Trip Report ~ Wolf Sightings ~ by Gerry Hogston from Scotland
18 January - 10 February 2011
~ January 2011 ~
|Tuesday - 18 January
Flying from Manchester my flight is at 09:45, I get to the airport 3 hours before flight time to fog. I get into Amsterdam an hour late but there is still two hours to my next flight to Minneapolis and that is on time and I have a row of seats to myself and a good flight into MSP and I am soon through immigration. Now comes the long wait, five hours for the flight to Bozeman. Looking at arrival and departure boards I see that I am lucky not to be going through Chicago, lots of flights cancelled.
I am in BZN 15 minutes early and get my car, a Ford Edge. The carousel has just started and cases come and go and I start to wonder, then mine comes round, so I'm off out into the cold and light snow. In the Alamo parking lot I press the remote and a mound of snow lights up, the car has about 3 inches of snow on it, I clear one door so I can open it to get the scraper/brush without filling the car with snow, with the car cleared I get in, put the key in and try to figure out what does what, the heater is on full blast, I can't find the control for that, I can't find the light switch, it's not the same as my Subaru but the headlights are on so it doesn't matter. I move out and head for my hotel, the roads have been ploughed (plowed) by the time I reach the hotel the heater is HOT, I'll read the instruction book in the morning. I'm in bed at 12:30.
Wednesday - 19 January
By 09:00 I'm ready to go, there was an inch of snow on the car. I have found the heater controls and adjusted the mirrors so I'm ready to go, it's snowing a little and the road is covered, I manage 60 mph until Bozeman Pass where it gets worse and it is icy and speed is down to 35. Off I-90 it is icy and covered in snow but not far along 89 the road clears and there is not much snow until Yankee Jim Canyon where it is bad again. Through Paradise Valley there doesn't seem to be a lot of snow on the fields compared with the reports I get from the park. I get into Gardiner at about 11:00 and go to the hotel to see if my room is ready, it's not quite so I say I'll be back this afternoon. I set off into the park to get my boots and radio, the roads are clear of traffic all the way into Lamar. At the higher levels in the park the snow depth is way more than in Gardiner, very little sage is showing and the plowed banks along the road are higher than I have ever seen them. Over the coming weeks quite a few vehicles will have tested the depth.
The first people I see are at Coyote pullout, they have the Lamar Canyon Pack on the west end of Jasper Bench, all of them are there except one grey pup that is north of the road, this one is afraid of the road when people are about, and it was howling it's head off all afternoon, the pack were replying but the pup would not move.
I met up with Wendy, I thought she might be here as she didn't come at Christmas. I found Laurie to get my things but she had beaten me too it and had them delivered to Absaroka and they didn't tell me. The boots I had on were OK for a short while and I had my winter gear on. We watched all afternoon, the wolves were mostly bedded but eventually '06 got up and moved east along the bench and one by one the rest of the pack got up and followed, they were mostly out of sight by 16:00 when I left to go to the store to stock up for the week.
Thursday - 20 January
I don't know what time it gets light here, I set the alarm for 06:30 and it's about 07:15 when I get out. I meet Tonya at the gate and we talk for a few minutes until another car comes up. I catch up with Calvin at Wraith Falls, he doesn't have anything so I drive on, just down the road at Blacktail Ponds two busses are stopped but the people don't look very excited so I drive on but wonder if I should have stopped, so I stop at the new outhouse and just as I am about to leave Calvin calls for any units at Blacktail, I reply, twice but no response so I drive on. I should have gone back, the Blacktail Pack have a kill just off the road.
I drive on, the first people I find are at Dorothy's pullout but I can't get in, I carry on to the Institute but there is a mist in the valley and I can't see what they see from Dorothy's so I go back, there is now a space. The Lamar wolves are on top of Jasper Bench, bedded, all seven are there, they probably have a carcass in the river. There are ravens and eagles down there but the wolves don't seem very interested. There is a group of about 15 elk cows bunched under a tree just below where the wolves are bedded. Some of the pups play while '06 heads down towards the carcass but doesn't go all the way to it and comes back up hill, while one of the pups goes to harass the elk but one of the elk chases it and the wolf is lucky not to get hurt as the elk bowls it over in the deep snow. I watch them until about 12:00 when the weather turns bad and snow comes in, a big change from early morning when the sky was clear with a bright full moon and then bright sun. I head back west slowly, a drive round Mammoth and a walk along the Boiling River, then back to my cabin.
