The Mollie Pack Plays and Hunts in Lamar Valley

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Day 3

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

           It’s snowing and we are settled into the cabin.  It was cloudy and 30º when we left the cabin this morning at 6:40 a.m.  The pullouts at the Confluence were jammed with visitors waiting to see wolves on the carcass, leaving no place to park, but we managed to find a good spot at Exclosure.  That turned out to be the better location as the Mollies were moving west and by the time we set up the scope wolves were in view.  Gray wolves and black wolves traveled at a good clip through the sage, then meandered about and bedded.  At least one black that looked like a yearling could be seen on the river bank.  At one point I was able to count 8 wolves, but I knew there were nine, all bedded together at the edge of the sage bench.  Reports said a collared gray was still at the carcass; that wolf later trotted along the river bank looking for the others, traveling as far as Picnic before we lost her.

Rick McIntyre was with a small group of visitors, helping them spot wolves and telling their history.  The Mollies are the only original existing pack in the park now. He said they have denned in Pelican Creek and there are more pack members.  What is interesting is some of these wolves are former Junction Butte wolves, 1048M and 1339M.  A Mollie wolf, 1485M, formerly a Junction Butte, was at the Junction Butte den site yesterday.   It was fun to watch this pack that we haven’t seen in many, many years; see them group together, tails wagging, hear them howl.  We watched as the wolves spread out and bedded in the sage; occasionally getting up or lifting a head.  We were cold by then, so we headed to the car to warm up and see if anything was happening at the Slough Creek den.

It was a bit foggy at Slough; moisture hung in the air.  We were able to see two grays at the den site, one that went into the den and a black walking around, before it started to rain.   At first it was a slight drizzle, but gradually the rain became a steady downpour and visibility was poor.  We waited, expecting the rain to stop, but the storm continued so we decided to wait out the weather at the cabin.

We went back out around 2 p.m., not expecting to see much wildlife.  It was drizzling lightly when we reached Soda Butte Valley.  Vehicles were parked at the Confluence, people hoping to see a wolf at the carcass.  One visitor said she saw a black wolf by the tree line and we didn’t think much of it, but we decided to stay and look around.  Then Tim found a black wolf heading toward the Confluence and carcass.

It was hard to watch the black wolf as it bobbed in and out of the sage.  One minute it was there, then it wasn’t.  The sage is taller than it looks, a good camouflage.  Then there was a second black wolf weaving through the sage, both trying to reach the carcass.  By this time a crowd had gathered at the river’s edge and I wonder if that impacted the wolves’ movements.  One wolf reached the river bank, took a drink and disappeared.  When it reappeared, it traveled to the carcass to feed on whatever it could tear off.  This wolf was a mocha color, sort of a chocolate brown that black wolves develop as they shed their winter coats.  It also had light colored hair that looked like blonde highlights.  The prettiest color.  The wolf fed for a while before walking off toward the east, crossing Soda Butte Creek a couple of times and disappearing in the deadfall and willows.  The second black wolf never did show up at the carcass, perhaps too wary of the crowd it knew was there.

It started to rain lightly again after we left the Confluence.  We sat at Slough Creek waiting for the rain to stop and clouds to lift; when the weather cleared, there was a great view of the den site.  So clear, no heat waves, perfect light.  But no activity.

We hoped the Mollies would reappear and start to hunt.  We waited at Exclosure scanning the Valley, but no Mollies.  We did see a grizzly and a black bear and the mother coyote hunting in the flats surrounding Dorothy’s.  It was late and the Mollies did not show.  As we passed Round Prairie, a bull moose, likely the same from the morning and yesterday, trotted through the meadow.  And it began to rain again.

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