trip report day 4
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Posted by michael in tucson (188.8.131.52) on July 19, 2005 at 19:48:24:
6-1-05 Day 4
All three of us are up and in the park by 5:30. It is raining as we enter the park but it does not dampen Hayden’s spirits. He is wide awake and in his words “ready to see some animals. Not long to wait, there are four mule deer does in a small meadow, and at Warm Springs there are three big moose, two adult cows and a large bull. Seems like Warm Springs is the place to see moose this year. As we drive west we stop several more times to watch deer and elk with Hayden.
It is strange to drive past Round Prairie, Soda Butte East and West, the Footbridge, Hitching Post and the Confluence area with no expectations of seeing wolves. That doesn’t mean we don’t stop at some of these places but mostly I am looking for bears, and we see elk and bison. Things have changed dramatically in one year. What will next year bring? Will the Slough wolves permanently move east dispersing into the Lamar much as the Druids under the leadership of 21 and 42 once moved west permanently displacing Rose Creek. Who will be top dog in the Lamar?
At Slough Creek we park in the first pullout. It is raining on and off sometimes heavily so we decide to not climb the hill and set up the scope near the pullout. There are not a lot of people. The rain has probably kept some of them in bed. We retreat to the car a couple of times with the scope, but overall the rain is doable since the temperature is mild. I’m guessing high 40’s or even low 50’s. Karlie gets lots of time on the scope while I hang with Hayden. We take another walk down to the creek to watch some coots, ducks and listen to a meadowlark on occasion. There are also some bison across the creek and we engage in a discussion of who eats whom or what. He is beginning to have a rudimentary understanding of the food chain. He knows that elk and bison do not eat bears or wolves. He asks me if rabbits eat jelly beans. I wonder about the question, and then remember that in his book Who Pooped in the Park, it says that rabbit poop is shaped like jelly beans. When I set him straight on that he begins a new discussion about the bison and elk poop we are walking around.
Karlie has been watching wolves the whole time. She catches me up and I am able to watch five adults or yearlings and at one point seven pups. Shortly after I begin viewing, the alpha female moves out of sight. The other adults spend the time moving around the general vicinity of the den. One gray and a black spend time running around below the den. Looks like they are just having a good time. Some of the adults bed down for a short time, but overall there is not a lot of resting going on. Several times an adult goes to the den and sticks her nose in, just checking. Pups that the adults must feel are straying to far from the area are picked up and carried back to the den area. I let Karlie back on the scope to watch puppies.
A grizzly sow and year old cub show up high above the den. They are slowly moving north just below the ridgeline and stay in view for a long time. Karlie finds them in the scope and I watch them forage for awhile. Afterwards I watch them with the binoculars and make sure newly arriving folks see them. There are more people now and many of them view the wolves and bears with our scope. I get to meet Christi from the chat page, a really nice lady. She has read my past reports and is glad to have the opportunity to meet Hayden. We have a nice chat and I also spot Helene and Rene and go and say hi. Rick comes down from the hill and lets me know that the Slough’s have a kill visible from Fisherman’s. It was probably there as we came through this morning but the heavy rain would have made it difficult to see. We decide to head back and stop at Fisherman’s.
The elk kill is on the flat across the river from Fisherman’s. There is one black wolf at the kill when we arrive. The kill is over a little rise and hard to see, but the wolf is biting off chunks and swallowing as I watch. I find out later that this is the alpha female. We had watched her earlier at the den site. Between bites she continuously looks around. Two more wolves were at the kill just before we arrived and left to bed down in a mixed aspen and conifer grove up on the bench. As I pan the area with the scope I find a canine to the east of the kill, just sitting and waiting. At first, I think wolf and then decide I am looking at a large coyote. Then between the kill and the river a second coyote moves across my field of vision. Once this second coyote is a little west of the kill both begin to move quickly toward the kill and the wolf. The wolf bolts off the kill and begins to run very quickly up and onto the rocky ridge across the river from the pullout. She disappears behind the ridge still running. When she next appears in the upper Lamar Canyon area, she has slowed to a moderate speed. The two coyotes are now gulping down chunks of meat. After about ten minutes one of them takes off to the north, goes out of sight and then reappears crossing the road just east of the pullout, but not before stopping in the middle of the road to mark the spot. I speculate that the coyote is heading to a den on the north side of the road to feed some pups. The other coyote continues to eat looking up often. There are of course lots of ravens hopping about and a bald eagle viewing from a tree top on the bench.