I am just about to start my evening meal when there is a knock at the door, it's Wendy inviting me to dinner at the new restaurant just across the river, I accept and start to get ready when there is a knock at the door, it is Lynnette inviting me to dinner with Wendy, Ballpark Frank was also there, it was a good evening.
Friday - 21 January
This morning I set the alarm for 06:00 and I'm on my way at seven. This morning I stop at Blacktail but there is nothing on the carcass so I drive on to Lamar. The Lamar wolves are in the same place as yesterday, like they had never moved, after about an hour they get up and in single file head up the bench and then head east along the top of the bench till they disappeared into Amethyst. With Wendy I look for about an hour, move to the Institute and look from there, we can't find them, Wendy goes east to see if they have gone through the trees, I stay at the Institute and start to look around in unlikely places. I find them high up on Amethyst Mountain to the south, they have travelled a long way, I call Wendy to come back. The wolves go out of sight and soon a bunch of sheep come running out chased by the wolves, the sheep escape to a cliff edge where the wolves can't follow, they give up and move away and start down hill and we lose them, they must have bedded, we never find them again.
We go east to look for otters but are unlucky there. On the way back we find a car off the road at 21's crossing, it is easy to go off, not easy to see the edges.
We went on to Slough to walk along the road, we were getting ready when someone spotted a single wolf on the hill above Crystal Creek, we got to watch this for about an hour. Elli arrived while we were watching, she didn't stay long as she had to get to her cabin, about 15 minutes after she left Thomas and Christine arrived, the wolf went out of sight and it was time to leave, I got to the cabin about 16:30.
Saturday - 22 January
I get out just before 07:00, there is a little powder snow on the car, it brushes off easily. I don't expect anyone at the gate but there is, he says that Lamar Valley is very difficult but not closed, with high wind and drifting snow.
As I got up to Mammoth the snow was getting deeper and as I got beyond Mammoth deeper still. I stopped at Blacktail Ponds but there was no sign of life, I stopped at the Nature Trail, there was about 4 inches of snow but the wind was too strong, snow was falling and blowing, with no visibility so I carried on, there was only one lane ploughed and I got behind a worrier, no more then 30 mph, he pulled in at Hellroaring. The plough was working at Tower and the road had been done through Little America to Long Pullout but thereafter it was grim, getting worse through the canyon. Out of the canyon it was almost impossible to see the road and hard to see the next snow pole. There was no one at Fisherman's. I stopped and wondered about going on but I did, there was no one at Coyote and no one I knew at Dorothy's. Rick was at Y.E.S. he said the signals were north and south of the road but visibility was impossible and it was windy. Thomas and Elli were there and we looked for a while then I went to the Institute, Elli followed and we looked for hours with varying visibility, as the afternoon wore on the weather improved but there was still no sign of wolves so after moving to Picnic and looking from there for a while I headed west to see if Rick had anything at Blacktail. Driving was now a lot easier until I got to Lower Hellroaring, I came to stopped cars, and bison, it took nearly half an hour to get to Phantom Lake.
I got to the Nature Trail where Calvin, Lynnette, Kathy L and Rick have Blacktail wolves on a kill about two miles away, there are three bedded, they do move to prove that they are wolves. There is a better view of the carcass and six more wolves from the S Curve pullout, I will have to stop here in the morning and hope they are still here. It looked like this was going to be a day without wolves but this saved the day.
Sunday - 23 January
I got to Blacktail at about 07:00 it was still dark, snow was blowing across the road. I got to the S curve pullout and turned in and stopped just in time with my front wheels just off the road, it was not the pullout but about 30 yards short of it where the snow plow had pushed the snow bank back from the edge of the road. I had enough grip with my back wheels to pull myself out. I got to the pullout and awaited daylight.
When I can see the carcass area I set up my scope, there is a strong wind and blowing snow I look for a while but there is no sign of wolves. Clavin stops and they are going to the Nature Trail, they soon call, they have wolves on a carcass further away, so I go to them and about three miles away there are two wolves on a carcass, I don't stay long and move on to Lamar where I meet up with Mark and Carol, they arrived last night.
After spending yesterday in hiding the Lamar wolves were bedded on the hillside near where they were last seen. They have a kill a bit further to the west and after about half an hour they get up and go to the carcass and spend over an hour there, they move off and bed on a hillside to the east. Someone reports a moose near the Lamar River Bridge so I drive over there and find the moose, not easy, it is well camouflaged against the willows I get a photo.
