Finally getting to spend time with the Canyon Pack

712M the 9 year-old Alpha male of the Canyon Pack
712M the 9 year-old Alpha male of the Canyon Pack

I have never spent a whole lot of time in Canyon, or Hayden, except for in the fall right before the park is set to close and in the spring when it first re-opens, so spending a great deal of time down that way over the past week + has been quite the experience.  I met so many wonderful people and got to know many of the park rangers – interp and law enforcement – and 90% of my interactions were pleasant and happy.  There are some folks who are really dedicated to allowing people to experience the park and what happens in nature and I am grateful for them because I too have so much to learn.

At any rate, my goal when going down to Canyon for the first bison carcass was to see the Canyon pack as I assumed that they would come in to feed.  Well, hot day after hot day, with great company always, and the bear barely came in while my wolf count was zero.  And so I took off for the Tetons to do some grocery shopping and find some moose.

Early morning at Schwabacher's Landing
Early morning at Schwabacher’s Landing

My trip was quick and all mission were accomplished but I had very little sleep.

When I returned to Hayden there were wolf watchers watching and a number of carcass closure signs erected.  On the way to Tetons, I had encountered 712, the alpha male of the Canyon pack, crossing the road.  What a happy day that one was!  What I did not know was that he was most likely returning from a nearby carcass.

One wonderous morning in Yellowstone
One wonderous morning in Yellowstone

Very bright and early the next morning I set up camp at the new bison carcass, knowing that the Canyon Pack was feeding on that one.

Before my arrival the Canyons had crossed back towards home and I heard wondrous tales of an evening with the pack.  Boy was I jealous.

All day went by and it was getting dark when the pack began to gather and play.  It seemed that some time during the day the pack had grown from 3 to 5 with the return of the black yearling and an adult grey and they were so happy to see one another.  My heart was literally soaring with joy when Bill announced that there were 5 wolves and the joy continued while watching them play and love.

We waited and waited, hoping against hope that there would still be light but that was not to be the case.  It was not until darkness came, or sundown, that the pack began to move our way.  It looked for awhile that all five would come to the carcass but the yearlings held back in the sage and waited while the other 3 crossed and went to feed.

Mama Canyon immediately grabbed a huge chunk of meat and ran it across the road to the yearlings.  At the moment I was so glad that she had the youngsters to care for because I could tell that she would be lost without pups.  It seems that her other offspring have been much more accustomed to being around people but these two have been sheltered from the masses and are still very shy.  As much as I would like to see them, particularly that beauty of a black, up close, I am glad that they are fearful of people.  And, because mama has sheltered them so, it is like she still has young pups to care for, which I am sure helps her to keep going.  I sure hope nothing happens to the alphas because those two would have to grow up fast.

The other two fed for a little while, got a drink and then crossed back over to the family for more play time.

The next morning (you will have to wait until I process video of these days to get the visuals and the audio) I arrived at 5:30 to the most delightful round of howling I have every heard.  I have been howls deprived and sure got to hear a lot of them that day.

Some of the pack had cross while the others were on the carcass side but it was not long before they all were together for more love and play time.  They crossed before sun up so taking photos was impossible.

The previous late afternoon I had seen an unknown, collared black turned grey that looked very old.  At first I thought that he was 755 but now am not so sure.  But, since 755 came into the picture, maybe he was just having a bad hair day.

I was setting up on the carcass, about 300+ yards away when I heard that the pack was trying to cross the road again.  They had done lots of howling and I had heard two howls from the east.  It seemed that the Canyons were responding to the other howls but they could not get across and so they left, traveling north and we did not see them again for awhile.  I missed my hoped for photo op of the wolves on the carcass but did see some grizzly action.

Well, the following day I was just too tired to hang out and so went on to the north and tried to get some computer work done.  Later, I found out that 755 had been seen with the Canyon adult daughter!  After all of that sitting and waiting, I had missed the best of the best.

And, so I went back to the other side of the mountain, not expecting to see a thing, and there was 755 with his new love!  Oh, my heart was beating fast – the excitement was nearly too much to bear as I grabbed camera and tripod.

755 with his new gal
755 with his new gal

She is pretty cute, not 889 cute, but cute.  Still, I was all eyes for 755.

755 - all spry and happy
755 – all spry and happy

We had the new couple for quite some time, until they crossed the road.  I hung out for awhile but ultimately decided to go photograph something else that was timely and so missed the night show, which was mostly grizzlies and one woman getting bluff charged after going too close.

And, so yesterday, it seemed as though daddy really wanted to go retrieve daughter.  I don’t blame them, they need a good strong hunter at their age, but, at the same time I can’t help but be happy that 755 might finally have a mate.  Not sure if daddy made it back over to daughter because he disappeared to the north.

This morning I arrived to wolves!  Two on one side and 3 or 4 on the other.  I am guessing, but don’t know for sure, that daddy and mama got to daughter but at some point she decided to stay with her new guy because she was not there when they crossed back over to the yearlings.  I heard Kathy say that the female was carrying meat but she did not have it when we saw her running through the field.  Sneaky lady went behind us while 712 went in front of us.

712M - Hey, look at me folks
712M – Hey, look at me folks
White Lady sneaking behind us
White Lady sneaking behind us

Though, after 712 crossed, he did not go far because he stood and howled for quite a while.  Some of his howls were loud and could be felt in the soul.  Not sure if he knew that she had crossed or that he was calling to his daughter.  But, it sure gave us some extra time to see his beautiful face.

712, waiting in the sage...
712, waiting in the sage…

And so I ultimately got my time with the Canyons and much of it was so precious and dear that I will cherish the time always.  The female has a pretty bad limp, which you will see when the video is done but otherwise the pair looks great.  They gave many visitors some pretty terrific memories over the past few days.  I know that they created some more wolf advocates for sure.


7 thoughts on “Finally getting to spend time with the Canyon Pack

  1. Great wolf shots, you do just a great job! I’m really enjoying the content. As we are home now, it really lets me live vicariously through your work.

  2. I have been waiting for you to post this! I could almost hear them howl as you wrote about it. I am really happy the Canyons are doing well but I am absolutely thrilled 755 has a new sweetie. I have been worried about him. Thank you for letting me end my day with your great story! I will dream of happy wolves tonight.

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