trip report day 5

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    Posted by michael in tucson ( on August 01, 2005 at 21:13:05:

    6-2-05 Day 5

    As usual I see the early morning deer and elk in the meadows along the road. At the west end of Round Prairie I stop and watch a group of bull elk. There are twelve bulls and four of them are already sporting very impressive antlers. I can imagine what these will look like in the fall. The larger bulls show strong signs of dominance. Physically moving the smaller bulls by there presence and several times they charge at the smaller bulls who quickly get out of the way. Just a little further down the road at Soda Butte East, I have to stop as eight more bull elk cross from north to south in front of me. I decide to stop at the confluence area to see if I can spot a beaver or otters. I am the only one here. I donít see either but spot more elk this time two cows. They are a little upstream on the Lamar in an area thick with high river deposited tree trunks and branches. Not a likely spot to see them. I soon discover why. There are two very young calves with the cows. One is just getting his legs under him and is still very wet from birth. Mom spends all of her time licking the calf. The other calf appears to be a little older and is spending his time nursing. Both cows are very nervous. They are very aware of me, and I wonder if this is where they will leave the calves, when they go off to feed.

    I stop and glass at Dorothy's and see a large black bear up high. I suspect this is the same bear I saw last evening. There are lots of elk and bison high on the bench above the river. There is nothing on the Slough kill from yesterday and I continue west. I stop at Lamar Canyon East and check out the Great Horned Owlís nest. There is an adult at the nest and both chicks are very visible. At 60x, they fill the scope. The chicks are already very good at doing the owl pose, sitting very still and just watching their world.

    The Slough wolves have made a kill just a little southwest of the den. It was viewed by one guy and he thinks that it was probably a deer, although it happened so quickly he said that he canít be sure. It is in a rocky area and while I never see the body, it is behind a rock, I see the tell tale ravens and watch four wolves tear off pieces from it. There are two black and two gray wolves at the kill. After awhile one of the blacks heads toward the den and is met by a flurry of puppies as the black regurgitates for them. I am able to discern four pups but they are a jumble and quickly head back down into the den. The remaining three wolves head up the hill and soon disappear given some impetus by a belligerent cow elk. Maybe they killed an elk calf or maybe there is a calf nearby, regardless the wolves are out of sight for now. I wait for awhile and then head back east.

    I stop at Coyote to look for bears but Instead I find wolves. They are east of Amethyst Creek and heading west. For the second time this trip I am watching Druids. With few wolves in the pack even I can quickly figure out that I am looking at 480, 302, 286 and the black yearling. There is one other person in the pullout and he tells me that he has been watching the wolves work their way west. He does not know what wolves they are so I share my information with him. The black yearling is bringing up the rear and the largest black 480 sits down a couple of times and waits for her to catch up. It appears that they are in hunt mode as they slowly work their way up the drainage onto the bench. They wander through a group of bison who pay little attention and then reach a second group of bison that pay a lot of attention. This group herds the calves to the middle and form a defensive posture all around them. The wolves do not test the bison and continue on they drop out of sight and we wait for them to reappear higher up, but it doesnít happen. I am hesitant to leave though, maybe they will come back into sight. After about twenty minutes I decide to move east again. As always, I am running late in my attempt to be back at Silver Gate by 9:00. And I am going to be even later.

    Just west of Soda Butte Cone there are several cars pulled over. As I slow down I can see a grizzly walking along the south bank of the creek. I find a place to park and get out the scope. For this bear the scope is for up close viewing. He can be viewed without optics and the binoculars work well also. It is a medium sized grizzly and he slowly moves along the bank then drops down to the creek. In the creek he finds an old elk kill which he pulls from the water. He tugs at a leg which is mostly bone and hide, and as I watch in the scope he holds it down and rips pieces from what is left. He takes the leg and gets back up on the south bank, where he spends more time tearing pieces off. He then begins a slow meander to the south and the trees. At one point he runs as if possibly chasing a rodent, but doesnít get anything for his troubles and continues slowly south. i watch as he moves into the trees and is soon out of sight.

    Back at the cabin breakfast is waiting for me. After breakfast Karlie and Hayden go outside while I clean up. Today is clothes washing day and we head to Cooke City and the Soda Butte Lodge to do the laundry. It always takes awhile to get it done and it is late afternoon so we decide to have an early dinner at the Beartooth Cafe. We have a delicious leisurely dinner and head back to the cabin. I am tired and we decide to just spend the evening at the cabin relaxing. We get some hot chocolate mix at the Silver Gate Store and while I catch up on my notes Karlie and Hayden play card games. After my notes are done I am recruited for the card games. We are having so much fun that it is 10:00 quickly, so much for an early night.

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