Moose by Lamar River Bridge
Back to Dorothy's the wolves are in the same place but first one then another get up and move down hill and out of sight, I go to the Barn and look from there. The rest of the pack follow the lead and go behind the same ridge as the first ones. Now all seven are out of sight but not for long, they all came into view and bedded again. Along with Kathy L and Elli I watch them until 16:00 and then head for home. It has been windy all day but not as strong as it was on Blacktail. There has been sunshine most of the day and the temperature has been about 22 degrees Fahrenheit the road is a sheet of ice. In Lamar Canyon there is an elk bull walking down the road, it doesn't look very healthy. There are no bison tonight so I am home at about five.
Monday - 24 January
This morning I was ready to go before 07:00 but I got out the door to find 6 inches of snow, I had to sweep the doorstep before getting to the car, the snow was soft and dry and swept off easily but there was a frozen layer on the windshield that needed scraping, I eventually got away about 07:10.
At Blacktail it had stopped snowing but the cloud was too low to see anything, so I drove on, there was only one lane ploughed, in places it looked more like 8 inches. I got to Junction Butte and there was no ploughing from there so driving was "difficult". I got to Canyon East where Rick was stopped, he could see the Lamar's and said I should get a good view from Fisherman's. I stopped there but the cloud had come down and it was nearly an hour before we could see anything. When the cloud cleared we could see the wolves bedded, after another half an hour first one then another got up and walked around, then they all set off down hill towards the carcass, they were down there for maybe an hour then they started back uphill to a rounded hilltop where they bedded. I left at about 14:00 and went to Soda Butte Valley for lunch and some photographs, I drove to Pebble Creek, there is a lot of snow, the banks along the road are higher than I have ever seen.
I went back to look for the Lamar wolves again, I got to the Barn at 15:00 and find them from there they are still on the same hill, two are obvious but the rest are like rocks but eventually they all get up and show themselves. Two of the pups are intently looking at something down hill, after about half an hour one of them gets up and heads down hill and ravens fly up as the pup runs in and grabs something and heads back uphill, it looks like a piece of hide. It is now nearly 17:00 and time to go.
Wednesday - 26 January
Today's action, preceded by inaction. I was out at 07:00 and drove to the Nature Trail, there was no sight or sound, so on to Lamar. No sign of wolf or people till Hitching Post, Rick said they had Lamars at Baronnette and little chance of seeing anything. It looked like the beginning of a bad day.
We got a message from Calvin that Blacktails were in view from the Jardine road, so a nice 70 mile drive to see wolves a mile from my hotel. It turned out to be a great day, I got to the Jardine Road and found Calvin who had all 14 Blacktails in view. They had a kill just out of our sight to the southeast of us about a mile away, it was inside the park. The wolves were bedded on an open snowy slope, so they were easy to see. With Kathi M, Thomas and Christine we watched them from about 11:00 till 16:00 The wolves got up from time to time and went over the hill to the carcass and back to bed, at times we had all 14. It was a beautiful sunny warm day. Then at about 16:00 I got a call from Peter, he was near the airport on the dirt road west of the river, he had howling from west and east of him, then he had visual. So we packed up and headed out of town, I found Peter about 3 miles down the road, we had three wolves on the east of 89 one black that had turned very light coloured with a collar and one dark black no collar with a white patch on chest and one lighter black, no collar. These were the Quadrant Pack. There were maybe 20 elk near the wolves but the wolves ignored them, they seemed more interested in howling to a grey to the west of us, this was a great looking wolf with a dark mask and a light lower face, they howled back and forth for the hour that I was there. After I left other people saw the three cross the road and meet up with the grey.
Thursday - 27 January
This morning I was not going to be caught out, I waited for daylight and drove the one mile up Jardine road. Calvin and Lynette were already there but no wolves, there were signals from the Quadrants, we looked for nearly an hour but no sighting. The Blacktails were gone, a 20 mile drive down the road and we found them at Hellroaring, they were out at about the distance to the Basalt cliff but to the east of the creek, bedded on an open snow covered slope, easy to see but small. The plane was over to locate them when I got there, he did a couple of circles and left, the wolves took no notice. About an hour later the plane returned with the helicopter, wolf heads came up, then they were on their feet and running east, then they scattered and went in all directions. A black pup was selected and darted it continued running west and came to some trees and turned south and noticeably slowed and after a few more yards just slid to a halt, this became 777. We found wolves that had crossed Hellroaring Creek towards the cliff. They got Big Brown, when I found him he was down but would not give in, he struggled to get up and as (Doug) approached he was still moving but the drug finally worked and he got his collar 778.