Rick pulls up and asks me about what I have seen. He lets me know that the wolf on the kill was the alpha female, and that the alpha male 490 and a gray male 453 are the two wolves bedded down on the bench. Eventually, I am able to see 453 but 490 is behind a tree and I will have to wait for another day to see him. We head back to Silver Gate and have a late breakfast at the Log Cabin. We spend the afternoon, napping, reading, buying some ice cream for night time snacking, and playing with our boy.
When we finish dinner it is raining quite hard. Karlie and Hayden decide to stay in the snug cabin while I head back into the park. The rain does not let up. There is a very wet smallish black phase black bear just west of Pebble Creek. Some people have stopped and have gotten out to take pictures. They get too close to the bear! It takes off and is soon lost to sight due to the limited visibility. It is raining hard enough that I can’t see any of the higher ground as I move west. I stop at Fisherman’s in a steady drizzle, where I see a single bald eagle on the kill. At Slough it is raining to hard to see the den area. I drive further toward the campground and stop at a pullout to watch some widgeon and bufflehead ducks on a small pond. It continues to rain hard so I decide to head back out of Slough. Just above the first pullout a coyote crosses near a car in front of me. The coyote is soaked and stops to shake. The people in front of me open their back window and let their little dog bark at the coyote. Rather odd behavior.
I head west and stop at the Crystal Creek pullout. It has stopped raining and I am able to glass the higher elevations. I spot some bighorn sheep and get the scope out to watch. There are eight sheep mixed ewes and young rams. I watch them feed across the slope for awhile and then spot a hovering kestrel. I watch the kestrel as it hovers and dives several times. I am never sure if it is actually hunting or just enjoying itself. It is now about 8:00 and I decide to head back toward the cabin. Just west of Lamar Canyon a mule deer doe comes out of the sage on the right and crosses in front of me as I wait for her, another does the same until seven have crossed one at a time in front of me. After the last one crosses I look to the left and they have already disappeared into the sage. In sight one moment and gone the next.
I make the mandatory stop at the kill site but there is nothing to see. There is one vehicle at Dorothy’s so I stop and glass. I find a large black phase black bear up on Amethyst. He is busily foraging and digging. I strike up a conversation with the other guy in the pullout. He tells me about a day last week when he spent the day here viewing wolves from three packs, Druids, Agates, and Sloughs, as well as both grizzly and black bears. While he professes to be a bear watcher, he felt very lucky to have seen all the wolves.
There are a lot of bison spread across the valley floor doing their best imitation of the “old West”. Twelve elk cows and yearlings are feeding at Warm Creek. I stop and watch, hoping to see a calf but none appear. It is now beginning to snow and it gets thicker as I reach Silver Gate. I realize that I need to get gas tonight if I plan to go into the park in the morning, so I head to the Sinclair in Cooke City. The snow is really coming down as a cow elk crosses in front of me in Silver Gate. She stops and looks back as a very new elk calf now crosses in front of the car. I drive oh so carefully, both to Cooke City and on the return to Silver Gate. Back at the cabin we all have ice cream before going to bed.
- mistaken id of rabbit scat michael in tucson 18:44:21 08/09/05 (0)
- Thanks michael! Bison 12:37:16 07/25/05 (0)
- A lovely read - thanks michael! Wendy 10:09:32 07/24/05 (0)
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