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Trip Report ~ Wolf Sightings ~ by Gerry Hogston from Scotland

22 January - 13 February 2009

Yellowstone Wolf ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

~ January 2009 ~

Thursday - 22 January

The alarm is set for 06:30 and we are ready to go around 07:45. The road is as busy as ever but we get there in plenty of time, I have three hours to wait so I head for the gate at 10:45 we are called to the gate and start to board and the problems start, the plane has a puncture, so the ones who got on now get off. After 3hr we take off, I had only 1.5 hour connection time. The hotel is good a nice room and a good evening meal. I am now flying tomorrow at the same time KLM provide a nice hotel and meals and a shuttle bus. I now have to inform Alamo and my hotel, I don’t have the email address for Absaroka Lodge, so I email Veronica and ask if she can do it for me, which she does and all is OK.

Friday - 23 January

I sleep a little better. I leave for the airport at 10:40. I get to the gate shown on the board and after an hour or so I decide to check it now says gate 9, there is still plenty time.

We get on board and are soon off the ground and on the way to Minneapolis, this time I have a 4 hour wait, if this had been the change over time in Amsterdam I would probably have made it yesterday. I go through immigration and collect my case, I wait until there are only three cases going round and it’s obvious that mine is not there I’m told to make the report at the final destination. So I find the gate for the next flight and wait. On to my final flight which is 1/2 hour late so we get into Bozeman at around 11:30 I don’t need to look for my case and go straight to Alamo and get my car, Toyota Rav4, I wanted a Subaru but as usual I had to take what they had. Next I went to NWA to report but there was no one there, they were on unloading so I decided to do it later.

Next thing a hotel I get to La Quinta, the parking lot looks full and there are two busses in there, it does not look good and they have no rooms but tell me to go to Holiday Inn where I get a room and I’m in bed at 01:00.

Saturday - 24 January

I don’t sleep very well and I’m up at 06:00 and I do some emails I have a free breakfast and I’m ready to go at 08:00.

I head to the airport to report my luggage, it takes about 1/2 hour and then I’m on my way, the road is empty and I’m doing 70 mph to Highway 89. I don’t like the RAV4 as it’s selectable 4wd and I don’t like the idea of the back end taking over on the snowy roads. I find out after reading the book that it is front wheel drive with a viscous coupling sending drive to the rear as needed, so now I like it, though it does less mpg than a Subaru.

I got to Absaroka at about 11:00 but the room was not ready, who knows why, I should have been here yesterday. Anyway I get into the room and the saga continues, I find later that water will not drain away but the room looks OK. Next I go to the store for food, bring it back and put it in the fridge a nice quiet one.

Next it’s on to the park, I get to the gate and have to wait while someone has a discussion about who knows what. I get to the window and a familiar face appears, it’s Tonya, so now it’s my turn to hold things up with my tales of woe. On into the park and to the S Curve where Calvin and others have been watching 302’s group, now out of sight. Next I go on to Slough where two people are watching the Druids stretched out asleep, to the south, on the west side of the divide ridge in poor visibility. My friend from Silver Gate arrives with my radio and boots so I hold out the begging bowl, she offers some of her husbands stuff and as she is thinking about going in due to the visibility, this makes the decision and we drive to Silver Gate. I am fully equipped and head off back to Gardiner.

I get settled and cook my evening meal and afterwards while having a wash I find that the water will not drain, it does after a couple of hours. I get into bed about 10:30 pm.

Sunday - 25 January

Yellowstone Buffalo ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

I have set the alarm for 07:00, I get up and turn on the cold water, nothing, frozen. I had enough water to make tea, so I am ready to go about 08:00. I go to the office to tell them about the water and Clay says the good news is that my case is on it’s way, will be here in 15 minutes. The delivery driver phoned from down the road and 15 minutes later it arrived, a big relief. Now I’m off into the park but now writing this on Wednesday I can’t remember what happened, I saw 2 wolves at a distance for a couple of seconds. Visibility has been bad with snow and low cloud and wolves keeping a low profile.