I moved on to Lamar, the Lamar wolves were somewhere around Silver Gate but the Agates put on a show. Before I got there they had come down off Specimen Ridge and were approaching the place where the Lamar's had their carcass three days ago, they passed close but didn't investigate, they went on the same trail that the Lamar's had gone to the knoll where they had bedded. The Agates investigated this area thoroughly then headed on up hill towards the top of Amethyst Mountain, they chased the same sheep that the Lamar's chased last weekend, with the same result, the sheep went on the same cliff edge and the wolves gave up. They were out of sight at about 14:30. I drove east to the Confluence where there were two very sure footed rams grazing on the cliff edge, along with many other photographers I got some photographs. About 16:00 I left a very quiet park, no people and no bison on the road.
Buffalo by Soda Butte Cone
Friday - 28 January
This morning was an easy start, no ice on the car, no snow on the roads. I drove to Hellroaring but couldn't find the wolves, three bus loads of people arrived so I left, driving through Little America I saw a man at Midpoint with a scope looking up on Specimen Ridge, he was not one of the regular wolf watchers so I didn't stop and drove on to Slough.
With Elli and Kathi I looked on Specimen for Agates with no luck, after half an hour a man came up and said he had been watching some black and grey wolves on Specimen, he was the one I had seen at Midpoint, we went there but the wolves had gone. It was a beautiful clear morning with the sun coming up but I was feeling cold, I checked the temperature, 2°F.
We got word that the Blacktails were in sight at Hellroaring, heading east, they were picked up at Elk Creek and disappeared into the Trough. When I got there they were out of sight, I went for lunch at Slough with Kathi and Elli. We got word that the Agates had been sighted from Elk Creek way out on Specimen, so back to Elk Creek. Two or three miles away were seven Agates. With Thomas and Christine we watched and showed many visitors the wolves. Elli had left and was heading home, she stopped at Crystal Creek and was looking over to Mom's Ridge, we heard howling from that direction, Elli called that she could see thirteen Blacktails on Mom's Ridge. We moved to Boulder but they were behind Mom's. Thomas and Christine went back to Elk Creek. It was getting late and I was giving up and started for home when Thomas called that he had found the Blacktails, I stopped at Elk Creek. And I got to see them, 10 wolves were visible. The Agates were also still visible but much further south probably because of the howling.
On the drive out of the park there were two bison jams and several groups of four or five bison, there are a lot of bison moving west on the road but still plenty on the high hillsides.
Saturday - 29 January
Another clear morning, I got to Hellroaring and started to look for the Blacktail wolves, after about 15 minutes I heard that they were visible from Elk Creek. When I got there Mark and Carol had two of them but they soon went out of sight. Rebecca had them from Petrified Tree so we went over there. Rick had signals from Agates on Specimen and wanted someone to look from Elk Creek. But with the bright sun it was impossible to look in that direction. We watched the 14 Blacktails for a couple of hours, they were mostly bedded, two of the pups had a play, jumping on each other in the deep snow. There was a carcass about 100 yards down hill and one black went down to it and chased lots of ravens, as it chased one lot another lot came in behind, the wolf stopped at the carcass and had a little feed then went back to the others and bedded. The sun moved around and there was a little cloud cover so Mark and I went back to Elk Creek. We wanted to look for Agates, we had been searching all over Specimen getting on for an hour only finding bison and sheep and a few elk when I looked up towards the group of sheep they started running, they were up at the northeast end of the ridge where it overlooks Little America, there must have been about twenty being chased by about six animals at first we thought wolves, at the distance and bad light it was hard to identify. The sheep ran for the cliff edge and the canids gave up and returned up hill and soon were chasing more sheep down to the cliff edge. I started to look like these were coyotes, confirmed by a signal check for Agates, not in the area. No one watching had seen coyotes hunting in a pack like this.
I headed into the Lamar Valley, the Lamar wolves were north of Slough Creek and out of sight, they had traveled from the Silver Gate area. One grey was apparently left behind and was bedded and howling to the south of Picnic pullout, it was there all afternoon bedded and howling, then at about 15:00 it got up and headed east, still howling, at 16:00 I left and headed home.
