Billions of stars above me promise a clear day. But it's quite cold: my car gauge reads minus 5!
First light on the mountains is so beautiful! And a quarter moon adds to the full picture.
I have bison in the road at 480's crossing but find no-one in any of the Lamar pullouts. The light is so welcome this morning and it is stunningly beautiful, especially because there is, as yet, no wind.
I meet up with Rick and Sian at Dorothy's. He tells me no signals but that the plane will probably fly. Poor 715 is still in the same place up on Specimen. She is most likely injured and unable to move much.
Rick also tells us that Bob found tracks in Mammoth this morning - which could be Blacktails or Canyon.
Sian and I decide to walk out to Bob's Knob to scope for 752 - Rick got her signal in the area. As the sun rises, the day turns astonishing, revealing the rugged, cold beauty of land and sky.
We find beauty and bison but no wolves. We head on to the west, with Rick ahead of us, and stop to scope at Hellroaring. We find hundreds of elk and some bison too, but still no wolves.
Sian tells me when the Blacktails were here a few days ago they tried to get elk but hunted so poorly, with such a lack of coordination, that they didn't get any, despite the presense of several injured elk which were visible to the wolf-watchers!
Then Rick calls to tell us to head west. We find him at the Nature trail along with an Institute bus. The temps have climbed above zero. Yay!
The Blacktails were seen a little bit ago - the high count was 10, but by the time we arrive, only a single gray is in sight.
The hill where the gray stands is on the south side of the road, far away. There are still numerous alerted elk higher on the hill than the gray, and a second small group of elk to the right of them.
The elk are all looking in the same direction, which is probably where the other 9 Blacktail wolves are. The lone gray walks across a slope below the elk, then disappears.
About 15 minutes later, a wolf appears on the skyline, loping in our direction. It might be a different wolf, or perhaps the same one. The loner reaches an area with a few trees and vanishes.
There must be a gully there but from our viewpoint we are expecting it to pop back up on the other side of the trees but it never does.
The wind has picked back up and makes scoping difficult, especially with nothing in sight! While we are here, Rick gives us an update from the plane. The Lamar Canyons are bedded on the back-side of Norris, and they saw lots of track in the snow near where they got 715's signal, but could not see her.
The Blacktails are not likely to be in view again from here or any other pullout, so we go back east and out to Bob's Knob again, looking for 752. Sian finds a suspicious blob on the north-facing hill, but we never see it move.
I retrieve a message from Frank who tells me a good deal of snow is coming our way - there could be 7 inches in Cooke by Friday. So I begin to worry some more about whether I can get out of the driveway or not.
We find lots of bison at Slough and enjoy the sight of some of them play-fighting, and others crossing the frozen creek.
Sian's next idea is to climb up Confluence hill to see if we can find the Lamars. I am game so I follow her up there.
The wind has mercifully died down and the sun is high and bright. We actually begin to shed some layers and take off our hats.
We find elk up here, and many bison. We keep hearing the yip-howls of coyotes below us and Sian finally finds them: first two young coyotes running through the river bottom. Then I find a larger coyote moving carefully through the sage on the the old river bank below us. He is listening to the yipping.
Then a smaller, delicate-looking coyote appears on a hill to the right of him. The yipping stops and these two greet each other, then do a sweet little fanny dance, including the paw over the back, and false mounting. They are clearly acquainted and sweet on each other. The size difference is quite striking. We watch these two head off into the sage together.
How sweet. Coyote love in the snow-dusted sage.
A few minutes later we see a fifth coyote in the river corridor and a bald eagle soaring overhead. We keep scoping, telling stories and after a while I decide to scope the high spots of Norris again.
Suddenly I yell to Sian "skyline!"
I see a parade of animals, in a line, heading east on the first bald spot left of the main crest of Norris. Sian is wonderfully quick in finding my spot, despite my excited, confused directions. I see two blacks and three grays just before they disappear into the trees. She sees them just before they disappear.
I'm not even sure they were wolves, but Sian is. Then, as if to reward our tenacity, a black wolf (very likely a pup) comes out of those trees and runs downhill across the snow, then jops and dives his nose into the snow. He might be mousing or chasing a rolling ice-ball of snow.
He jumps again and sticks its muzzle in the snow, then turns and trots back up the hill, disappearing into the trees a bit lower where he emerged.
It is all too brief, but we found the wolves!
Our gut feeling is that they are on a mission and will come down. We check in with the Wolf Crew and they confirm signals make them Lamar Canyons.
It's about 1:30 so we figure we'd best head east and try to find the most likely spot where we can find them again. We try Footbridge and Soda Butte but no luck.
Then Colby's team spots them coming down a slope further east, loping through heavy snow, sending it flying.
We join them at Soda Butte East. The temperature has risen all the way to 20 but is now dropping again, rapidly. It is such a joy to scope in such good light, whether we find wolves or not. We do find a group of bighorn sheep, and many bull elk in the trees above the river bank, as well as another coyote.
But around 4:30, Sian leaves to head back to Gardiner. Soon after I get a chill and start to think of heading in myself. Of course, about 15 minutes after I leave, the Lamar Canyon wolves appear just west of Round Prairrie, but I miss them.
I stop at Barronette to look for goats, but find dozens of waterfalls instead. Then I see a fox, one of several that hangs out near Silver Gate. He is right in the road in front of Laurie's house and so gorgeous! When I stop, he moves into the willows, out of sight.
Today I saw: bison, 6 coyotes, a bald eagle, elk, bighorn sheep, 6 wolves from two packs (one from the Blacktail pack and five from Lamar Canyon Pack, including one black pup) and the spirit of Allison.