Watching the Junction Butte Wolves and a Coyote Mother Moves Her Pups

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Day 2

Monday, May 13, 2024

            We got an earlier start this morning, 6:30 a.m., hoping to catch better wolf viewing at the Junction Butte den.  A bull moose was grazing in the willows that border Soda Butte picnic area.  He was a big fellow with a shiny dark brown coat and white socks, and his antlers, just beginning to grow, were covered in velvet.  He munched contentedly, turning his head to look at us and let us know he knew we were there.  As we watched the moose, a fox snuck up behind us and trotted into the picnic area; maybe one of the foxes we saw last night along the road. 

            Lamar Valley was pretty quiet, so we headed straight to Slough Creek.  There was no activity at the den when we first arrived, but it wasn’t long before two gray wolves, one collared, and a black rose up out of the sage.  We watched them mill around the den site, then slowly amble behind a bench and bed down in the sage.  Over the morning, we saw 907F come out of the den and slip back in.  Two other black wolves played a bit, then disappeared. 

            The alpha male trotted in from the west carrying a piece of meat to the den site.  907F had just moved west, possibly to meet him when another collared gray came out of the den and met the alpha male who dropped the meat.  She carried the meat away and could be seen chewing it, then caching some of it.  All in all, we saw 8 wolves, 4 gray and 4 black.  907F probably went to the carcass to feed for a while and the alpha male disappeared over the hill behind the den to join the other wolves.  As we watched the Junction wolves, a dark brown grizzly pulled grass and grubbed in the flats below the den site.  High up in another grassy meadow, four other grizzlies foraged, a sow with three 2- or 3-year-old cubs. 

            After watching the grizzlies, we went back to Dorothy’s to check out the coyote den.  As soon as we got out of the car, Tim spotted the mother coyote moving with something in her mouth.  Coyotes often move their puppies to different dens, and we wondered if this would happen.  We hiked down a trail to an overlook where we could see the den site better, and spotted the coyote mother trotting through the grass.  The coyote mother had moved her pups from the den site all the way across the meadows beneath Dorothy’s to a new den site where the terrain slopes down to the flats.

            She trotted quickly back to the old den, now surrounded by bison.  Hesitating a little, perhaps intimidated by the bisons’ presence, she stepped carefully into the sage where two pups rushed to greet her.  She grabbed one pup by its hind end hanging upside down.  The pup wiggled in protest as she trotted away, making it hard for her to hold on to it.  She dropped the pup twice and readjusted without missing a beat, trotting around the corner of the slope where we could no longer see her. 

            And then it started all over again.  Mom coyote trotting back to the den, this time much slower.  We watched her retrieve what we believe was the last pup, this time grabbing the pup in its middle.  Fat, furry, little brown ball.  We will miss watching them, but maybe we’ll see the adults in the flats, or even the puppies.  Another coyote, a light gray, lay nearby which could be the male.  One visitor noted that he has a slight limp.  While we looked and waited, Tim spotted another wolf across the river lying on Amethyst bench, gray with reddish-brown tones in its fur.  Another Mollie? 

            We went back to the Slough den to see if anything was going on.  A black and a gray moved around the sage, but weren’t visible long.  The rest of the afternoon was spent driving around, up Tower Road where we saw a black bear sow and her two coy, and as far as Blacktail ponds.  The middle of the afternoon is almost always quiet, so we decided to go back to the cabin and then go out again in the evening. 

            The Park is different in the evening.  The temperature drops and it feels like the valley is anticipating something.  The bison grazed contentedly while their calves ran around and chased each other playfully in circles.  I walked down to the river where it rushes over rocks and past sandbar islands.  A pair of geese huddled on a sandbar guarding their two fuzzy yellow goslings.  There were no wolves in sight, but we did see two black bears at the edge of the trees across the river.  Two bull moose grazed on willows in Round Prairie.  One of the foxes we have come to recognize zigzagged across the road as we returned to the cabin.  By 8:30 p.m. the sun had set and it was getting dark. 


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