Tuesday - 27 January

This morning I am out at 06:45 only to find the car iced up so I have to scrape and it is after 07:00 when I get away, the temp. is -17° and as I get onto Blacktail it is down to -20°. I stop at the Nature Trail but hear nothing, I stop next at Elk Creek and there is nothing there and then on to Boulder I stop and listen but all is quiet, I look around a bit but with no encouragement I move on as I get to Slough I hear about Druids from Dorothy’s so being a bit fed up at always making the wrong choice I head over there and am in time to hear that they have just disappeared. It is -40° here, I’m told that the wolves are near where a group of bull elk are standing on guard near the top of Specimen Ridge. I do get to see two wolves for a couple of seconds and they go over the ridge. I continue to look further west, I find a group of Bighorns looking nervous and running to near the cliff edge, so I keep watching and spot a black wolf heading towards the sheep, then more wolves appear and set off at a run towards the sheep, who run down the cliff face where the wolves can’t follow. The wolves retreat and I next find them further along Specimen Ridge to the east. I move on to Confluence where I think I might get a sight of them if they come down. Elli is there and we watch for a long time but they never come out. The temp is still -27° and the sun is out in a brilliant blue sky, at least the visibility is good today, we hear some talk of Boulder and set off there. I can’t get in so I go to Curve but I can’t see what is going on so I go back past Boulder and walk back and again the action is over, 302’s group have a carcass to the south, it is out of sight but the wolves have been moving around but all I get to see are two of the wolves. I do eventually see four. It’s now around 13:00 and clouds come in with snow and visibility goes. I have my lunch and have to decide what to do, it looks set for the afternoon, so I head west, when I get to Blacktail I’m thinking it was a mistake, I find later it was, the visibility has improved. I wander around Mammoth and idle away the time, I get some photos on the terraces and stop at the boiling river and walk along there. I get to Gardiner about 16:30.

Wednesday - 28 January

This morning I have set the alarm 15 minutes earlier I get out at about 6:30 am the temp is +17°. I’m determined to drive on until I find something, not stopping to listen, my guess is maybe Hitching Post (HP). There is a couple of inches of snow on the road and it is snowing a little and visibility is not good, I get to Slough before I hear anything, the location is Confluence and Elli is seeing the Druid wolves from Hitching Post. I get to Confluence and the first thing I see is a wolf on a carcass just to the right of the road right at the pull out, which is full so I start to curse but I’m going slow and see a big enough space between Rick and Mark so I nose in, I get to see one wolf close up, it is there for only about ten minutes though and heads south and east. I think I might see it again from the next pullout east I don’t get to see it though, so on to Hitching Post where other wolves are visible (just) after a few minutes visibility get worse and everyone starts to leave. Elli, who is riding with Jack invites me to go to Cooke for breakfast, which I don’t really want to do, I guess it will be a mistake (and it is). It’s a good breakfast though, but on getting back to HP we find good visibility and the Druids have just disappeared over Norris.

Memo: No more breakfasts!

Everyone leaves, we decide where to go, Boulder seems good and we spend all afternoon looking for a wolf, we hear it’s mournful howl but never find it, we are there till 16:00 and I’m not giving up now so back to HP, the Druids have been seen again on Norris and on Druid Peak chasing sheep (too late again) I just get to see the last two heading down towards the Ledge Trail but we loose them. I go to Trash Can to see if they will come out there but snow and wind soon stop that and I head home at 17:15 another disappointing day.

Thursday - 29 January

Yellowstone Wolf and Buffalo ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

Nearly one week gone, I’m on the road at 06:45 it’s 22°, on Blacktail it is blowing and like driving in fog, it has drifted at the S Curve but the snow plough is there, I have no intention of stopping at the Nature Trail, I’m going to stop at Elk Creek there is no sound there but it is sheltered from the wind. I only give it ten minutes and then drive on, I’m going to go on till I see someone and see if that changes my luck, as it happens it doesn’t. I get to HP, passing Rick going west, at HP everyone is standing around, the radio has been silent, suddenly people are going to their cars and moving, it’s just like the old days, follow the leader, I am third away. I realize there is something wrong with my radio, that’s why it’s been quiet. Jack B is in the lead, heading west, I’m third. The car in front of me gets too near the edge of the road and nose dives off, I pull around him and stop and walk back, the two people are OK and Jack must have seen what happened and reverses, he has towing stuff so I move on to Confluence where Rick had seen Druids to the Southeast I never see them. I look at my radio, it’s on and should work, then I notice the channel switch is on 2. I keep looking but never see anything, at about 11:00 I decide to go west, Rick says that there is a chance of wolves at Hellroaring when I arrive there are only three cars there, one of them Alan and Sue, they do have wolves and fairly close for Hellroaring. I find them they are bedded but do move occasionally, they have a carcass nearby, this is number 694, they move around and eventually go down to their carcass, there is a fox down there and a lot of birds, I do get to see the wolves again and at about 12:30 head west hoping to see wolves near Mammoth, Elli has gone for lunch in Mammoth I don’t fall for the same thing twice. I catch up with unit 2, they have found the three wolves a long way off and they soon disappear, Calvin and I go to the bridge to try from there, no luck so I go further east as far as Undine Falls but can’t get a good position I drive back and find Calvin walking along the road, so I get my scope and join him. Elli, who we have been trying to contact, drives by and we tell her what we are doing and they join us, we never find the wolves and after 1/2 hour we go back to the cars. Someone drives up and tells Calvin that he has just passed three wolves on the road just west of us. I drive west but don’t see them; I turn at the bridge and go back, still not seeing them. We decide to drive up to Undine and turn and go back to the bridge, as we get back to the pullout we have just left, Calvin spots a black wolf on the road just west of the pullout, he dives in and we follow, the wolf watches us and a gray appears, they turn and go back west. I get a couple of photos and we stand around hoping that they will reappear, they don’t but a short time later we get a call from Alan to get back to Lava Creek. It seems impossible that the wolves can be there in such a sort time but they are. I get photos of the two grays.

