If the wolf kept coming he would pass within 40 feet of us.
We waited, lying on our bellies in the sage not daring to move,
hoping that the large canid would appear cresting the top of the hill
right in front of us. Suddenly there he was, 40 feet away trotting along
moving with purpose.
We had been down to Snow Pass on Glenn Creek trail
trail and were
coming back tired but happy to be out
in the backcountry of Yellowstone again.
We had pulled to the side of the trail to do a little sock realignment. While
Christine fixed her footwear I looked up the trail to see a wolf moving down
the path towards us. We froze not wanting to be seen and when it went behind
a hill for a moment we went down to the ground hoping the wind would hold
for us. Right after the large gray wolf of the Swan Lake Pack topped the hill
it was evident that he smelled us. He kept his course but looked over at us
and picked up his pace. Just before he dropped from sight at the other side
of the hill he stopped and looked back. A truly wild wolf taking us in, not
in fear but more curiosity and a moment forever seared in memory for us.
One of the main reasons we go to Yellowstone is for the wolves.
It is known as the best place in the world to go and observe Canis Lupus in the wild.
If you go to see wolves and have at least a week the chances are fairly
good that will happen for you.
I have gone to the park and not seen them
for 3 days and then on the fourth the dam broke and we had good extended
viewing the rest of the trip. Patience is rewarded and a little knowledge
is important but after that your fate is in the hands of the dogs.
The best place to see wolves is without a doubt the Lamar Valley. With the
big Druid Peak Pack and all the offshoots that are in the area the wolf
activity can be high. The park wolf research people including Rick McIntyre
and company are almost always there to fill you in on the latest news. They have
radio telemetry equipment there to track the wolves so if there is a
collared animal in the area they will know it. Just look for a group of parked
cars at one of the pullouts in the valley and ask them what has been happening lately.
Almost everyone is happy to help you and will often let you look through their
scope to see what they are watching. I have often heard Rick saying "now has everyone seen a wolf?"
The best time to go to see wolves is in the winter. They are still
active needing to kill to eat and all the animals are lower down in the
valleys so the activity is concentrated there. They are also much easier
to see on the snow. It can get chilly though.
My favorite time to view wolves is in the early spring. In May there is still
occasional snow on the ground, plenty of winter kills left and the wolves are
not traveling much staying close to the den sites to have pups. The prey animals
are still in the valleys and as an added bonus the bears are out looking for
their first food after sleeping all winter.
Don't take it personally if it seems every time you show up somewhere you
are told "You should have been here yesterday" or "You just missed them".
This does happen to everyone and your luck will eventually change. Can be pretty annoying though.
Hearing a wolf howl is another Yellowstone gift that can grace you at anytime.
It's a low deep howl not confused by the yipping of the coyotes and is typically
heard at dusk or dawn. The first time I heard them howl I was at the buffalo ranch
in the Lamar and as soon as the wolves started singing one of the institute buses
came along and idled right next to us. By the time it left the wolves were done. That's wolf watching in Yellowstone.
Tim Springer - 2004
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