YELLOWSTONE JUNE 2010
September 4, 2010
YELLOWSTONE JUNE 2010
June finally arrived and I am very anxious for this trip. I have been reading Laurie Lyman’s posts on Yellowstone Reports (which I also contribute to). Laurie follows wolf activity in Yellowstone including two very active packs, the Silvers (middle foothill in Lamar Valley) and the Lamar Canyon pack (Slough Creek) and each have four new pups this spring. Pretty exciting since the pups and dens of each pack are both visible and very active. There is also a mix of bear interaction to look forward to. I missed the bears in February so this might be a treat!
Cinnamon black bear I photographed near the north east entrance in Silver Gate.
I arrived in the afternoon on the eighteenth and went directly into the park. I immediately set up my scope and cameras just in case (One never knows what is around the bend in Yellowstone!).
On my way through the Park I ran into Dr. Nathan Varley and biologist Linda Thurston, two of my very good friends. They were in the Soda Butte Creek area and told me they had observed the Silver Pack and four pups today. That was welcome news.
After taking a few shots of old reliable bison (and some not so old as the young are out and about). That is the really significant part of late May – early June. So much new life flows throughout the Park and it is exciting to watch. The young calf takes first steps on wobbly legs and the wolf pups tumble as they run, even biting onto an ear or leg of the closest adult wolf that happens to be in their line of fire.
I found a place to stay at the North entrance (reliable Absaroaka Inn), but only through Monday night as the rodeo was in town (lucky me). But hey, I am here in Yellowstone and nothing could be better.
The next few days I spent mostly watching the Silver Pack and the Lamar Canyon Pack (for which I proudly hold tight to their namesake).
There are actually two LCP (Lamar Canyon Pack) Slough Creek den(s), one being near the other – but in the sage and referred to as the sage den, what else? They keep things pretty simple here. I did not observe bear activity near the Lamar Canyon Pack, but it was so good to watch a healthy 06 with her pups, and 755 and 754 look great as well. Most of the viewing there was by scope, and most of the activity involved the pups and their torment of the adult wolves. I did catch the alpha male, 755m, coming home with dinner, and the four pups bounding on him with happy tongues. I watched as they licked his mouth until he finally coughed it up…supper, that is! Even 06 excitedly ran to him and that was so fun to watch.
I would watch this location a few more times with pretty much the same activity. The Silvers were a whole different story.
The Silvers have their den at a place called the middle foothill. This is well into the tree line, and again, you really need to have a scope in order to get a good view of them. My first sight of them was with the pups out of the den, which was pretty awesome. I watched the “Old Man” as he meandered about and got a partial view of 147m, the young black alpha male. He is certainly a strong wolf. As I was observing them this first time I noticed a bull elk to the left of the foothill and he was watching something in the tree line. It was not a wolf, but a medium sized black bear. The bear was heading on a course that would put him smack dab at the Silver’s den. Who else but 147 could then be seen shadowing the bear from the tree line? When the bear hit the opening close to the den it was on! 147 charged the bear and gave him a good bite, which led to the bear trying unsuccessfully to climb a nearby aspen. Then came the reinforcements as the rest of the Silvers made a bee line for this bear who tried again but just couldn’t get up a second tree. Well, 147 wasn’t feeling too sorry for him and came up behind Mr. Bear and sunk his canines into the bears rump, spinning him around. The Silvers chased the bear until he was out of sight. Good stuff!
I sure met a lot of nice people on this trip and so many were there primarily to watch the wolves. I also had some nice talks with Cindy Hartman, and later, her husband Dan, who was teaching two separate owl classes at the Institute this week (Buffalo Ranch). If I had the time this trip, I would have definitely taken this class as Dan is amazingly interesting when it comes to his passion for owls and how he expresses it. I told Dan I always used to think of him as a “bear guy “because he consults so much on bear films, but I really think owls are his true main interest.
All the while I was wondering if Judge Molloy, Federal Justice in Missoula, Mt, would rule on the relisting issues for the wolves. Nothing came down during my trip, and as of this writing still nothing has been decided. I sure hope the Judge does the right thing! This is a very important issue and the lives and future of wolves may be in the balance. A lot of wolf people that I met in Yellowstone asked me about it.
I ended up across from the Confluence (past Exclosure), and climbed to the vantage point off the roadway. Around 2:30 pm it was just another fellow from Alabama and myself, and we were fixed onto a bison calf kill from the morning. We watched as the old man from the Silvers fed on the carcass for nearly two hours. He was in no hurry and shared generously with the many ravens. A large grizzly showed up, and after a brief confrontation, the bear and the wolf were feeding off the same carcass…pretty amazing. Eventually we watched as the Old Man left and made his way back to the middle foothill in Exclosure, disappearing as he headed toward the den.
