has now moved east and remains south of the road well east of Footbridge.
When I lost him, he probably ducked into the gully below the old river bank and followed it to the east, out of sight.
Anyway, now that I have no wolves in sight it occurs to me that they are headed back to the den hills so I ought to be looking for their arrival. And we haven't see Middle Gray, so either she was the leader or she remained behind with the pups.
Either way, I now look north and just in time, too. I catch a quick glimpse of the Black Female crossing below the "badger hole" hill. Oh! Look at that! She is carrying a long white stick or perhaps a bone in her mouth. How sweet, she's got a treat for the pups!
We figure she must have picked it up somewhere on the north side of the road because she was not carrying it when she crossed the meadow.
I keep watching, hoping to see Big Gray, or more specifically, hoping to see the the pups greet Big Gray. But alas, I do not.
Eventually I hike back to my car and drive east. I check in with Laurie and Dan, who are again trying to find 859M. Instead we see endless bison.
So I drive west to Dorothy's for some variety. I find Kevin and Tracey here, with Bill H. He has found a grizzly and a black bear for all of us to watch. Thanks, Bill!
We also find an injured bull bison walking along the river's edge. Bill says he's seen that bison for two summers in a row, so I guess his injury is not keeping him from eating. The resilience of wild animals never ceases to amaze me.
Rick tells us he's going west to check other signals.
Kevin and Tracey agree with me that we should follow Rick and see what we see, so we do. We stop at Slough and hike out to Bob's Knob. We find 3 sandhills in the flats but no sign of wolves.
On we go to Boulder. When we get here, it looks like every single visitor to the e northern range has congregated at this one pullout, either in the lot, off the road or on the little hill. To the uninitiated, it looks like there is one heck of a wolf sighting going on but...it's all an illusion. There is nothing in sight...except bison!
But there is some wolf news. The plane flew today and found the Junction Buttes, with four gray pups! The only trouble is, they are in an area called "the trough" which cannot be seen from any vantage point along the road. Ah well.
But we chat and socialize and have a great time.
Around 11, Tracey & Kevin decide to head back south while I go in early with Laurie & Dan to catch up on the sleep I missed yesterday.
At 6:45 we head out again for the evening session. It has been raining since about 3PM. Right now it's just a light drizzle. The landscape seems glad to have it but I know the rolling hills will be very muddy!
And they are. As I hike out, the soft mud sticks to my boots like glue. I have to stop twice to scrape it off before I get to the knoll. Nevertheless, everyone is in good spirits. We find our K meadown grizzly but not much else.
A brisk wind comes up, and it smells like more rain is coming. Most people dash to their cars, but about six of us stay in place, pulling out our raincoats and hats. The rain arrives but doesn't last long, and soon we are shoving our rain gear back in our packs.
One of the Wolf Project guys, Pete, tells us about the rescue last night. He was part of a volunteer crew that hiked out to the back country campsite where the accident occurred. If the helicopter could not land there, the volunteer crew was to carry the injured woman by stretcher 6 miles back to the road.
He and his crew arrived at the site around midnight but in the end, the helicopter pilot WAS able to land, so she was flown directly to Cody for surgery. He says she was hurt pretty bad and may very well have died had it not been for the person with the satelite phone and the ability of the helicopter pilot.
He and his crew still had to hike back out in the middle of the night with headlamps. He says they came around a bend and found a bull bison in their way. The bull would not move and actually advanced on them. So one of the guys "deployed his bear spray" on the bison. He said it was impossible to tell whether the spray made contact with the animal or not, and although he saw no immediate reaction, the bison did eventually move far enough for them to get by safely.
Note: I did discover later that the woman is recovering fine.
Ranger Ray comes up to join us. It's great to see him and hear his very funny stories
Someone notices a group of visitors down by the river are picking up small items from the creek, examining them and then placing the items in a backpack. There is speculation that they may be finding pieces of petrified wood. Ray walks down to give them a friendly talk about why Park artifacts need to stay in the Park. Soon we see the items in the backpack are being replaced in the river.
I think most people simply don't know the rules, but now this family does.
Jeremy and I have a theory that the Lamar Canyon wolves are no longer in the den hills, that they probably took off hours ago, heading west or east, and have given us the slip again.
Some of us begin to delude ourselves into thinking that heading east a little early will somehow help us avoid getting stuck in the inevitable bison jam. I hear the sound of scopes and tripods being folded up, and people begin to march out through the mud to the lot.
But we all get stuck anyway. This bison herd is just enormous and they have bison business on their minds - what do they care about the needs of a dozen humans?
The jam stretches from Trout Lake all the way to Round Prairie. I do think this particular jam lasts longer due to the inexperience of a few drivers in front, but I don't blame them since I clearly remember how terrified of bison I was not too long ago!
TODAY I SAW: a black bear, a grizzly, hundredsofbison, sandhill cranes, a bald eagle, elk, moose, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, 3 wolves (Lamar Canyon pack Big Gray, Black Female and 859M) and the spirit of Allison.