Austin Texas, July 2016
Spring suddenly becomes summer. Heavy rains that turned creeks and rivers muddy disappear as temperatures rise. Cracks weave through dry earth like a map of crooked roads. Wildflowers still blooming in pastures and along highways, droop as the sun beats down and their leaves wither.
I remember standing in the parking lot at Pebble Creek campground on our last morning in the Park. The sun is out and the air is cool and crisp. The only sound is bird song and chatter, the rushing creek. I gaze at the green hills climbing toward Trout Lake allowing the peace of this moment to surround me. This is what I take home.
We knew the week ahead would bring rain and cut into our plans to hike some of our favorite trails, but when we landed in Bozeman on a sunny afternoon in the 60s,, we were optimistic that the weather would be better than predicted. Though rain nixed most of our hikes, it didn't hinder wildlife viewing as Yellowstone inched toward the end of a brilliant spring. Bison and newborn calves covered the valleys. Wolf pups ventured out of the den and pronghorn fawns, minutes old, followed their mother on long, tottering legs. Life is a gift and spring in Yellowstone is a reflection of that truth.
We were very fortunate to watch the Junction Butte pups, eight in all, 4 black and 4 gray, almost every day, but never did see the Prospect Peak Pack or their pups. The Lamar Canyon Pack now numbers only 3 adults - 926F, 965M and Little T. Although 926F had pups, they have not been seen so it's uncertain if any survived.
The Wapiti Lake Pack seems to be undergoing change. The Wapitis have four puppies this year, three gray and one black. Three Mollies have been seen with the alpha female and the yearling female from last year's litter, while 755M stays just outside of this new circle of wolves, visiting them from time to time. No one knows what is happening between the Mollie males and the Wapiti females. The Mollies have chased 755M - half-heartedly - but he still keeps his distance, perhaps waiting for the Mollies to leave.
Coyotes remain elusive, though we saw more than last trip, and we have yet to find an explanation. After wolf reintroduction, the coyote population dove, understandably, but we thought it would eventually balance out. In the end, Yellowstone is an evolving ecosystem, and we can only watch with awe.
Christine Baleshta - July 2016
** Book Release **
Christine has collaborated with collage artist
Susanne Belcher in Looking for 527,
a book inspired by the alpha female of Yellowstone's Cottonwood Pack who was killed in Montana's 2009 wolf hunt.
The book combines Susanne's haunting images with Christine's essay and is available on Amazon.com.
All royalties are directly donated to The Yellowstone Park Foundation's Wolf Project.
Looking for 527 on Amazon