Waiting for Wolf Pups and Watching Bears With Cubs

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Day 2

Monday, May 15, 2023

The sun was already shining on the mountains when we got up this morning.  We passed through Soda Butte Valley and most of Lamar Valley without stopping.  At Dorothy’s Pullout there was a crowd watching a grizzly sow and her two 2-year-olds on Jasper Bench.  They chased another grizzly nearby, perhaps a male interested in the sow.  We didn’t stay long, heading toward the Junction Butte den, but were stopped at the Lamar Canyon roadwork.  Fortunately, the delay wasn’t too long and we were on our way.

At the Junction Butte den site wolves were bedded near the den, getting up every now and then to look inside.  It’s hard to tell how many there were as the wolves would enter the den, and might come out or not, or they would disappear into the trees.  I counted four wolves at first, then a helicopter flew overhead sending wolves from out of nowhere running up the slopes above the den site. We counted ten wolves as they climbed the hillside and went over the ridge.  Two wolves remained at the den site, sometimes entering the den.  The pups haven’t been seen yet, but it’s likely they will appear any time now.  Both 907F and 1276F have had pups.  No one knows how many pups there are, but it looks like pups from the two litters have been moved together. We left the den site for a while to look for black bears, but when we returned later around noon, there were four wolves at the den site, possibly more bedded in tall grass.

There was some interesting interaction between black bears today at Calcite Springs.  The sow and her yearling cubs were grazing in the meadow when a boar approached the sow, probably intending to mate.  The sow was not having it.  She sent the cubs up a tree and even went up the tree herself before lunging at the boar with bared teeth.  The boar made a couple of advances, none of which seemed too aggressive, but wound up walking away.  The rangers separated the crowd to allow the dejected male to walk up the slope and through the parking lot to cross the road.  We left the sow and her cubs asleep in the tree and returned later when they were back grazing peacefully in the meadow.

In between wolf watching and bear watching we looked for badgers and found a sandhill crane pecking through the tall grass at the edge of a pond in Little America.  Sandhills are usually in pairs, but we didn’t see its mate.  Though there are lots of badger holes in Little America, the only badger we saw waddled across the road in Lamar Valley and disappeared quickly into the thick sage there.

We were on our way back to Silver Gate when we heard about a grizzly sow with a cub in the river corridor.  We quickly u-turned and followed the crowd at Hitching Post to the river’s edge.  The sow and her cub were feeding on a small carcass, maybe a bison calf, next to a large snow drift.  They fed for quite a while, the sow facing away from us.  The cub looked small at first, but when the two bears stood next to each other the cub looked larger, maybe two years old.  The two bears enjoyed the snow, rolling around in it, lying on their backs with their feet in the air.  We were enjoying watching the sow with the cub, playing with him, grooming him, nursing him, when two hikers suddenly appeared on the bench above the bears.  The hikers were completely unaware of the bears and kept walking closer and closer to the river bank.  People on our side of the river held their breath and some tried to get the hikers’ attention by waving, but the hikers were too far away.  When the hikers and bears finally did notice each other, the bears looked at the hikers and the hikers detoured around the bears by sliding down a snowy cutbank and walking along the river.  But not before taking photos with their cell phones!

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