Sunday - 30 January
I was out just before 07:00 temp 23°F clear roads. I stopped at Hellroaring, Rick was asking for anyone at Elk Creek. So I went there but couldn't find the Blacktails, Calvin stopped and Lynnette found them moving west, they soon went behind a hill. We went to Little America to S Curve where we were in time to see the wolves coming down to Buffalo Ford all fourteen were there, they disappeared down at the ford but soon came back and retraced their tracks. We went back to Elk Creek. Where we found two blacks out where we found them earlier, they soon went out of sight. Next Christine found them moving west through trees, they came out into the open and headed for some more trees where some bedded and others moved through the trees and bedded in the open, they were there for two hours then started to move around eventually all going east and over a hill and out of sight. I spent the afternoon snow shoeing on the Mary's Cabin Trail with Mark and Carol and Charles. I got back about 15:30 and went back to Elk Creek. There was a cold wind I looked for a while then went to try from Boulder, I should have stayed at Elk, Thomas called that they had the wolves. I went back but got there just in time to see the wolves leave. It started to snow so no visibility and I left, there were a few bison on the road, I got home just before 17:00.
Monday - 31 January
This morning I was out at 06:45 to a temperature of 4°F , it was down to -8°F on Blacktail. I stopped at Hellroaring I thought there would be good chance for the Blacktails there I only looked with binoculars and didn't stay long enough, there was no word from Lamar and no sign of Rick. I looked from Elk Creek but couldn't see anything so I went on to Tower, intending to go to west but just as I was about to set off Calvin called to say he had something at Hellroaring so I went back, he had seen the wolves take an elk, just my luck, no patience. I found them, most of them were now uphill from the carcass, it was only 30 minutes since Calvin called. Some were eating, the ones up the hill were looking at a group of elk and two, probably pups set off after the elk, they soon gave up. Wolves came and went to the carcass, they chased ravens and the two golden eagles that were there, I was standing watching all morning until about 13:00 then I went to lunch with Elli and M&C and Charles and T & C to the lobby of the Mammoth Hotel after that I went back to Hellroaring and watched the wolves sleep for another hour, they did get up about 15:00 and give a good howl. I decided to go to Lamar where they had the Lamar's in sight, the pup who always gets left behind was at Secret Passage howling, the others were near Hitching Post, on the Ledge Trail. It was really cold there with a breeze blowing, there had been no wind at Coyote but it was impossible to stand out at Hitching Post so I went back west to see what the female pup was doing but she had gone out of sight. It was time to head for home.
Bighorn Ram at Confluence
~ February 2011 ~
Tuesday - 01 February
Clear cloudless sky this morning, windshield covered in ice that I couldn't scrape, I had to start the engine and wait for it to clear 'a bit'. The temperature was -4°F by the time I got to Blacktail it was -38°F. I was going to Hellroaring in the hope of finding the Blacktails still in the area, they weren't, it was -22°F there.
I went to Elk Creek Rick had weak signals from Agates, I spent 4 hours looking but there was no sign, I did hear a howl from the Northeast but could find nothing, it was time to leave. There were no sightings in Lamar, those wolves had gone east again. Just before I left I heard that the Lamar pup was still alone and wandering in the valley, heading west. I went to the barn and found her heading for Jasper Bench as she got near the west end of the bench I moved to Coyote. I didn't stay long because two busses arrived, so with Thomas I went to Fisherman's where we watched her come along, she stopped and howled and howled. We left at about 14:00 for lunch the temp was still -25°F when I got my lunch out it was frozen as was my water. I drove to Round Prairie but couldn't see anything except bison. I went back west and stopped at the Soda Butte Cone, I just got out of the car when Rick came up and asked me to help him find the Lamar's near Round Prairie so back I went, he had good signals from just east of the campground but after an hour or more there was no sighting, I tried from different points along the road with no luck. I went back to Lamar to see the pup again, I drove to Fisherman's again. She had moved to the west of Jasper Bench and was still howling so it made it easier to find her, she was bedded and chewing on something, so even when alone she must be finding things to eat. I left just after 16:00.
Wednesday - 02 February
This morning was -9°F in Gardiner, in Mammoth it was -20°F and as I got onto the Blacktail Plateau it was down to - 38°F. Last night Rick had distant signals to the south west. I found Calvin and Lynnette at the S Curve, they had nothing in sight but by the time I had got my 'scope out Lynnette had found a wolf near the den forest, the wolves had moved east.
