Sunday, November 4, 2007
We leave the cabin about 6:30 a.m. this morning. They sky is still dark and a crescent moon shines surrounded by a few stars.
Bison sleep dangerously close to the road, their eyes shiny like little red dots in the headlights.
We pass Barronette Peak, glowing in the darkness, another bison sleeping in the meadow below.
The road curves past Warm Creek, Soda Butte picnic area and Pebble Creek. The smell of sulfur
rises from the grass around Soda Butte cone as the sun creeps toward the Beartooths.
The Druids are bedded in the rendezvous site. A black gets up and walks back and forth along the sage.
He convinces a gray to get up, then another, and another black and the four start digging in the grass,
digging for nothing. 569F lies comfortably at one end of the group, two blacks on either side, probably 302M and 480M.
She lifts her head and minutes later we hear the Druids howl. They are getting ready to move.
We watch them travel east, playing in the grass, taking their time, heading up Cache Creek.
We look for the old wolf once more, but don't see him.
We watch for the uncollared gray, too and see him cross below the trees to Jasper bench.
He moves quickly looking back every now and then. He is from Idaho, though there is no other information right now.
He looks good in the scope and would certainly help the gene pool of the Yellowstone wolves.
The Agates were seen in Canyon yesterday as well as the Mollies.
The Agates apparently travel to Cascade Lake frequently, at least during the summer.
Cascade Meadow is an elk migration point so all the wolves are drawn there.
Our last morning in the Park is quiet. No bears or coyotes. Yellowstone is sinking into winter.
In Swan Lake Flats pure white mountains rise above golden meadows. Tundra swans fill the lake.
A little white creature about the size of a ground squirrel scampers across the road - an ermine!
He races back and forth on the pavement and up walls of rock. He skips across a stream hopping from stone to stone.
He stops, stands on hind legs to peer at us and races up and down the wall again.
I look at the picture of 540F often. In those moments as I gaze at her looking back at me, she is still here.
I still cannot grasp her absence, or that of her mate. The Hayden pups have been seen traveling west to Norris and north to Gardiner Hole.
Up and down the road between Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs, closed to all vehicles except snow coaches.
It will be difficult now to track their whereabouts.
I am reminded about something, something about the Mollies. The Crystal Creek Pack, one of the original Yellowstone packs
was driven out of the Lamar Valley by the Druid Pack in the early years of the reintroduction. The alpha female,
4F, who sustained severe wounds and her son, 6M, were driven into exile to the Pelican Valley where 4F mated with
her son out of necessity and they learned to hunt bison. They became the Mollie Pack, the largest wolves in Yellowstone.
"My wolf," 527F, has separated from the Slough Creek Pack. She slowly distanced herself from the other wolves,
disappearing for a day or two and then joining them again. It is a wise move as the Druids seem to be pushing the Sloughs away from Lamar Valley.
She has been seen traveling with the gray wolf from Idaho, now clearly identified as B271, another uncollared gray male,
and a Slough female called "Sharp Right." A new pack is forming and 527F will likely be an alpha female.
The illusive black wolf stands above the disorder and gives us something to look forward to this spring.
Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer
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