Friday, May 16, 2008
   We reach Lamar Valley about 6:15 a.m. and already the Druids are there, across the river not far from their rendezvous site. The first wolves we see are 480M and 302M. They are the old guys now with white muzzles and somewhat mottled fur, but still big and strong looking. There is a kill on the river which the Druids made last night. 302M paces back and forth along the river bank as if he wants to go down to the carcass. He does not like to eat with other wolves, preferring to dine alone.
   A young black wolf comes across the sage from the west and disappears down into the river bank. I'm not sure who the black wolf is. Tim takes a picture and she has a white bar across her chest so she is either "Bright Bar" or "Dull Bar." Either way she is chocolate brown with a black face and black legs.
   Another black comes in, similar in color to the first black, and then a gray - large with a collar. It's 645F, a year-old female. She is a big girl with big bones and lots of brown in her fur. Then two grays, similar in that they were both very light without saddles, slide down the bank to the carcass. One is smaller than the other, so I think the smaller one was a female. A black pup and a gray pup are feeding on the carcass when it begins to float down the river. The two pups grab the carcass at opposite ends and hold on to it, dragging it to the bank.
   The wolves spread out to rest or feed on the carcass. One of the black pups stalks a ground squirrel. 302M and 480M are getting old. They each have lots of gray around their muzzles and look a lot like big, old dogs. 645F and the young black disappear into the sage; then the black pup, I believe a female, comes out of the sage and greets 480M in a very submissive posture, head down, tail almost between her legs. She licks his face and rolls over and under his belly. Then she repeats her behavior almost identically with 302M. It's funny and sweet at the same time.
   The wolves don't move much, remaining at the river bank for a couple of hours. Two small coyotes run back and forth along the river bank, but never go down to the carcass. 480M rises and approaches the bank several times, but doesn't get into a conflict. 302M lies behind in the sage. Lucky coyotes. Maybe they are both too full to get into it with the coyotes. 480M picks up a piece of meat from the carcass and trots back into the sage - maybe he is carrying it back to one of the dens.
   At Slough Creek a black wolf sniffs around the sage, tail almost between its legs. All of a sudden another black wolf with a lot of white on its face shoots out from the grass and trees. It has to be 380F. 380F pins the other wolf. I take my eyes off the scope for a second and lose them both. We see 380F trotting back into the crossed logs to the den site. A light gray wolf (probably the same wolf we saw yesterday) greets her with a wagging tail, a tiny black pup following behind. We don't see the other black wolf again, but I believe it was the wolf called the "dark female" that 380F harasses continuously. The dark female is a Slough, but seems to go back and forth between the Slough Creek Pack and 527F's group.
   The day turns warm quickly, rising from 38 degrees to 70. We hike along the Yellowstone River on the Garnet Trail, circumventing a herd of bison and their new calves. One calf peeks at us from behind its mother as if it wonders what we are. I love the grunts they make. The trail has beautiful views of the Yellowstone River and the mountains on the other side. When we pass a small pond the voices of frogs seems to explode in the quiet afternoon. We have the trail to ourselves so all the sounds around us - birds and bison and frogs and ground squirrels-are pleasantly amplified.
   We decide to head up to Tower Falls to see if the bears are out and on the way get pleasantly surprised by a fox crossing the road in front of us. Still sporting his luxurious silver and red winter coat he is kind enough to grace our day on the way to his next meal.
   Rosie is out today with her two cubs, a black and a cinnamon. The cubs are up a tree and I can only see the black. We saw Rosie earlier this week, but didn't realize it was her since we didn't see the cubs. We've seen several bears this trip. Even this morning there was a grizzly in Lamar Valley near Soda Butte Cone and a black bear at Elk Creek this afternoon.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2008