Drama in Lamar
May 11, 2012
Didn’t have to go far today to find the wolves. Just to Blacktail Ponds where we had 9 Blacktails (10 in the pack). 2 blacks and 7 greys. The old bison carcass had blown in from the middle of the pond and they were on that. They are still a bit mangy and ‘tawny grey’ certainly looks a lot better than the last time we saw him in February. Just two completely bare patches on his back legs and still the whippy tail. We watched them until they went up over the top of the hill. There were no other wolves around so that was the morning action. We moved on to Hellroaring again in a vain attempt to find Big Blaze but no luck. We continued to Little America where he might have been travelling to but again no luck. This time for the first time we made it into Lamar Valley and there we found a huge grizzly who was sending the bison and pronghorn scattering in every direction. It was fascinating watching him turning over rocks for the grubs and then sniff the air as he got closer to a herd of bison. From there we went just into Lamar Canyon and found a Gr. Horn Owl nest and were lucky enough to watch her feed her two chicks – all white and fluffy!
We had a short day to day as we headed out to Livingston this evening to listen to a talk on the Southern Ocean and its impact on migratory birds.
Alan was in the Park today. I was up at the State Capitol, Helena, a three hour drive having a unique experience! Alan first then. The weather was really bad this morning rain/snow and strong winds. Despite this he saw 4 of the Blacktail Pack from Blacktail Ponds. No other wolf sightings but he did have a grizzly sow with two cubs as he sat at Slough. Too much rain to take photographs. It was at this point he decided to head home.
A few weeks ago the 2012 Wolf Hunting Season proposal was made public. This removed all quotas. Allowed hunters 3 ‘tags’ (three wolves) instead of the one for 2011. Trapping is being put forward as acceptable for 2012, as well as electronic calls. Using a simulation chart the aim for 2011 had been 377 and only 150 were killed. With no quotas, controls and traps (which don’t have to be checked for 48 hours) the aim in 2012 is to kill 475.
Today was a public meeting where the Fish and Wildlife Service would go through their proposal, yes this has been put forward by an organisation which apparently protects fish and wildlife. This proposal was put to a Board of Commissioners who will make a final decision in July. After today’s consultation and then time for people to send in written comment before 24th June.
I went along with some friends, one of whom was going to speak when comments were allowed. I sat through the presentation from the FWP and was completely stunned by all their proposals. The Commissioners then questioned the FWP representative and then it was open for comments from the floor. Well you have never seen so many Stetson with attitude. After the first few I found myself standing in line to have my say! Each person was allowed 3 minutes. The Commissioners were sort of listening to all the speakers but were slipping down their chairs and talking amongst themselves by the time I got to the Podium. The moment they heard my accent they were soon sitting straight up and paying attention. I talked on Wolf Tourism and the huge financial benefit to Montana - $35m last year. When I finished I got a round of applause from the audience! Out of the 64 people who testified only two of us got that! I will have many memories of the day but the outstanding one was the hunter/trapper who stood up and advised people to go on courses to learn how to open a snare so they could release their pet dog/cat!!! Thereby admitting what they had all been denying that pets will get caught in these traps.
I am going to put up all the information for sending in letters etc. in a post and I would like to urge all of you who have visited Montana to write on the basis of wolf tourism.
We started what was going to turn out to be an extraordinary day at Blacktail Ponds with 6 Blacktails who were feeding on the carcass. Once they had done that they headed, once again, for the hills and soon we were watching them disappear over the top of Everets. We moved East and radioed ahead for information. The message was ‘come directly’ so no stops on the way and we arrived in Lamar Valley on tenterhooks as we heard the chatter which meant that once again the Mollies and the Lamar Canyons had met. We missed the first encounter but apparently the Mollies followed the scent of the bison carcass where the Lamar Canyons were feeding. A chase ensued with the Lamar Canyons once again fleeing in all directions but heading back to the ‘safety’ of the den. So far no Mollie has followed them but there must be scent trails up to the den. All very worrying at the moment. By the time we arrived we had 15 Mollies from Trash Can pullout and opposite the Confluence. We watched them with tails up strutting around. By now a huge grizzly was on the carcass and was not going to be moved. The Mollies were moving backwards and forwards towards the Confluence and ignoring the grizzly. Eventually they moved away and bedded. At this point we heard that someone had seen two greys back opposite the Institute so we all headed down there to have a look. No wolves, just bears, bears and more bears.
We returned to Hitching Post and realised that the Mollies were up and on the move. We set off to Confluence and climbed up the side of the hill to get a better view. From here we could see the Grizzly on the carcass and someone told us that there were still two Mollies close by. We were all quite calm, thinking that 06 had returned to her pups and the rest of the pack was up there close by. It was at this point someone pointed out a black and grey moving towards the grizzly. It was 06 and a black yearling wanting to get back to the carcass. They sat down on the top of the bank and watched the grizzly. One of the Mollies got up and we realised just how close these four wolves were. However neither ‘pack’ realised that the others were there. One of the Mollies got up and wandered south towards the Aspens where the rest of the pack had disappeared. It started to howl and that got the two Lamar Canyons up and looking, as if to say – where did that come from? The remaining Mollie replied which had the effect of the two Lamar Canyons flopping down and keeping a low profile in the sage. Then the other Mollie started to move off to the south as well, with lots of encouragement from us! The Lamar Canyons watched them go and then started towards the grizzly who by now was trying to bury the carcass and had then flopped on top of it for a sleep.
Unfortunately the two Mollies did a big loop to the right and came up on the grizzly from one side just as the Lamar Canyon yearling approached from the other. The chase was on. The two Mollies were in hot pursuit of the yearling when they spotted 06. They immediately veered off from the yearling and started to chase hard after 06 who by now was fleeing for her life. She jinxed in and out of the sage and the cottonwoods. She stopped and turned back to look thinking that she had lost them but no they were still with her and gaining. She headed for the river and the road – Mollies don’t like the road. As she came to the bank of the rive she never broke stride, just straight over the bank and into the river. The current took her downstream as she swam across and she came up below the road just below us. The Mollies turned back before entering the river. The yearling had bolted far to the left and could be seen standing in the sage wondering where its mum had gone. She came up onto the road side travelled along and then across it and headed north back towards the den. After we all took a deep breath we checked on the yearling who crossed the river higher up and also continued north to the den area. The Mollies continued south. We realised that the rest of their pack had disappeared as none of their howls were replied to. For the rest of the afternoon these two wolves milled around and eventually got on the carcass when the grizzly called it a day.
As we sat back and tried to still our beating hearts, a visitor arrived and told us they had seen three wolves in Little America. We all packed up and headed that way. Was it the Mollies doubling back? No, finally we had Big Blaze and his small group still intact. What was even more important that they had obviously made a kill and had eaten, as it has been several days of fruitless attempts to bring down an elk. So this little group of four are becoming more cohesive if they are now successfully hunting. A great way to end a day. Three packs and one group! And as we were packing up a coyote.
I hope this all makes sense as I am very tired, need to go to bed for the 4.30am rising!