Most were in the trees where they had a rallying howl and all came out in the open, we counted 12, the other two may have been there but they were all moving around. After the howl they set off to the west and went out of sight so we moved to higher ground at the Nature Trail from where we found them again. They chased two bison but didn't get near enough to do anything and the wolves moved on, they found some more bison to chase but the bison turned on them and chased the wolves. We watched the wolves from 08:00 until about 11:30 when they bedded on a snowy hillside.
I went east to Slough Creek for lunch where Elli and others had the lone, lost Lamar pup, still howling for her pack, I got there too late to see her.
At 15:45 I got back to the Nature Trail where Mark and Carol had the Blacktail Pack up and moving from their bedding spot, we got to watch them for about 20 minutes when they went out of sight in a deep gully and it looked like we would not see them again, so it was time to go home. The temperature had risen; it was now about 0°F, it had been around -25°F for most of the day.
Hey, that's my cousin!
Thursday - 03 February
This morning it was 2°F in Gardiner and only -10°F at Blacktail though 28 degrees warmer than yesterday. Calvin and Lynnette were at the S Curve just setting up, I said "have you not found them yet". By the time I had got my 'scope out she had them, or at least three likely lumps, they did look like good possibilities. After about half an hour one moved a bit and after one and a half hours all 14 wolves got up and some were playing others were dominating. They all set off to the east, I went to the Nature Trail and watched them continue east. We all left at 09:15 to go the Institute to watch Bob Landis' film about wolf 302, it was a great film and the room was packed.
After the film I went to look for the Lamar pack which had been seen this morning, all seven were together again, it would have been great to see the reunion. They were all bedded near the Confluence. We watched until 15:00 and they had not moved, so I left, hoping to get out before the bison started travelling. I did come across one small group and some singles, there was no problem passing. I stopped at the Nature Trail in the hope of seeing the Blacktails, I set up and started to look around to the east of where they were this morning and I was just in time to see six of them just before they went over a ridge and out of sight. Another car came in it was Kathy S, she had seen all 14 from S Curve. I kept looking and soon found them going higher up and to the Southeast, they chased some elk and went out of sight again, this time it looked like they wouldn't be seen again, so I packed up and left.
Friday - 04 February
This morning there was a little snow on the car, soon brushed off. My job this morning was to go to the Nature Trail and look for Blacktails, from where they disappeared last night I didn't expect to find them. With Kathy and Calvin we looked for some time but visibility was bad with light snow. We thought that they might have gone to Hellroaring so we spent half an hour looking and I went to Elk Creek, visibility was not good here I could only just see Specimen. There was nothing from the east I guessed that there was something around Soda Butte so I headed east, I stopped at Slough, Colby said that there were no signals from Agates. I headed east, I saw Laurie at Coyote, she said that the Lamar's were at Round Prairie again but not in sight. Rick stopped, said he was going west, we followed, he went to S Curve the visibility was a lot better now. He got signals to the south, so the wolves had not moved on. Rick said go back to the Nature Trail and look, I soon heard howling, Kathy at S Curve found them, we all went down there to see three bedded wolves. Rick and Mark went back to the Nature Trail and walked out to the west for a good view, so we all went out there, we saw the bedded wolves occasionally get up and move. It was now 13:30 and lunch time. Alan and Kirsty went out and got to see bison chase the wolves who went west. I didn't go back out on the snow field, it was now windy and cold, I was fairly sheltered by the snow bank and I soon found the wolves. I watched until 16:15 and decided I had had enough and picked my way through the bison on the roads and headed out.
Saturday - 05 February
There was 4 inches of snow this morning, it soon brushed off the car, the road was ploughed to Mammoth and one lane from there I caught up with two Xanterra busses travelling at 15 mph, even when they had the chance and came to a pullout they would not pull over, we had to wait till the straight to overtake, the snow was blowing on Blacktail I stopped at the S Curve but couldn't see anything because of the heavy snow. I went to the Nature Trail and waited for near an hour for the snow to stop, we couldn't find any wolves, it was still windy and the snow was blowing. Laurie and Elli and Mark and Carol arrived after a very difficult drive through Lamar, 12 inches of snow in Silver Gate and no Plough. I said goodbye to Elli and M&C, they are leaving. I kept looking between snow showers, then when the snow cleared the wind got up and the snow was blowing round me and it was impossible to stand out in it.
