Thursday, May 13, 2010
   It is a brilliantly clear day from start to finish. We cruise Lamar Valley past Soda Butte Cone and Buffalo Ranch, passing bison and elk and antelope to Slough Creek where crowds wait for the '06 female to poke her head out of the den. It is a morning of back and forth looking for wildlife, and we end up at Slough Creek on a hillside above the second parking lot where we can see the den better.
   In the meantime the Agates have shown up north of the road near the Specimen Ridge trailhead, and we miss them. I am disappointed. I would have liked to see 641M from the Mollie Pack (my wolf's brother), now an Agate. And the '06 female doesn't even poke her head out of the den! So far four pups have been counted, so puppy watch at the den is on. We give up at Slough for the time being driving through Little America toward the Yellowstone Picnic area. A coyote sits on top of a large rock near Junction Butte, guarding a hidden den.
   On the Yellowstone Trail we look for signs of the Agates and bears and there are plenty of tracks in the soft ground. A pair of big horn sheep ewes grazing on the high meadow glances in our direction. They do not appear nervous around us; they just keep munching on new spring grass. High above the Yellowstone River canyon we walk in Agate territory, stepping beside wolf prints in the soft sand. We have hiked this trail so many times and I think I enjoy it as much each trip. We take a break where the trail angles to meet the Specimen Ridge Trail and gaze across the blue green water of the river to the cliffs on the other side. Crossing the high meadow on top, we follow the trail down the steep slope passing the meadows where the Agates were seen today.
   This afternoon the black bear sow and her cubs are in a small meadow on the slopes next to the Yellowstone River Bridge. It is a small wooded area attached to a small meadow. The cubs play in a small wooded area and wrestle one another while the sow lies in the grass trying to sleep. We make a quick trip to Grizzly Lake looking for a sow grizzly with cubs we've hear about. Photographers and visitors -some camped out in chairs- wait for her in the burned out area. Many years ago we watched 264 and her cubs forage and play a little farther down the road near Obsidian Creek.
   A coyote den hides near the entrance to Roosevelt Lodge. It is dug underneath two pine trees and set back in the sage. A light colored gray coyote sleeps in the shade to the right of the den curled in a tight little ball. There are a few other holes in the grassy bank, so the den could be any of them. We check each day religiously, but this is the only we see the coyote.
   The '06 female is out of the den at Slough Creek. She wags her tail and wriggles her gray body in excitement when a black male approaches. He doesn't feed her, so '06 trots down the hill while the black wolf (755 or 754) is left to take care of the pups. He weaves through the grass and logs and pokes his head in the entrance. Hard to see, he spends a lot of time in front of the den. It looks like he's feeding the pups as his head disappears. When he finally steps away it looks like he went completely into the den hole. He zigzags down the hill and lies down in the tall yellow grass.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2010