Rangers are going to do some aversion therapy because they say these wolves are getting too bold and not afraid of the road, they are going to shoot paint balls at them when they get near the road but in the end don’t, just shout and sound car horns as the wolves cross the road and run off to the north. It is 15:30 so I decide to try for Druids again, I know I am wasting my time and so it turns out, just a drive to and from confluence.

Back at the cabin I email my pics to Elli and so ends another day.

Friday - 30 January

What will today bring? I’m on the road at 06:20, there are fewer cars, most of the traffic in the morning is workers going to Mammoth, after I turn left at Mammoth the road is clear. This morning it is 30° the car is mostly clear but there is a strong wind on Blacktail I don’t intend to stop. I do stop at Elk Creek, there is no sound, then I hear Rick talking about Boulder I expect to see people there but there is only one, Kathi. I stop with her, Rick says that 694’s signal is in the area so we look but find nothing, he goes to Elk Creek and also gets signals there but we see nothing. I go to Wrecker and look from there for half an hour. Kathi calls to say she has got two gray wolves on top of Specimen, I go back to Boulder but they have gone out of sight, we spend another half hour looking and Kathi goes east to look. Rick returns from the west and I tell him what’s happening, he goes on to Slough and I follow, he checks for signals and gets nothing, he heads on east to look for Druids. I keep looking until about 11:30, I call Kathi but get no response, maybe she has gone further east to Foot Bridge, there is no traffic on the road and no one anywhere along the road. I drive on to Round Prairie to see if I can see the moose, I don’t even get that, I take some photos and head back west, I stop at Coyote and have my lunch it looks like I will be home early today and see no wolves. When I get to Tower I hear talk of wolves at Hellroaring, I head that way, expecting to be told that they have just moved off or there will be no room to park. I get there, there are only two cars M & C and Thomas’ and the wolves were still visible even if it was two miles and they were flat out, so I get to see wolves today, it is number 527’s group of five, three black and two gray, I stay there till 17:00, the wolves get up have a rally and are looking at something to the west but the only thing I can see is a lone bull elk a long way from the wolves, they bed again, they get up a couple of times and move up and down the hillside, they keep looking at the bull elk but it has moved even further away. The wolves are bedded at about 17:00. They may move as it gets dark but I decide I have had enough and head for home, the wolves will probably make their move soon. I see nothing on the way home, two groups have been visible from Mammoth this afternoon but all is quiet when I get there, so home and prepare for tomorrow.

Saturday - 31 January

A week today, soon gone and nowhere near as good as past years and today continues the trend. I am on the road at 06:20, no traffic, it is showing 31° at Gardiner and is cloudy, the temp drops to 22° at Mammoth and stays about there all the way to Boulder but there is a strong wind, really bad on Blacktail. My first stop is Hellroaring, it is just coming light and I am hoping 527's group made a kill in sight of the pullout but no such luck I stayed there for three hours; there was no sign of birds.

