Wandering Wapitis Head North Nov. 6

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Wandering Wapitis Head North Nov. 6

Post by karenandbill »

The park entrances were closing a day early because of incoming snow so we went in for the last time on Saturday. We wanted to see wolves and/or bears and since we had been in Hayden 2 days before, we headed towards Lamar. There was a bison carcass that had not been touched at Blacktail Ponds when we hiked earlier in the week so we were hoping maybe something had gotten on it. As we drove by, nothing. So we kept going. Heading through Lamar there was a herd of bison but nothing else. We headed to Pebble Creek and turned around. At Round Prairie we saw someone pulled off looking through binoculars. He told us there were mountain goats on the nearby mountains, which we were able to spot, and a fox that had just disappeared beyond the river. Nice to see the goats anyway.

Headed back through Lamar and stopped at Slough Creek Road. The road was closed and we were about to walk down to one of the observation points to look for Junction Butte wolves when we saw one of the regular wolf watchers heading back. She told us the Junctions had not been visible so far all day. So we debated whether to head down to Hayden or stay near where we were and take a short hike. We opted for the hike and the exercise. Beautiful hike but no wildlife except a herd elk and a herd of bison in the distance. Got back in the SUV and decided to head for home. Turns out for once we had perfect timing.

As we headed west just before Petrified Tree there were some cars off the road. We figured maybe the black bear that had holed up in the side of the hill (see timv's report and photo) had wandered out. We found a parking spot and then asked someone coming back what was out. He said, "wolves just crossed the road, but some are still back in the trees howling." We got out and headed to where people were watching the first group that had crossed. They were moving toward a drop off behind some trees but were still visible.

ImageDSC_0073 (6) by William Reinke, on Flickr

One actually stopped, turned around, and looked right at us.
ImageDSC_0040 (5) by William Reinke, on Flickr

After watching them for several minutes I decided to head back to the car and get my scope while Karen stayed put with the camera. As I got near the car the wolves in the trees on the south side of the road started howling. I couldn't see them but they were loud and very close. The sound was chillingly magnificent. Karen was able to see and hear the group that she was watching answer back.

ImageDSC_0046 (6) by William Reinke, on Flickr

I then grabbed for the video camera in the car and struggled with the battery. When I looked up I could tell by the movement of the couple of people there that the wolves had crossed the road just beyond the curve. I headed back to the ridge and could see some of the group that had just crossed moving towards the rest of the pack. Karen was watching them as well and got some shots.

ImageDSC_0057 (3) by William Reinke, on Flickr

ImageDSC_0056 (4) by William Reinke, on Flickr

We could tell by the number of light colored grays in the pack that these were not the Junction Buttes, but the Wapitis. This was confirmed by others who were there.
DSC_0063 (4) by William Reinke, on Flickr

When they joined up they had a nice rally with tails wagging high in the air. They had moved behind some of the trees so only had a partial view, but it was still neat to see. We counted 14 wolves in all.

We had just seen three of the Wapitis in Hayden on Thursday, cleaning up the remnants of a carcass. We were told the rest of the pack had been around earlier that day. So that means at least 14 of the 21 members of the pack had traveled from Hayden to Roosevelt over some pretty rugged terrain in two days. They can cover the ground when they want to! The Wapitis especially seem to roam a lot. We saw one of the pack a few weeks ago in Gibbon Meadow (See previous trip report). Last year about this time we saw the whole pack along the Madison River. Sometimes they go to Old Faithful. This spring we saw one by Grand Prismatic Spring and likely the same one eating on the bison carcass along the Madison.

Anyway, it was a surprise to see this pack where they were and a great way to end our season of visiting the greatest place on earth!

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Re: Wandering Wapitis Head North Nov. 6

Post by mdtrot »

Great shots, and a great way to close out the southern entrances!

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Re: Wandering Wapitis Head North Nov. 6

Post by Kat »

Thanks for posting your pictures and commentary. They look like a beautiful pack.

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Re: Wandering Wapitis Head North Nov. 6

Post by timv »

What a great encounter, especially with the howling so close.

Mike W.
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Re: Wandering Wapitis Head North Nov. 6

Post by Mike W. »

Wow. Impressive. We've only maybe seen a wolf once, but it might have been a coyote. I admit, we're not out early, nor do we spend a lot of time just watching like some here, but I'd sure like to catch a scene like you did.

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