It was quiet for just a bit, and then all Hell broke loose! We spotted a large grizzly on the carcass, and a very short time after that we saw at least three wolves from the Silvers, including 147, in the immediate area. The Old Man wasn’t with them and must have been pup-sitting seeing, as he already had eaten.
Quite the drama played out as a few bison in the area became extremely agitated, spinning around in a Linda-Blair-head-turning-exorcist-like maneuver. I suppose this was an alert to other bison in the area to head for the hills.These three bison did just that, along with a few pronghorn and one solo elk, as five more grizzlies rambled down from the tree line. Only one tried to make it to the carcass and was quickly chased away by the original grizzly, still protecting his dinner. Every time he would give chase, the three wolves would move in for a snack. 147 occupied his attention a few times with a nip on the butt so that his pack members could grab some chow, and they did.
This grizzly was in a non-sharing mode, and even chased the ravens and other birds. I watched as he smacked one raven with a large paw swat, most likely killing it.
A very large crowd joined in on the hillside for a look, and many were families armed with maybe only binoculars or a sure-shot camera. I attempted to talk to everyone to let them know what they were watching and offered several a look through my scope and many accepted. I picked up several kids for a look and at one point I noticed a mom and her young boy were pretty emotional, seeing their first wolf in the wild. This made it all worth the effort on my part as I remember the first wolf I saw in Yellowstone. The experience is overwhelming for some and it just kinda reaches out and grabs you and pulls you in. An experience one never forgets, and as people came and left so many let me know just how appreciative they were and some asked me if I worked there. One young boy said “Your name’s David…are you David Mech?” I laughed and said, “No..I’m much younger and better looking than David Mech!” (sorry Dave).
I stayed until almost 9:30pm as it started to get dark and most everybody had left by then. I felt very satisfied with the experience this day, and knew so many had the chance of a lifetime watching wolves and bears and other wildlife doing what they do in this circle of life called Yellowstone. I was blessed to be a part of it.
Near the end of the day I met a young biology teacher, Parks Collins from North Carolina. He was there with several High School students that the community helped finance the trip for. All of the students made a point to think me and a couple asked some questions which I was most happy to answer. Parks, among others that day, visited my website and left some nice messages.
Today was a good day. Wolves. Bears. Wolf watchers. Mother Nature couldn’t have written a better script. And she allowed us to watch this magnificent display of life . We were the insignificant ones on this day. The old man, 147m, and that big ol’ grizz took center stage. I, for one ,was content. This was nature at its best… this was Yellowstone.
On my way out of the Park I wanted to stop in Slough and say goodbye to my what was quickly becoming my all time favorite wolf, 06 of the Lamar Canyon Pack. What a magnificent wolf she is. I knew it would be dark soon but there were a few cars there, including Rick McIntyre and Laurie Lyman. That was a nice bonus.
I watched Rick as he, as he always does, goes above and beyond in helping others locate the wolves and making sure everyone sees what is going on. He offers his own scope and quick to give information. He even demonstrated how he uses the telemetry to track wolves and had 754m nearby.
Laurie is also a very avid wolf watcher and she reports daily for a site I am part of, Yellowstone Reports. This site is on my homepage at www.wolfwatcher.org . So cool to keep in touch with day to day information about wolves you may have just observed. Laurie reports in a very caring and sincere way which gives you that “almost there” feeling.
I engaged Laurie in conversation and learned that she was a retired school teacher from California, and lives out near Yellowstone a great deal of the time. One thing she said struck me…”When teaching there was always a beginning and an end to everything we did, but with the wolves every day is different, she said. From one day to the next you never know what might happen when watching wolves.” She said the first thing she thought of when she woke in the morning is wolves and what are they doing today, and also how little sleep she and her husband Dan get these days. “I comes with a price“, says Laurie, but worth it just the same.”
Look for a piece on Rick McIntyre shortly. A dedicated man of this wolf watching profession with a sense of humor I was unaware of!
So my trip comes to an end for June 2010. Many memories. Many new friends. No matter what happens, you never come up short after experiencing Yellowstone, and this was surely the truth for me once again.
So now I am so looking forward to talking to more people about wolves and wildlife, sharing on my website and urging others to take action to protect the wildness that they just experienced. I am working at a new and improved, and way more interactive web experience at wolf watcher very shortly. Oh, and did I forget to say, see you in April 06 !!! (and maybe even February too!)
Remember when thinking of Yellowstone wolves, the ambassadors of all wolves of the northern and southern Rockies, Minnesota, Alaska, and throughout North America , it is so very important to remember these three words..
Understand, love, protect