I heard Rick talking about Slough and Crystal but not what was happening, so giving up on 527 I drove to Boulder where Sue and Allen were. I had just heard mention of Mom's Ridge and 694, I found them right at the top of the ridge but I could only see one from here. Rick came by and checked for any signals, he got nothing and went on to Elk Creek where he got faint 302 towards Tower. I went to Elk Creek to look, I stayed for about an hour and had my lunch, then I went to Crystal Creek where it was possible to see all three of 694s group. I stayed there with Kathi for an hour or so and went back to Elk Creek for another hour. I decided on one last look at 694, they were still bedded but one black did get up for me and I packed up and headed for home, hoping for something in Mammoth. I passed Thomas at Tower he said there was nothing west so I got home early, 16:30. Three sleeping wolves was it for the day.

~ February 2009 ~

Sunday - 01 February

Only 13 days to go. The sky is clear this morning and the temperature is about 5° in Gardiner, I have to scrape the windows, it is 06:30 when I get away. I’m going to stop at Elk Creek, it is just coming light but there was no sound, so I went on to Boulder where Barbara was looking around and finding nothing. We went on to Crystal where we heard that Rick had found 694 from Slough, so I drove to Slough and climbed Dave's Hill for the first time this year, M&C were up there with Charles. I got there just in time for them to say the wolves had just gone out of sight. Rick went off to the west and we hung around for a while but saw nothing. We came down and headed west also, there was nothing all the way to Blacktail, then we got word that the Canyon wolves were between Mammoth and Gardiner so I was nearly back where I started. Rick and others were near the Boiling River trail head, Illona was there and showed me where the two wolves were lying, they were fairly close but not easy to make out and it was hard to convince people that they were seeing a wolf, particularly the gray They did eventually get up and move so we could see all four of them, they moved off to the east and were looking for elk but we never saw them go after any. This was about my closest viewing of wolves so far this trip. We also saw the mangy wolf moving through the campground, it is sad to see him he is in a bad way, it’s hard to see how he survives with hardly any fur and it is so cold. The wolves were in view until about 13:30. I drove up to the upper terraces in the hope of seeing them but no luck so I stayed around Mammoth most of the day and walked around the terraces again.

Monday - 02 February

I am on the road at 06:30 I see Brian parked in the canyon, he will have a long wait for daylight, I drove on to Elk Creek and listened for a while, there was nothing I moved on to Boulder, stopping off at the picnic area, as I stopped at Boulder I heard howling from the direction of Mom’s Ridge. Barbara was on the hill so I got my telescope and joined her, I found 694 at the top of the ridge, the three wolves were bedded and only moved occasionally. After 3/4 hour snow came in from the west and we lost visibility, as we were leaving Dan Hartman stopped to say he had seen Canyon wolves chasing a coyote at the high bridge, so we headed west. I found Rick near the Nature Trail, he said he had nothing and would try to contact Calvin from down the road but he couldn’t reach him. We got to the bridge and walked out towards the river, Rick was further down the road and could see the wolves across the river on Mt. Everts but we couldn’t find them so we joined Rick in the big parking lot and got to see the wolves about 1/3 of the way up one of the spines, they were bedded. The wolves had a carcass right next to the lot, about 50 yards away, there were lots of birds and coyotes visiting. I stayed there from 11:00 until nearly 18:00 watching sleeping wolves. At one stage it started to snow and we lost visibility and everyone left, I went and had lunch and came back later. At about 17:00 they started to move, one of the gray males came down to the alpha female and the had a friendly tussle, the black alpha male came down to them but didn’t do anything, the other darker gray was higher up the snow slope and had fun sliding down hill on his stomach for several yards. They disappeared from view, heading in the direction of their carcass but they had not arrived as darkness fell and we left for home. I got just past the campground and met a line of stationary cars, someone had gone off the road in the canyon, said to be a Xanterra truck, and we were there for over an hour while they got the vehicle out of the river.

Tuesday - 03 February

This morning I make my first stop at Hellroaring, there is a clear blue sky and it is still cold but not into minus figures, I stay for about half an hour, seeing and hearing nothing, a little howl would be encouraging.

I move on to Elk Creek, with the same result, so on to Little America where I hear that 694 is visible from Slough to the north of the river, near the Conifer/Aspen Forest. I stop by the Aspen Pullout and we find the wolves, two black and one gray, on the move to the north, they go over a ridge and we lose them. I go back to Boulder but never find them again.

Some time later I hear that the Druids are back in the area. I’m told that I should be able to see them from Dorothy’s, to the east beyond Norris, I can’t pick them up from the description I’m given so I move to the Confluence, it is several miles nearer. Now I find the right ridge that they are on (it is still about 3 miles away) the ants do get up and move around and bed again just out of sight. Time to head west, a good move.

