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Trip Report ~ Wolf Sightings ~ by Charles Erick

31 January - 06 February 2009

Slough Creek Sunrise ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Charles Erick

~ January 2009 ~

Saturday - 31 January — Travel Day

My Saturday trip to Yellowstone from Houston was quite uneventful. My luggage is usually lost at least once coming or going, but not this time. In fact, my suitcase was the very first one off the conveyor belt in Bozeman! I flew Delta up through Salt Lake City. Not bad. I landed around 6:30 PM, got my rental car, bought groceries at Albertson's in Livingston and arrived at the cabin at 10:15 PM. I saw very few animals on the way in. It was near 35 degrees when I landed and was in single digits when I got to the cabin. The wind blast just west of Livingston is always a shock to my system. I have learned to hang on tight to the steering wheel in this area.

Canyon Wolf Group ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Charles Erick

Sunday - 01 February — Officially Day 1

We usually are in the Lamar before daylight. I love hearing the early morning sounds, especially the yipping of the coyotes, the dippers working the river, and the howling of the Big Dogs. A Yellowstone sunrise is definitely worth the wait. We usually stop at Trash Can, crack the windows and listen to Yellowstone. Every once in a while, a very short power nap might be taken. Nothing was happening there or at Coyote, so we traveled on to Slough Creek. Rick was getting signals from 694F, a gray Druid female who is usually seen with a black male from the Sloughs and another black female from the Druids. We made our way out to Dave's Hill to get a better look. They went out of sight just about the time I got my scope set up. We toodled on through the park, making several stops with no luck.

When we got to Mammoth, we heard that some wolves had been spotted between Mammoth and Gardiner. It was the Canyon Group, which consists of a black male #712M (possibly Mollie), the gray alpha female (from the Hayden Pack), #587M, a gray (from the Mollie Pack) and bigger gray/brown male, possibly from the Mollie Pack. They were bedded down at first and then got up and traveled to the south out of sight. As we were heading back into Mammoth, I spotted a wolf in the camping area. It was 625F, a Leopold female with mange problems. She crossed the road heading east. She was pretty pitiful looking. She didn't have much hair. She looked like a big greyhound. That was it for the day.

We saw 5 wolves.

Monday - 02 February — Day 2

Canyon Group Wolf ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Charles Erick

We stopped in all the usual places on the way into and out of the Lamar. 694F and her group were supposed to be visible from Slough, but we couldn't spot them. Three wolves were being seen from the Aspen Pullout but they were gone when we got there. Gerry had heard the Druids may be visible back in the Lamar and back towards Norris, but he didn't have any luck finding them. We were batting zero on the wolf spotting front. We then heard the Canyon Group was back in Mammoth. We parked just on the west side of the tall bridge. Rick said they were just right over "there"—across the road—on a ridge—bedded. We looked and looked and finally figured out our view was blocked. We joined Rick and spotted all four bedded. They moved around a bit, but not much excitement.

For the day, we saw four wolves.

Tuesday - 03 February — Day 3

We meandered through the Lamar, stopping in all the usual places with no luck seeing any wolves. We stopped at the pullout just west of the S-curves just past Frog Rock. I can't remember whether or not Rick was getting signals from 471F, a female Agate gray. Carol spotted some raven activity just beyond a ridge to the west and south. We scanned the area for any kind of movement and Carol finally saw an ear stick up. It was 471F. She was feeding on a kill. She was in and out of view as she moved off to the east and south. As soon as we lost her, another gray showed up. This gray had some mange—not bad like 625F, but she had some problems. Later that day, we spotted 625F feeding on the same kill.

After 471F and the other gray disappeared, we headed towards Mammoth to see if the Canyon Group was still hanging around. It was getting late in the day. Were we in for a treat! The Canyon Group had made a kill 75-100 yards off the road and 30 yards from the parking lot. They were taking turn napping and eating. There was quite a crowd getting some fantastic photos of this. Very much to my surprise, I spotted DD there and briefly visited with him.

The viewing didn't last long because of the quickly setting sun.

Today we saw 7 wolves.

Wednesday - 04 February — Day 4

Otter on Yellowstone Lake ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Charles Erick

M & C, T & C from Germany, Gerry and I took a trip to the interior—thanks to Carl S. During the trip, we saw 3 otters, 1 bald eagle, 1 red fox, 9 trumpeter swans and many bison. The Hayden Valley is magical in the winter. It was truly a fun day.

