Sunday, May 04, 2008

Close Encounters

click photos to enlarge

This is a continuation of my previous post on our adventures in Yellowstone National Park titled Live, Love, and Die.

Our last day of wolf watching presented us with the best weather of the trip, crystal clear blue skies with little breeze. We knew exactly where to go - the Slough Creek wolves’ carcass from yesterday. Upon arriving we found a large Grizzly Bear on the carcass with the wolves bedded nearby. Shortly thereafter the wolves chased the bear off the carcass. The bear regrouped and rushed the wolves sending them running. The wolves then regrouped and rushed the bear. They would win the showdown for now. They all gathered to eat, probably due to spite. The wolves were clearly in a better mood than yesterday with a significant amount of play from the yearlings.

 

We watched some of the wolves leave toward their den site, some five miles away. We decided to go watch the arrival hoping for a glimpse of the puppies. We watched for a while but no arrival. We later heard that they had not left the carcass, they probably just went for a drink of water.

The next rumor was that there were two courting grizzlies near Junction Butte, just a few miles down the road. With no wolves in sight we decided to check it out. We believe that these are not two courting bears, but instead two 2-3 year old siblings still traveling together. They entertained us for more than an hour.

 

These are likely the same two grizzlies we had seen in the area a few days ago. After all of the wrestling, they laid down next to each other to sleep.

 

Karyn and I returned to the Slough carcass to find all nine Slough wolves still there. Since today is our last day in the Lamar we went up to get one last sight of the Druid Peak wolves. We found them at the Footbridge. They had apparently been feeding on a carcass in the trees near Round Prairie and then got mixed up with some coyotes. The wolves killed the coyotes and their puppies. Wolves are very territorial and very protective of their carcasses. These coyotes either pressed their luck or were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When we first saw the Druid wolves returning from Round Prairie, one of the nursing mother wolves that was left behind ran up and solicited food from the alpha male which he provided. One of the yearling wolves left behind tried as well, but got nothing. Apparently if you aren't a mother you can fend for yourself.

It was time for us to head for home. As we are exhausted from the lack of sleep, we are staying at Madison tonight before the long drive home on Sunday. The drive to Madison was non-eventful. After arriving at the campsite, we took a nap and then headed out on a walk near the river. Two amazing things occurred on the hike. First we watched a Northern Goshawk fly out of the trees and almost capture a Raven. This was only about a hundred feet away! The second, which was probably the most special event of the trip is that we spooked up a female wolf about 50 feet away. She ran a short distance, stopped to look at us, and then went on her way. Unbelievable! What a way to finish the trip!

 

The next morning before our long drive home, we once again walked down by the river. We heard a wolf howl in the distance. I then saw a grey wolf weaving through the trees. Not as close as the night before, but still quite special. We returned to Boise where it seems to be summer with temperatures in the 70s. What contrast from snow and highs in the 30s/40s.

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