When I reach Blacktail I start to hear talk of wolves and carcass, it must be Canyons, I cross the bridge and get to the big pullout and park and get my scope out and set up. I look in the general direction, where everyone else is pointing and I start to look around, I’m examining black objects, is it a wolf or a rock? When something moves and a gray wolf stands up. I have been used to seeing them over a mile away, these are about 200 yards. It’s a scope full. I spend the rest of the afternoon there, the wolves come down to the carcass and eat some more and bed and eat some more and as darkness falls we move away, hoping the road to Gardiner is clear tonight.

Wednesday - 04 February

Today I have been invited by friends from Colorado to join them on a trip to the interior with Carl. Also on the trip was Charles and two German friends, the wolf watching has been slow and I have never been to the interior in winter so I am going. My thought is that today will be the day for wolves, and so it was, the ones who stayed got to see Druids and others but it was a really nice day and really worth the day off. We saw no wolves but got to see three otters, a fox and several coyotes and a lot of bison, many on the road. And some great views of a part of the park I have never seen before, well, not in winter.

Thursday - 05 February

Yellowstone Wolves ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

This morning it is back to wolf watching, I am away at the usual time straight to Boulder, soon I am joined by Elli, there is not much going on we can’t find 694. At about 09:00 the plane flies over Specimen and Elli spots a gray running down a hill to the south. Then about half an hour later we hear howling quite close to the south but we can’t see them, some people go to Curve and find the wolves behind the ridge which is blocking us, there is no parking down there so we park at Boulder and walk back, so again I get to see wolves close up. They spend the morning bedded and howling and moving around. They eventually move off, heading east, I go east to Mid Point on the long straight but can’t find them. At about 13:30 Thomas who had stayed at Boulder saw a gray cross the road to the north, I went back and it was bedded on a little knoll and was howling, people who stayed to the east heard howling from 9's den, I went back there and heard the howls but they were hidden by trees. At about 17:00 I went back to Boulder where the wolf, identified as “High Sided Male” Druid was, he had moved trying to go back south but photogs were in his way so he came back east past us on the hill. I got the best photos yet. As he was going east and howling another black wolf came down Junction Butte and howled, it was following HSM's track but turned back. Meanwhile the rest of the wolves had come back and were howling from south of us, first a gray crossed the road and it and HSM disappeared then another gray crossed and then the black alpha followed and there was still howling from the south and it was now about time to leave so I headed west.

Friday - 06 February

I woke early this morning, it was about 05:00 so I got up and checked my email and had breakfast and was out by 06:15. I drove straight to Boulder, after a while there was howling from the south but we could not see them, it was probably 472 again. I went to Curve to look from there but they were still not visible. I heard mention of Druids from Slough and Kathi said she could see them from there. I was about to go there when Mom’s Ridge was mentioned so I started to look up there and found a gray and a black, within a few minutes nine had come into view, they bedded. While we were watching 472 was howling and the druids were howling and there was a howl from the east, then I heard a howl from the west and looked that way and there was a gray coming down the road towards us. I should have got my camera but didn’t until too late and missed a good photo. This wolf continued down the road and joined High Sides and a black wolf near Peregrine.

Elli is leaving today and we say goodbye, I don’t know when I will see her again. Next it’s goodbye to Kathi, this is the part I don’t like, when the people are leaving, Charles is also on his way home and tomorrow it will be M & C.

Kathi is not going just yet and she drives to Junction Butte and calls that three wolves have just crossed the road in front of her, we see them heading east towards Peregrine, this must be 472 they chase the three wolves that are over in that direction north west, it is now snowing and visibility is bad. I go to Wrecker and look from there but there is nothing so I decide to walk down the trail to the confluence of the Yellowstone and Lamar, the snow gets heavier. When I get back to the car I have lunch and then drive to Slough for something to do, it is hard to see the road and there is no sign of the snow stopping so I decide to head home, it’s only 13:30 I get to Hellroaring and stop visibility is zero, I have a read and fall asleep, when I wake the snow has stopped and there is a great view but while I am deciding what to do it starts again and makes up my mind, I head west.

When I get to the self guided trail I stop to see the view, visibility is not good so I head for home. At the S Curve I see cars stopped; I see Calvin and Barbara so it must be wolves. It is 302 and the Blacktail Pack, they are in good view, not too far away so I get to watch them for the next two hours. Now I have to say goodbye to Thomas and Christine, they leave tomorrow. At about 17:00 I leave and head for home.

