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       Day 6 May 24th, 2016

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016
Mammoth Hot Springs, Montana

    31 degrees at 6 a.m. Icy mist hangs in the air. I forget my mittens - again. Weaving past Undine falls and Lava Creek, then Phantom Lake and Floating Island Lake, the Park is quiet. On to Slough Creek to check the den. Lately the wolves and pups are between the den and the bottom of the slope, near pine trees and crisscrossed logs. Even when they're in view, they are still very hard to see because of the distance and because gray wolves blend in with rocks and vegetation. A gray wolf sits near the trees while another guards the den entrance. A gray pup slips in and out of the den. Rain drizzles on and off.
   High on Jasper Bench a black wolf feeds on a new carcass, bison grazing below it. The wolf tears at the carcass until a coyote distracts him. Wolf and coyote chase each other, circling and running after each other. It looks like play and continues for ten to fifteen minutes. After a while the coyote trots over the top of the slope and the wolf is alone again at the carcass. Uncollared, it may be a Junction Butte wolf, judging from its proximity to their den. Much later this afternoon when we return, only a coyote is on the carcass.
   We go back and forth to Slough Creek, checking the den, Lamar Valley and Tower Road. On and off it rains lightly. Nearing the Confluence, a red fox trots along the road across from Soda Butte Cone and into the tall grass. We pass Yellowstone Picnic area where a pronghorn leads two tiny fawns. It's probably the same doe we saw yesterday with her newborn. The fawns are all legs and eyes; such delicate creatures, like little fairy animals. Just beyond them a group of big horn sheep bed. They are losing their winter coats, wooly fur peeling off. On the other side of the Yellowstone River canyon, the black bear and her cubs are out again, climbing over fallen trees and through the grass. Another goose family, this one with six goslings, waddles around the edge of Rainey Lake.
   The sun comes out this evening at almost 7 p.m., lighting up the hills and terraces. Behind the cabin a parade of bison cows and calves march across the green slopes while a solitary cow elk grazes below them. The little orange calves remind me of my dog, Kodi. The terraces are a blaze of color and light in the sunset. Visitors crowd the boardwalk, enjoying the cool evening and a break from the rain.
   A drive to Swan Lake Flats brings an unexpected sight - a mountain goat perched high on the cliffs near the falls. He grazes above us, snow white against the rusty brown rocks. Suddenly dark clouds cover us and pelt us with cold drops of rain. Quad Mom is high on the slopes south of Bunsen Peak. Her cubs follow her in little circles and stretch out behind her in the grass.

Author - Christine Baleshta
Photography - Tim Springer

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Yellowstone Experiences 2016