I spent most of the day looking for the Lamar Canyons and so not many photo ops, but did get to see Twin and Dark Black. More about the wolves later.
About mid-day I got word that Picnic bear was near the road but when I arrived just a few minutes later she had vanished. No doubt crossing the road and going into another area. After making sure that the bears were no where to be found, I set out on what turned out to be one of the most wonderful of hikes on the lower Specimen Ridge trail. The weather was perfect, not too hot, just a little windy and once out there further than ever before, I felt strong and at peace. For a moment I imagined being an explorer crossing mountain meadow terrain for the first time. In awe of everything yet confidant and experiencing a strong feeling of being at home. I don’t think that one gets to feel exactly that way very often and I got the feeling of giving myself one of the most wondrous of gifts.
Along the hike I found a group of big horns that were resting on a knoll. They looked like the ladies gossip circle, discussing that weird strange thing, me, on the next hill over. They could have cared less about me – it was their hill and their time. I tried to get some shots of the big horns with the distant Absaroka and Beartooth mountains behind them but it was difficult with a short lens to get the right angle without getting too close to the animals. They were fun shots anyway and there is something special about photographing wildlife in the back country.
But, what I did not know and what was really special, was that there was a bison cow and calf right below the sheep. I saw, out of the corner of my eye, a bison bedded below but did not look closely. And then I noticed the bison was up and moving and there was a brand new red dog wobbling behind her. I was 125 yards or so from the bison but my presence must have disturbed the new protective mama because she decided to move. This had me feeling bad and so I just took and couple of shots as they moved away. It was just so thrilling to see my first red dog of 2016 and for the sighting to have taken place in the back country at the place of birth. That cutie was so tiny!
I ended up hiking to the real Specimen Ridge trailhead and then followed that trail back down to the road and back to the picnic area. There were many more bison down low, a lot of cows looking ready to pop, a few bored bulls and ground squirrels sounding alarms and ducking into holes. The pronghorn returned to Little America just a few days ago and they are looking really good. The small ponds have some water in them but not much, which is always a bad sign.
The Lamar Canyons were at home this morning and Rick saw the alphas and T coming off the ledge trail into the den hill while I was watching 7 bull elk. Howling sent the bulls running up the rocky knob but I never did see the wolves, despite watching for a long time. A moose cow and calf came out of the den area and the elk bunched up and were starring at something a couple of times, but no wolves.
Well, the Lamars weren’t home for very long before they headed west. We had reports of 3 wolves, 4 wolves and 6 wolves. I happened along soon after the sightings began and only saw Dark Black and Twin. Apparently, according to one person, there was one group of three wolves further back from the road and then 3 Lamars closer to the road and the two groups were howling at one another. And, someone mentioned a chase. I have no clue what happened but DB and Twin were walking slowly, by themselves, heading west. They went out of sight and I went and perched on some rocks to watch and did eventually see Twin get excited and run back to the east. That was it. Hopefully the girls had their eyes on some food and are smart enough to know better than to return to Slough.
The Junctions were somewhere north of Wrecker pullout but I believe only one of them was seen. 970 is due to den any time now and they are still hoping she will choose Slough Creek. No word on the Prospects.
But, the Canyons were still in town. Apparently 4 were seen on the Blacktail chasing some elk. The sighting was brief but the White Lady did cross the road at around 7:15 this morning. That is all I know! There is a lot of elk in Mammoth and on the Blacktail so a good place to be if you are a wolf.
It was another good day in Yellowstone.