Saturday - 07 February

Was up early this morning and out at 06:20 but had to scrape ice off windows, the temp was 30° the ice was soft. I got to Curve pullout about 07:00 there was no sign or sound, Barbara was at Boulder and Rick called her to come to where he was, which turned out to be Slough, where he had Druids near the Horizontal Forest 480 and 589 were tied. I went up onto Dave's to look for the rest of the pack, I found them heading NE towards Secret Passage, they were not in view for long, I saw 12. Next I went west and from Boulder Pond I could hear howling but couldn’t see them so I moved on to Curve after a while, looking Rick came up and said that 472 had crossed the road to the south and was probably heading this way, we soon found them as they moved to where they were a couple of days ago, they howled a lot but soon went out of sight.

I went back to Slough and walked out to Bob’s Knob to look for the Druids I was there for about an hour but saw nothing. I drove east, it was a beautiful warm day in the sun but the temperature was only 23° I got to Confluence where I found Bob W, we were there till about 15:30 and then went back east I stopped at Crystal to look for the Druids. Rick came about 17:00 and said that signals were still good I found a gray on a distant hilltop but it turned out to be a coyote. I left about 17:30.

Sunday - 08 February

I was up just before the alarm this morning and was on the road at 06:25 the temp was around 27°, I had to scrape a little ice off the windows. There was a bright moon and a nice glow to the east as the sun was on the way up.

I got to curve pullout and stopped and listened but after 15 minutes I moved on and stopped on the straight, Rick pulled in and said that he thought the Druids were high up and near Secret Passage and were not a good bet, he was getting 694 to the north so I started looking. After a few minutes a tour guide called that he had Druids north of Dorothy’s so I headed there. I stopped at Coyote, the wolves were out of sight, it was feeling a bit cold and when I checked it was -3° but it didn’t feel SO cold.

The Druids came into view after a few minutes, they looked like they might be hunting, they moved over a ridge and out of sight but I had a good view. I drove on to Mid Point where I found them again bedded on a high hillside, they moved off to the east and I went to the Institute to look from there. Calvin found them a way back in the trees, they were only visible for a few minutes.

I headed west to Curve where Brian had 496 but they were out of sight when I got there. Rick had found them from Elk Creek; I went there it was a long way off; there was 496’s group and two others up on Specimen. Rick went west and left me, Brian and Bob to watch them, I stayed until about 13:00 and then went back to Lamar to look for the Druids but with no luck. I went back to Elk Creek and got there just as Bob was leaving. I looked for a while but with no luck and so drove on to the west I didn’t bother to stop at Hellroaring. As I passed Blacktail Drive Bob L called and asked me if there had been any collaring on Specimen, I said no.

Rick heard the call and called me to stop when I saw his car, it was just east of North Butte but he was not in it, I called him and he said he was to the south east about 200 yards away, I eventually saw him, difficult against dark trees. It was hard going through the deep snow but he had made a trail. When I got to him and Barbara I got to see 302 again it looked like they had a carcass it was about 1/2 mile away and out of sight, they were in view for about 20 minutes and it was time to trek back, easier than coming up.

Monday - 09 February

Yellowstone Bighorn Sheep ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

Only four days to go, I was out at 06:15, did my usual stop at Elk Creek and then Boulder, there was no sound but on looking up onto Specimen I saw a gray animal, it looked like a wolf and was in the right place for 472 but before saying anything I went back to Curve, where Bob L was parked. I pointed it out to him, he had already seen it and I set up my scope and looked, the animal was starting to look more like a coyote and as the light got better and it stood up and I could see it’s ears and nose it was a coyote.

I carried on east to find Rick, I expected the Druids were in view, as I had heard no calls I got to Slough and Rick came by and said there were weak signals on Druids but not much chance of seeing them, he was going to Elk Creek so I followed. From there he found two black wolves to the north, a long way off, they soon moved out of sight into a drainage. I stayed there for over an hour and Rick went to Wrecker where he had got word of a black to the west.

I went to Wrecker, where I met up with the most stupid driver I have ever come across over here, he had parked in the middle of the track down to the lot and no one could pass, after 15 minutes a bus wanted to get out so they found him and he had to move. I got in and found the wolf which had mange. While watching it two Big Horns were on the edge of the river bank 10 feet from us so I got some good photos.

