Wolves In Our Back Yard
A lot of you read on Lauries’ daily about the wolves coming to our town last Tuesday. It got me thinking about other visits made to our area. In the winter of 95 or 96, I was tracking a marten in the wilderness area a mile or so southwest of our cabin. There was a foot of fresh wet snow so tracking was easy. Suddenly I came across a track I hadn’t seen before. It was of a large heavy wolf. I excitedly changed subjects and started following this new trail, which headed east. I soon left the Soda Butte Creek and headed up the slopes of The Wall, a mountain directly south of our cabin. I noticed it was taking great pains to avoid the summer cabins, even though they had been empty for months. As the trail I followed crossed fresh marten tracks I was amazed to see my single wolf turn in to several. I had been following five wolves, each subsequent wolf stepping perfectly into the lead wolf’s tracks. In the years since, a lone wolf has passed by us now and then. The only evidence being big tracks in winter snow. Once, one of the Swan Lake Pack even traveled all the way from it’s range up north to trot down the highway past our cabin. But the most unforgettable episode occurred in January of 2005. I had just finished giving a talk to a group from the Teton Science School. Jared and Scott were the leaders that day. As Jared drove from our cabin towards the Park, an elk burst out of the willows south of the highway and raced across the road with the Druids hot on it’s heels. They chased it up and above Dan and Lauries’ cabin to disappear in the timber above. After a time we spotted them climbing higher through the ’88 burn until reaching a high bench. There they bedded as darkness closed in. All that night I slept with my bedroom window open even though it dropped to –20 degrees. I did not want to miss any howling.
The next morning, I snow-shoed above our cabin to see how close the wolves had approached during the night. I hadn’t gone fifty feet and there were their tracks. They had chased an elk using my snowshoe trails fro easier traveling. The elk tracks passed on by our cabin but the wolves stopped above us. Their tracks showing they even turned to look down at our roof. I wondered why until I smelled the smoke from our chimney. The smoke drifted across the trail here and had stopped the wolves. You could even see where they ate snow, thirsty from their chase.
I tracked the wolves to an old moose carcass that lay in the Wilderness Area. From there they re-entered the Park and killed an elk west of Warm Creek. By evening they were far to the west.
Last winter I was snow-shoeing 100 yards east of our cabin when I came across fresh wolf tracks. After all these years it is a sight that still thrills me.