Monday, January 18, 2010
This morning we ventured out in the early dawn as a light snow fell. Along the way to Lamar Valley we observed herds of Elk and bison grazing on the exposed grasses along the ridges and in the valleys. It surprised us to see a pack of four Coyotes traveling together, as we had only observed lone Coyotes up to this point. The nearby Elk cows paid close attention as the Coyotes passed.
Further into the valley we observed the same two wolves as last night, only this time they were resting along the forest edge. We learned from Rick McIntyre, a local wolf researcher, that these two wolves are the alpha male and female of the Agate Creek Pack. The alpha female (known as #472) is the oldest wolf in the Yellowstone wolf population at 8.5 years old. She is a very light colored gray wolf. The alpha male is uncollared and arrived from the Druid wolf pack one year ago. He is only 2.5 years old.
We followed the Lamar River down to the trailhead for Trout Lake where we put on our snowshoes and headed up the ridge. A short distance up the trail Chuck noticed an Elk carcass picked entirely clean. It was a wolf kill! The only thing left on the bones was some red sinew, one leg, the skull, rib cage and the whole spine. The stomach contents were nearby — a huge ball of frozen, undigested grass.
Heading into Cooke City for lunch, we had a perfect view of four Moose (an older bull, a younger bull, a cow and her yearling calf) feeding together in a small stream.
After lunch, we snowshoed at Pebble Creek. We forged our own trails and finished it all off with a head dunk in the snow and a snowshoe race. Amy’s long legs gave her the advantage!
As we traveled back through Lamar Valley, we saw a group of “wolf watchers” observing two male wolves in the distance. We found the wolves' tracks in the snow where they had crossed the road. We traced the shape of the tracks onto transparencies to take home with us.
With darkness approaching, we came upon two Coyotes playing on a hillside. They chased each other and their own tails! It was a perfect ending to our last day in Lamar Valley.
Q & A for January 18