Trip Report ~ Wolf Sightings ~ by Bill Hamblin
23 March - 03 April 2012
~ March 2012 ~
Friday - 23 March
I left Idaho Falls after breakfast with the old work crew and was on the road about 8:00 a.m. With the West Gate still closed (until April 20th), the route went thru Ashton, West Yellowstone, Bozeman, and Livingston. 290 miles and five hours later I was at Gardiner. The big news is the lack of snow. Gardiner is bare, driving by Junction Butte I couldn't see any snow. Hellroaring is almost bare to the top of the meadow. Lamar Valley is bare on the flat, Ski slope is half bare. I talked to Cindy during the trip and they had 50 inches in Silver Gate last year at this time - 22 inches this year. I didn't find any bears or wolves today.
Saturday - 24 March
I camped at Mammoth for the trip. At 9:00 a.m. I had nine of ten Lamar Canyon wolves south of coyote overlook. At 5:30 p.m. I spotted fourteen Mollie wolves (8 black, 6 gray) towards Prospect Peak viewed from frog rock (Children's Fire Walk). No bears seen today. That was it for the day except that a yearling bison tried to cross the Blacktail Pond, and couldn't get out. Five hours later it was still trying but was not going to get out. A grizzly came out and tried to cross to the ponds towards evening but there were too many people.
Sunday - 25 March
Something big pulled the bison yearling carcass out of the pond and had it eaten pretty well this morning. At 7:45 a.m. I saw all seven of the Agate Creek pack of wolves (1 white 471F, 3 gray and 3 black) from Wrecker Pullout in the river on an old carcass. At 9:30 a.m. I spotted a black Lamar Canyon wolf in the old rendezvous area.
Monday - 26 March
At 6:25 a.m. I found two large dark objects near the carcass at Blacktail Ponds before daylight. In addition to the bison yearling, two large bull bison had broken thru the ice back in December and had sunk. They came to the surface a few days previous. One other bison went thru the ice during the winter but it still hasn't come up to the surface. About 6:40 a.m. we could see that a big really black grizzly was on the two bull bison carcasses, had a red button in one ear. The second grizzly was brown and a little smaller than the big one. It had to eat on the small bison yearling which was pretty much gone. Soon the big grizzly left the carcass going 100 yards to the west and then across the road back to the south. The smaller grizzly left soon after daylight going straight north away from the road. Both bears looked in great shape for the spring. At 8:15 a.m. I found the Agate Creek pack, all seven on a fresh carcass in Little America straight east of long pullout. At 2:15 p.m. I found a black Lamar Canyon wolf viewed from footbridge pullout. It was a last year's pup from the Lamar Canyon pack, who frequently doesn't follow the pack. At 6:30 p.m. I had four gray wolves of the Blacktail Pack north and west of frog rock. The weather was windy and spitting rain so my plan was not to stop at the carcass. No bears on the carcass as I passed it, but I looked northwest and the big one was coming towards the road. As you remember, usually a bear this time of year will spent the night on any carcass it finds.
Tuesday - 27 March
At 6:20 a.m. a dark object in the Blacktail pond. Yep, it was the big grizzly still there. Soon after day light it went west than crossed the road. At 7:05 a.m. a grizzly on the Agate Creek carcass in Little America with all seven wolves in the area. Good action for about an hour with every 15 minutes or so the wolves would mount an attack on the grizzly. The grizzly left a couple of times, but ran back to chase the wolves off again. The grizzly finally tried to drag the carcass with him, pretty much skin and bones. The grizzly soon left the carcass to the wolves, never to return to the carcass. At 8:40 a.m. the Lamar Canyon wolves were north of picnic area in the Lamar Valley. I only saw 6 of them this time. The big grizzly at Blacktail Ponds was a little later coming in tonight, it crossed the road at 7:36 p.m.
Wednesday - 28 March
I arrived before daylight at Blacktail Ponds. Bob was there already and he had wolves howling. As it became light, could make out two dark objects. At first light the big grizzly had the carcass, the smaller brown one was picking at the old yearling carcass and soon we found bedded wolves. The Blacktail wolf pack was there. Soon the grizzlies left right after first light. We had six grays and two black wolves (were missing one gray). The two blacks and one of the grays are last years pups and very timid. While the other wolves rushed to eat on the carcass, these three pups were up on the hills howling. It took a while to find them, each a little higher up the hill and in some trees. At 8:30 a.m. the Agate wolves were back in Little America near the old carcass. At 11:00 a.m. eight of the Lamar Canyon wolves were south of the Institute. In a sideline, they were bedded high in a clearing south of the Institute and just east of ski slope. During the next four days, two days they bedded in the same spot. It seemed weird to me until the wolf researchers said they had got a big horn sheep in that area. Both grizzlies and the wolves at Blacktail Ponds at dark. The grizzlies arrived at dark, the wolves were in the area all day.
