Tuesday, June 12, 2012,
Silver Gate, Montana

    Before leaving Canyon, we hike into Cascade Meadows, a trail that winds through tall lodge pole pines at the edge of a series of meadows. Glacier lilies and flox bloom along the trail; the marshy meadows are filled with tall, green grasses. A red squirrel scampers across our path. The trail crosses a creek and leads to a small lake in the middle of a primitive camping site, but anxious to move on, we don't hike that far today. .
    Near Mt. Washburn we stop to look for pika. Sitting on top of the hill at the edge of the road we search the rocks carefully. Pika are very small and move very quickly, jumping from rock to rock and in and out of holes, so they are very difficult to spot. Our efforts are noticed by a man who pulls his vehicle over and comments on our diligence. He knows what we are looking for without us telling him having studied pika in Colorado and California and gives us other locations in the Park where we might find the little mouse-rabbits.
    Going down Tower Road we catch a glimpse of this year's Rosie with two cubs of the year. The cubs are small, about the size of a puppy or cat. They scamper after their mother, tripping through tall grass and over logs. The mother seems oblivious to her surroundings, but most certainly she is not. Near Yellowstone Picnic area another black bear and her cub of the year walk along the slope. The sow picks her way through the trees quickly while the cub lopes after her, jumping on fallen logs and running up tree trunks. In a short period of time the bears cover the slope from Specimen trailhead almost to the picnic area, while a line of people, in and out of cars, follow them.
    When we reach Lamar Valley we find a group of five bison surrounding a carcass, defending it from a light gray wolf. The wolf comes in to take a bite and is immediately escorted off the property. The wolf, who is collared, walks off, but quickly returns and continues to dart in and out of the circle. For several minutes the wolf dodges the bison until the bison finally walk off, leaving the carcass. The wolf slinks in and starts pulling at the carcass, which by this time is well picked over. She pulls at it, struggling a bit, then tears off a piece and beds out of sight.
    Later, five more wolves join the light gray at the carcass. They seem to just materialize out of the grass. Together there are two black wolves and four gray. One is very light gray and two grays are collared. The blacks have dark black faces and long coats. They look healthy and young. A very light gray flops down and sprawls on her side; she has had enough. A black and collared gray tug at the carcass, while the other grays bed and the other black walks away. The black goes up to the light gray and starts to play. Soon, all the wolves are up and in the game. They rally and begin to move west, but they're not in a hurry. One black lags behind, stops and raises its head to howl. Unfortunately, his song isn't heard over the noise of the vehicles passing by. The wolves pick up the pace and disappear in one of the many draws near Amethyst Bench.
    The funniest thing about this sighting is we're not sure which wolves we're looking at. This is the territory of the Lamar Canyon Pack, but we don't recognize any of the wolves, and there is only one collared wolf. We've never seen the Lamar Canyon yearlings and it's been a couple of years since we've seen the Mollie Pack.
    It's 7:15 by the time we head toward Silver Gate. We pass more bear jams and visitors searching for mountain goats. After a slow morning, it seems like the Park is just waking up.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

Click for larger image

Yellowstone Experiences 2012