** November 2010 ** 

      October has slid past in autumn's warm golden wave and it is November already. The temperature finally dips to 40. In Grand Teton and Yellowstone we woke to chilly mornings that quickly warmed to "shorts weather" and returned to the cabin in the fading light of dusk. Aspens and cottonwoods, flaming yellow and orange, rippled across Lamar Valley and Little America. But fall's glory could not mask the emptiness of the Lamar. "When have you ever seen the Lamar without a wolf?" someone wondered out loud. There were many times that first week of October when wolves were absent, and it was a strange and uncomfortable feeling.
      Without - that is how I felt. Without the Druids. Without 527F. Without 302M. And without 640F, my collared wolf who dispersed from the Mollie Pack earlier this year. Even the Silver Pack, who moved into Lamar Valley and comforted wolf watchers while they mourned the Druids, disappeared while we were there. I said once that the years 2002 to 2008 were a gift, the wolf population exploding in Yellowstone during that time. The reality of that statement sank in with the lack of spontaneous wolf sightings for us - no wolves crossing in front of us or behind us or near us.
      What we did experience was wildlife behavior that was, well, more like wildlife. The wolves stayed away from the road - except when they absolutely had to. They avoided crossing the road and stayed in the trees. That's how wolves behave. No more "celebrity" packs. The realization that wildlife is not always out there, plainly in view, is a painful one.
      The Tetons were a joyful rediscovery. Why hadn't we spent more time there before? The great mountains will hypnotize you. I often found myself just staring at them, totally taken in by their enormity and jagged peaks. Grand Teton is a great place to sink into the beauty of what is and let it surround you. Quiet; peacefulness; moose everywhere.
      I wondered how I would feel being in Yellowstone on the anniversary of 527's death. No one mentioned her and Montana's first wolf hunt is not forgotten, though there will be no hunt this year. There is a lot to be happy about. It seems like all the wolf packs in the northern range have pups, are healthy, and are staying out of each other's way. The Lamar Canyon Pack, the Agates, and the Blacktail Pack stretch from Blacktail Plateau to Round Prairie, traveling the same paths, avoiding conflict. The Quadrant and Everts Packs are still around, though we have not seen them. The best news of all is that the Cottonwood Pack, 527's pack, still exists. They are five wolves, I think, and include one of 527's pups and a female called Dull Bar, one of the last surviving Druid wolves. I hear she still shows signs of mange, but she has other wolves to bring her food and watch out for her, and that is one hopeful story to hang on to.

Christine Baleshta - November 2010

Yellowstone Experiences 2010