I heard that they had Canyon signals at Mammoth so I went to the High Bridge where Rick had the signals towards the terraces, we couldn't find them. Someone had skied round by Orange Cone and found a carcass and wolf tracks, but we never found the wolves. I was going to go back to Blacktail but there was a large group of bison on the road at the High Bridge and it looked like it would take a long time to get past and it didn't seem like a good idea to disturb them, so I turned and went home.
Sunday - 06 February
I stopped at the High Bridge at first light and started to look around for the Canyon's. Others had gone on the higher road but after about an hour we had found nothing so I drove on to the S Curve to look for Blacktails, I moved up to the Nature Trail, the weather had changed this morning, there is no wind and visibility is good and it is 10°F. Along with Calvin and Lynnette I looked in the area where the signals were yesterday. We get word from S Curve that there is bird activity, I look around trying to find the birds, I suddenly come to a standing animal, it's a wolf, it quickly goes out of sight but we now know where they are. We spend over an hour watching the area and first one then another wolf comes into view and disappears. After another two hours nine wolves have appeared and bedded. I hear that Agates are visible on Specimen Ridge so I head to Elk Creek but I can't find them. I hear that the Lamar wolves have met up with another wolf and from the tracks it looks like a fight might have taken place, nothing but tracks were seen.
When I get to Slough, Rick is there, the Agates have moved on but there is a single wolf to the north in Lamar, north of Picnic so we head there the wolf is 692 who has left the Blacktails. Rick thinks that this might be the wolf that met up with the Lamar's. She doesn't seem to be injured, she beds on a hill and at 14:30 I head back to Blacktail where I find 13 wolves bedded near where they were this morning but now they are in the open, they move around and I can get a count.
I have heard that the Quadrants were seen by the Boiling River so I head over there but there is no one around the river and no wolves so I call Alan, he is on the Jardine Road and has the Quadrants in sight and I get to see them for about 20 min when they move off into thick cover. From no wolves yesterday to 18 today.
Monday - 07 February
I set off at 07:00 after clearing 2 inches of snow off the car, conditions didn't seem too bad on the way into Mammoth with a little snow falling but by the time I got to Lava Creek it was snowing heavily and on Blacktail Plateau there was no visibility so I drove on to Lamar in the hope that conditions would be better. They were worse, I stopped at Coyote, where I heard that the Lamar's were at Ice Box Canyon, visible from the road but with nowhere to stop, the conditions were still bad, but improving. I decided to drive to Footbridge and see how it looked. While I was there Rick came up and said it was not worth going further. One of the wolf watchers had gone off the road near the Cone.
I headed back west where visibility was now good and Kathy had the Blacktails in view near where they were last night. I got back to the Nature Trail from where we could see the wolves to the south, maybe two miles away, visibility was excellent, we waited for them to make a move, after about an hour they got up and started to the east, towards some bison. The bison stood with tails up looking at the wolves, one wolf went closer and was chased off by one bison. To the west dark clouds were coming in and soon visibility was gone we could just see the other side of the road. I drove slowly to Mammoth for lunch and after about an hour at 13:30 it was clear at Mammoth, Rick called to say it was clearing on Blacktail. When Kathy and I got back the wolves were still bedded but soon got up and headed to the east, looking at some more bison, they soon moved on, we counted 14, Rick said 15 there is a black wolf that is sometimes with the pack. More snow came in and we could see nothing. We decided to try to the east for Agates, as we moved from Blacktail visibility improved until we got to Hellroaring where the cloud hung low, there would be no way to see Specimen Ridge so we turned back. The snow was blowing across the Blacktail but not too bad until we got to Blacktail Ponds where there was a complete white out, no visibility beyond the front of the car. Between gusts of wind I got to Mammoth and on to Gardiner.
Tuesday - 08 February
A compete change today, I come out to a clear sky, no wind and 3°F. I head for the Nature Trail, visibility is good but there is no sign of wolves, I do hear a very faint group howl but it seems to be miles to the south, I look for a while and then head east.