After 1 1/2 hour I had to decide what to do, I chose Lamar and Druids. I found a famous Cooke City photographer at Trash Can, he had the Druids in view and had been watching them for over an hour. They were high to the northeast at the point where they can go over to a point above the Ledge Trail, I got to see five of them as they moved out of sight going further north. Then snow came in making it difficult to see the ridge but someone called that the wolves were back and running down hill, it looked like they were chasing something but I never saw what, and they went out of sight again. I moved to Hitching Post to see the other side of the ridge. We found one black high on top, howling and then found a gray and when they moved off I went back to Trash Can but never found them again.

It was only 14:00 as I headed west, it looked like being a very early finish, I stopped at Hellroaring but could see nothing, so I continued on I found Rick at Geode Creek, they had nothing to the west but the mangy wolf was nearby on an old carcass. I didn’t want to see it so I went on. I heard Barbara talking about running elk in the area where 302 was seen I got to the bridge but she said it was a false alarm I spent a couple of hours going up and down the road and looking from the bridge so it was 17:00 when I got home.

Tuesday - 10 February

This morning I have decided on a change and I’m going out later to see if I can find 302 or others around Mammoth, Calvin is in the canyon awaiting daylight, I carry on and get stuck behind two dozy drivers, they are going into the park but they pull off at the big pullout when they see Bob L, they must be photogs. I drive on to Wraith Falls and Bob passes I follow stopping at the ponds, I see and hear nothing. I see Bob coming back, he must have got word of something back west so I call him, he has nothing, just going back to check Mammoth. I continue to S Curve, nothing, so it looks like a waste of time coming out late, the Druids are probably in full view and close. I stop at Curve and look on Specimen, there is nothing all quiet.

I get into Lamar, at about the Institute I pass a car going west, soon followed by Rick, so the Druids are not about but Rick calls and says they are at Trash Can to the north, high. I stop at Picnic but can’t find them, I am looking in the wrong place they are further west than yesterday. I go on to Trash Can and see scopes pointed NW, a friend from Chicago and Cliffe are there, there is space for me and as soon as I set my scope it is on the bedded wolves, I have got here to late to see any movement, they are all bedded it is 09:30. We stand and watch and show other people the wolves and the wolves sleep and the time passes with little movement. I try a couple of photos just to remind myself how far away they were. At about 16:30 the wolves start to move and stretch and walk around, then they start to play, one wolf starts to run down hill, kicking snow in front of him, he seem to like the snowballs that roll down in front of him, he does this again after climbing the steep hillside. Three gray wolves are rolling together and one rolls on her back and slides away down hill with the others bounding after her. Wolves are chasing and wrestling all over the hillside. Considering that J has been here since 08:00 and I have been here nearly as long we ended up with a great finale, the wolves played until about 17:30 when I left.

Wednesday - 11 February

I’m back to early starts this morning and I’m at Elk Creek just after daybreak. I hear howling over towards Specimen, so I drive to Tower where I hear more howling, it is louder and still seems to be from Specimen, next I drive to Curve, where I hear nothing but I get a call from Bob L who has a wolf at Tower on the flat in front. I get back there in time for the wolf to have gone. I drive to Wrecker in the hope that the wolf might have gone that way but I get a call from Brian that the wolf is in sight on the north side of the road near the horse trail. Cars are stopped all along the road, photographers are lining the roadside, I join them and J stops behind me but it looks like the wolf, the High Side Male wants to cross the road, J and I move back to Tower and watch the wolf, the photogs move but HSM beds. We hear howling from near where there is a carcass, in the direction where I heard howls earlier. I join J on the ski road and we watch the bedded wolf, someone finds a black wolf above the gray, then 472 follows and they come down past where the gray had been bedded, he had gone. They came down to the road and crossed, going to the carcass, soon coming out on our side of the hill, they move south and out of sight.