Thursday - 29 March
At daylight the big grizzly and a black mangy wolf were near the carcass. As soon as the grizzly left, the five grays and two black wolves were spotted. The grays soon ran the mangy wolf (apparently not a pack member) off across the road. The blacks and one gray were still high on the hill far away from the carcass. There was another black wolf to the east about .5 mile away that was noticed. Apparently it was a member of the pack but had left some time ago, and was not recognized by the pack and eventually it got ran off too. At 9:50 a.m. we had nine of Lamar Canyon wolves south of the Institute heading back to the clearing from yesterday for the day. I visited Cindy and Kelly in Silver Gate today and they had two interesting facts: (1) the black bear with two yearling had been spotted on Garnett Hill and the Great Horned Owl was on a nest at Lamar Canyon east. At 4:45 p.m. I found the black bear sow and two yearlings on Garnett Hill after looking at the owl on the nest. Just at dark the smaller brown grizzly came back to the Blacktail Ponds (and the big black grizzly came in just after I left for camp).
Friday - 30 March
At 6:25 a.m. the big grizzly was on the carcass at Blacktail. It left just at first light and then 40 minutes later I found it heading west and south from frog rock. I bet it was through with the carcass. At 1:00 p.m. I found the black bear sow with two yearlings on Garnett Hill (she usually doesn't come out until after noon, and then goes in by 5:00 p.m.). At 1:35 a.m. eight of the Lamar Canyon wolves were bedded high south of the Institute (in the same clearing as before). At 6:00 p.m. I found a larger black bear on Garnett this one far to the northwest. On the way back to Mammoth, I was surprised to see the big grizzly back at the ponds (glad I didn't bet). This was the last visit as all the carcasses (except the one still submerged) are cleaned up.
Saturday - 31 March
Around 8:30 a.m. I found four Agate wolves (471F, one gray, and two blacks) west of Crystal Drainage. At 12:15 p.m. the black bear with two yearlings were out on Garnett Hill. At 7:55 p.m. Margaret had a black bear along the road just west of Upper Hellroaring.
~ April 2012 ~
Sunday - 01 April
At 7:30 a.m. all ten of the Lamar Canyon wolves bedded in that clearing south of the Institute. At 11:15 a.m. 471F from Agates crossed the road near boulder pullout. The other wolves had crossed earlier (I missed them), but must have gone up and over Specimen Ridge. Because for the next hour 471F howled to locate the others, but no responses. At 12:45 p.m. the black bear with two yearlings was a little late coming out today at Garnett Hill. At 2:00 p.m. I ran into Becky and Chloe (wolf watchers) who had 471F, two grays and the big black bedded high in the woods south and west in Little America (apparently some of the wolves had come back to find 471F).
Monday - 02 April
A good day for wolves. I started at Slough Creek bathroom at daylight. I had howling to the south in Crystal Drainage but no sightings (assumed Agate Creek Pack). At 7:15 a.m. I headed into Lamar Valley and had the Lamar Canyon wolves moving west high above Fisherman's pullout. We headed back to Slough to see if they would come through. We found them on the ridge line and soon they started running fast through the trees and towards the road. I did not see most of what followed, but they think the Lamar Canyon wolves (10 strong) ran into the Mollie's Pack (15 strong). The Lamar's ran for their lives, and some were probably saved by the road and the traffic. The Lamar's got across the road, the Mollie's turned back. The next hour the Lamar's were howling and regrouping north of Coyote, and the Mollie's bedded south of Fisherman's. The Mollie's ruled the day. The rest of the day both groups were seen bedded. The wolf people got a good look and no apparent injuries. At 12:45 p.m. the black bear sow with two yearlings was out at Garnett Hill. At 4:30 p.m. the "silver gate" grizzly crossed the road in Soda Butte Valley (he has a gray patch across it's shoulders (Dan Hartman has a picture on his website). At 5:15 p.m. my last sighting for the day was a grizzly in the old rendezvous area.
Tuesday - 03 April
Tuesday April 3rd. At 7:30 a.m. Doug (Silver Gate) called with a grizzly in the Slough Creek bottoms. At 8:15 a.m. 822 a black wolf from Mollies was in Crystal Drainage. I headed home this morning with good roads all the way.
Roads - the park newspaper lists Tower Junction to Tower Store road to be fixed this year. And the park website lists Chittenden Road to Tower "may" be closed starting July 5th from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. and closed for good early in mid-September. Animals - I only saw one Uinta ground squirrel but they are coming out, one fox in Mammoth, lots of elk at Hellroaring and near Tower, few have moved up to Lamar Valley yet, bighorn sheep at Hellroaring on the basalt cliffs, on basalt cliffs near Wrecker pullout, on Specimen Ridge, one ram near the road at Wrecker, and lots across from footbridge to the north. Pronghorn antelope mainly near the entrance at Mammoth but moving up, saw three or four in Little America, Had goats on Baronette Peak and north and east of footbridge. Only one moose, a cow, above Dan And Laurie's house in Silver Gate. Coyotes every day. And bison everywhere. Deer - lots in Paradise Valley between Livingston and Gardiner, some at the Arch, and one near Elk Creek. Rabbits - One in Mammoth was white when I got there, turning browner every day. Birds - Blue birds, Magpies, Bald and Golden Eagles (the nest south of coyote and the nest north of long pullout has bald eagles on it. A few sandhill cranes (nothing at Floating Island Pond yet), Great Horned Owl nests in Lamar Canyon east and the nest at Mammoth Visitor Center (I was told). Lots of geese, few ducks yet. No ospreys or falcons this trip. Two swans north in Little America. Last news: The Tower chief ranger Collet was moving out (retired).
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