Sunday, October 28, 2007
   I love the way the Park wakes up in the morning. Meadows covered with frost mute the gold and green of grass and trees. We turn a corner and enter a world dressed in white and green. Snow pushed into banks holds back an endless forest of pine. We are looking for the Hayden Pack, and not finding them continue to Lake Yellowstone. A grizzly pads along the edge of a meadow near Indian Pond and disappears into the trees. There are so many swans this year. Tundra swans, almost identical to trumpeter swans, are migrating now, but not staying the winter. We listen for their call, trying to tell them apart.
   We hike along Nez Perce Creek winding through marshy and thermal areas. A Clark's Nutcracker fusses at a gray jay. At the opposite side of the creek, a sign at the wooden bridge declares the area closed. In red letters it explains: "Dangerous Bear." So we rest by the creek, watching trout wiggle over and through rocks and hide under the bank.
   We head back to Hayden Valley. Cars line the road along Cascade Meadow letting us know the Haydens are there. The wolves are bedded down in the south meadow, looking calm, ignoring the crowd. I see 540F, the alpha female, lying next to an uncollared gray. My eyes drift west looking for the black pup, the little wolf I have heard so much about. He is supposedly the pup of a young subordinate female and not 540 as there is some debate over whether two light gray wolves such as 540F and 541M can have a black pup.
   The Haydens are close, but not too close to the road. They made a kill in this meadow yesterday, a little northwest from Hayden Valley. I watch four wolves slowly get up and stroll west through last week's snow. The black gets up and follows 540, staying close. They disappear in the ravine between meadow and mountain, the black pup loping after the alphas while two yearlings move west. There are four pups in this pack, but all the wolves look like adults. They are healthy and beautiful. Big, gray with dark markings on their saddles. The black also looks like an adult, his charcoal coat thick and shiny. Not jet black, he will be gray one day, too, I think.
   When the wolves disappear into the trees those of us on the road begin to pack up and leave. Tim disassembles his tripod as I place my camera on the back seat when he calls - "Christine! Christine! Wolves running after an elk!" I turn to see four Haydens dashing across the road after two elk, a cow and her calf. When I finally understand what's happening, a fifth wolf runs across the road behind us, one of the sub-adults. She is less than 15 feet away. The wolves split up the cow and calf pursuing them separately, the cow trying to divert the wolves and they all run into the trees on the opposite side of the road.
   Astonished, we grab camera gear and drive up the road a few hundred feet to view the outcome of the chase. The wolves got the calf. Tim heard the hooves of the calf and the wolves panting and the calf squealing before he saw any of it. I'm glad I missed that part. The adults start feeding immediately and soon four pups leap through the meadow, following the tree line to the carcass and the adults. When we finally leave the area we spot a grizzly headed toward the road, but he stops when he hears our vehicle. He knows there is food around. Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2007