Druids have been seen from the Institute but they have bedded to the south and visibility is not good. Rick arrives and as the wolves have gone he goes west and calls in that 302 is near Hellroaring so we drive over there but can’t find them they seem to be bedded but not far away in trees. I try from Lower Hellroaring but there is nothing so I have lunch and then go back to Tower and then on into Lamar, to Confluence, visibility is bad Bob W arrives and after a while we head back west to Tower. We drive back to Dorothy’s but we can’t see to the south so I go back to Tower, I intend to walk out on the ski trail towards Calcite Spring, I get further than I did last year but even with the easy going it is still uphill all the way. I turn back and hear howling from the east I keep looking as I head back and see 472 come over the ridge top, she stops and howls, I look further south and see the black bedded, they go back over the ridge and I start to look up on Junction Butte where I find a gray wolf bedded and howling, I get back to my car and get my scope, the gray starts to move west and down hill. After only a short time 472 and the black wolf appear on the butte and head in the direction of the other gray but they don’t seem to see each other, while we are watching this Bob calls that High Sided male is chasing an elk in front of Tower I look over there and see the chase. The wolf gets near the elk, it stops and turns on the wolf and starts to chase it and then the wolf turns on the elk and they come together, the wolf might have tried to bite the elk but it knocks the wolf aside and turns and runs, now the wolf does not seem as enthusiastic in the chase and soon gives up. Bob heads for home but calls in that he has seen two black wolves at Floating Island. It is time to leave as I have been invited to dinner by Bob and Brian. I don’t see any wolves as I pass Floating Island I should have stopped because 302 is probably heading that way but I carry on. We go to Outlaws for pizza.

Thursday - 12 February

Yellowstone Sunset ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Gerry Hogston

My last morning, it is 06:30 as I get on the road for my last drive into the park. I stop at Elk Creek hoping that 302 will be there but he is not and there is no sound. I hear Rick say that he is at Slough, so there are no Druids, I drive on east and as I get to Curve where I am going to stop Rick is just pulling in and as I get out of the car I see and hear a black wolf to the north, Rick points to it but I have already seen it, another black joins it, I think one of them is 302. There are lots of wolf tracks in the pullout and the wolves want to come south and over the next hour four wolves cross. I find a lone gray up on top of Specimen, as the wolves start to go up the ridge he disappears. Three of the wolves to the north howl and look towards the road but don’t like the idea and head east around Boulder, people watching from there start to look east so the wolves must be over there and soon I see a black and gray are on the south side and heading in the direction of the others. We had rangers controlling traffic and people.

We can’t see where the wolves went but we can hear them. I decide to try from Elk Creek. Rick is interested in 472 and they find her after I leave. I thought that it would be fairly easy to find 302 but I can’t see them. Rick calls to ask if I can see 472 from Elk Creek. He is trying to explain their position, I don’t really have a clue but I keep looking. I see some elk but no wolves, I see a gray animal but I am not calling in, it looks like a coyote. I go back to it a few times but tell Rick that I still can’t find where he is talking about, I see two elk, they seem relaxed. Rick tries again asking if I can see two elk that are moving, I can so I must be close, I go back to the maybe coyote and see it move and I hear howls from that direction, I look again and see the animal’s head up howling, so it is a wolf 472 and I find the other gray and the black bedded near to her. Rick eventually comes over for a look and then goes to the bridge to look from there, he can see them. I am watching these three for the next five hours until they get up and move down hill and out of sight, I can’t find them again. Rick calls to say come to the bridge, where he can see them. I stop at Tower and change my boots; I see that they have split again. I will be ready when Laurie gets back. From the bridge I see the wolves again, with the sun it feels warm but as the sun goes down it starts to feel cold. Laurie arrives and has a look but is ready to move on so I give her my radio and boots and it is all over for another trip. They go to Curve where people are expecting 302 again, I stay till about 17:00 and say goodbye to J and head for home for the last time, feeling more sad than usual, some of the days have been long and not very exciting but I will still miss coming out here.

Friday - 13 February

I have set the alarm for 07:00 but luckily I was up before it went off, it was set for PM. My case was already packed and only needed a couple of thing to go in. I bagged the last of the garbage and at 09:00 after checking out I was ready to start for Bozeman. The $500 this year worked out to £380, last year it was £260.

I stopped at the rest area and took some photos of the river and down the valley, there was hardly any snow here, the river ice was breaking up and was floating down, it was sunny but a cold wind soon got me back in the car. I was still too early and I kept the speed down to 60, just before I 90 I saw a nice looking spot and pulled in and took some more photos, it was a bit early for lunch so I drove on and ate it as I traveled. I got to the airport at about 11:00 and said goodbye to the car and went to check in, I had about 3 hours to wait and we got on board on time and we took off more or less on time. We were getting up to cruising altitude when the pilot called for a doctor or someone with medical qualifications, I thought we were going to turn back but we didn’t and got into MSP on time. We had to wait while the paramedics took the patient off, he was only young, maybe 20.

The next flight was on time and we got to AMS on time, I had a couple of hours to wait for the last flight to MAN and we got in at 13:00 and my luggage was with me, I met up with Margaret and Ron and we were soon on our way. I stayed up until about 20:30.

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