All through Lamar Valley I see no one, driving is much easier today, the road is clear, the temperature is -5°F and the sun is coming up, a beautiful day. I get to the Confluence before I see anyone, at Confluence East there are cars stopped with photographers all over the road I have to stop, I can't see what they are looking at high up. There are no wolf people, I get past and go to Hitching Post where they have the Lamar Pack in sight on the Ledge Trail, all seven have been seen but I see only four bedded, the alpha female '06 is in sight. The sun is up but it is -5°F I wish I had Elli's hammer, my wheelwells are full of ice. We watch for a couple of hours, Rick goes west to look for Agates he calls to say he has good signals from Elk Creek, several of us go, the Lamar's look settled for the day. At Elk Creek we spend two hours looking over Specimen Ridge, we find two groups of coyotes which are difficult to identify but they are coyotes. We all head back to Hitching Post where the wolves are in exactly the same place, we spend the rest of the afternoon watching, all seven get up and have a greeting, 754 grovels to 755 and rolls around licking and pawing 755 who moves away and go over to '06 who presents her back end to him with tail averted, he sniffs but nothing happens. The wolves move around and bed, at 17:00 I leave and head back west, it is after 18:15 when I get to Gardiner, the latest I have been.
Coyote Mousing by Nature Trail
Wednesday - 09 February
This morning it is -11°F I have to wait 15 minutes for the car to de-ice, we are down to -38°F on Blacktail. Visibility is good, the sun is just coming up, I found no sign of wolves and head for Elk Creek to look for Agates but the sun is in a bad position to look over Specimen. I drove on to Slough where Rick said he had nothing on Agates and I should go to Hitching Post where the Lamars were visible but when I got there they had gone. I spent all day moving to different places looking for them with the temperature never getting above -22°F. When Rick got back he said the signals were in the same place but we never found them. Kathy and I left at 15:00 and went to Elk Creek and spent an hour looking, we found two groups of Coyotes eight in all, very difficult to distinguish from wolves at the distance but I am sure they were coyotes. A day of no wolves for me.
Mouse by Nature Trail watching the Coyote
Thursday - 10 February
The last day.
I have some of my things packed or ready for packing, so there should be less of a panic this evening, my flight is 12:45 tomorrow so I should be OK setting off tomorrow morning. Depending on weather and Bozeman Pass.
The weather is good this morning and I stop at the Nature Trail but don't see or hear anything, so on to Hellroaring, nothing in sight but I hear a vague mention of something in Little America, when I get there I hear mention of the Lamar Bridge. I get there just too late, the Lamar Canyons have a kill just outside the bridge construction site and they have just moved off to the east. I drive to the campground road, from there I find a group of elk to the south, near the river, they are looking interested, I don't see wolves but the elk keep looking.
I hope it wasn't the moose that they got near the Bridge, he had been there for near three weeks. There is a howl from northwest, on the Slough Flats, two of the pups had not gone to the carcass. Soon two of the pack crossed the road to the east of the campground road and we saw them heading towards the flats and the two pups, all the wolves crossed the road, though I didn't see them.
I moved west to the Crystal Creek pullout in the hope of a better view of the Bowl, which was where they seemed to be heading. Soon they are all together for a big greeting and then '06, 755 and 754 climb onto a big rock and bed, the rest of the pack spread out and bed. The pullout has filled and we spend a couple of hours showing people where the wolves are occasionally the wolves stand up and someone gets a good view. It has not been a good year for the casual visitor with only binoculars, the wolves have mostly been a long way off into the 60x range and binocs don't work.
Someone had gone into the work area at the bridge and seen the carcass, they said it was an elk so with luck the moose is OK.
I am still trying to decide whether to go to Bozeman today or in the morning. Regular users of the route reckon today, don't take a chance, Kathy is leaving it till tomorrow. At about 14:00 I decide to head for Gardiner and make a final decision there. By 16:30 the sky is darkening with cloud coming in, all is packed and the decision made, GO. To I-90 the road is clear, the fields along the way are full of elk, none on the road. I-90 is windy and it is getting dark by Bozeman Pass and very windy with snow blowing across, maybe this was not such a good idea but I get to LaQuinta in Belgrade with no problems.
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|Gardiner, Montana||Silver Gate, Montana||West Yellowstone, Montana||Cooke City, Montana|
|Livingston, Montana||Cody, Wyoming||Jackson Hole, Wyoming||Yellowstone National Park|
|Bighorn Rams||Grizzly Bear at Old Faithful|
|Bison / Buffalo at Old Faithful||Grizzly Bear near Roaring Mountain|
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|The Great Outdoors Net||Great Outdoor Recreational Places|
|Gardiner, Montana||World Humanity|
by John William Uhler
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