Today we saw no wolves.

Thursday - 05 February — Day 5

Bison Herd in Hayden Valley ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Charles Erick

Thursday started out pretty slow. We didn't see or hear anything at Trash Can, Coyote or Slough. We stopped at Boulder. We could hear howling on the south side of the road but our view was blocked by a hill. We walked down to the Curve Pullout. From there we could see what I would call the Agate Pack/472's Group. 472F is the gray alpha female of the Agates. She is the daughter of the famous Druids 21M & 42F. A black male (which may be the alpha male) was with her, as were 2 gray females, one of which is #715F. They slept a while and wandered around the area for a while. I can't remember the exact sequence of events, but all of 472's group except the little gray female ended up on the north side of the road out of sight.

About this time, a gray wolf came up from the west just north of the Boulder pullout on the north side of the road. He cautiously moved towards the east. He wandered through some bison, stopping and howling intermittently. This made for some outstanding photo opportunities. He wandered further to the east, stopping and howling—listening. Every once in a while we could hear a howl from the south side of the road. I was told that this gray was the High Sided Gray Male of the Druids. He is somewhat of a Romeo, much like 302M, formerly of the Druids and now leader of the Leopold Group. The HSGM of the Druids was trying to woo the little uncollared gray female of 472's group, much to the angst of the rest of the group.

The HSGM of the Druids disappeared from sight, as did 472F, 715F and the black alpha male of 472's group. Who did we see sneaking across the highway from north to south but the HSGM of the Druids to probably join the little gray Agate female for a nightcap. I don't know how this all turned out, but the three Agates were seen scurrying back across the road to the south side about dark-thirty. In addition to this going on, we spotted a lone black wolf moving from west to east on the north side of the road. This turned out to be 692F of the Blacktail Group—an ex-member of the Agates. She was trying to find some friendly wolves. She disappeared at dark. Darkness fell upon us.

Today we saw 6 wolves.

Friday - 06 February - Last Day — Day 6

Thermals near Mud Volcano Area ~ © Copyright All Rights Reserved Charles Erick

With no activity in the Lamar or Slough, we made a beeline to Boulder. It was snowing. The visibility wasn't too good. The HSGM of the Druids was spotted east of Boulder on the north side of the road with 692F. We were observing them when someone suggested we point our scopes to the top of Mom's Ridge. Low and behold---there were the Druids in all their magnificent. 480M and 569F were leading their pack. My 571F was as beautiful as ever. I haven't watched the Druids enough to recognize the rest of them. We saw 12 Druids. The visibility got worse as the snow increased. All of a sudden the whole crowd on Boulder turned to their right and what is coming up the highway?? It was the little gray Agate female traveling east. You could have heard a pin drop. Everyone behaved beautifully. Just as she got next to us, she hopped on the other side of the road, up on the hill, never missing a step. She traveled on down on the road and straight over to the HSGM of the Druids. This intimidated 692F. With her tail tightly tucked between her legs, she slinked off to the west. I felt sorry for her. The little gray female and the HSGM of the Druids were very content. As I was driving away, I spotted 472F, the black alpha male and 712F on the north side of the road circling a small herd of bison.

Today I saw 18 wolves.

My time was drawing near. I had a 2:00 PM flight and it was nearly 10:00 AM. It is always hard for me to leave the friends I have made in Yellowstone. I waved farewell to most of them on the way out. What a great trip! I got to the airport around 1:00 PM. After getting thoroughly searched by TSA's finest, I finally got on my flight. This time I flew Northwest to Minneapolis/St. Paul and then on to Houston. I had a 3 hour layover, but I like the MSP airport. I checked all the gift shops out and came away with a few. The NWA flight from Minneapolis to Houston was very uncomfortable. I didn't know seats that small existed. I arrived in Houston early. My luggage made it. It was good to be home. After enjoying zero to negative 20 degrees temps in the park, I immediately broke into a sweat. Gotta love the Houston humidity!

I forgot to mention I did see Greywolf—Tonya—at the North/Gardiner entrance. I wish I could have spent more time visiting with her. I did get to meet Elli from Germany. I have been wanting to make her acquaintance. I visited with Mark R. 3 times in the Mammoth Hotel reception area. I haven't seen him in years. It was good to see Gerry. I like to plan at least one trip per year to coincide with one of his trips. Gerry is a great spotter. Yellowstone is good medicine. I need at least 3 good doses each year. I highly recommend it!

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