Six adults are at the den when we arrive, including Dirt Ball whom we alternately call Muddy and Pigpen. These are not romantic names for a wolf, but this critter is so encrusted with mud and so oblivious to its appearance that no other names will do. Dirt Ball has brought in the head of a musk ox calf. A little later, Brutus (who has a fresh wound on his left hind leg – looks like he got hooked by a musk oxen horn) brings the head out, and Mother goes into full food-begging mode. Brutus resists relinquishing the head. This is unusual. It is his job to feed Mother while she is confined to the den by the pups. Later, it will be his job to feed the kids. Mother asserts herself, and snarling, she insists on having the calf head. Brutus relents (smart one, he is!) and gives her the gory trophy which she carries off.
We read and doze and watch the wolves snooze and cavort with the increasingly rambunctious pups. Suddenly, we hear whimpering and puppy howls from somewhere behind us. The napping adults leap to their feet and rush toward the sound. Games are suspended as the playground wolves join their pack mates in the search. It takes them no time to find the vagabond pup and herd it along toward the family circle. The pup has other ideas, though. It keeps diverging from the direct route, so the adults attempt the pick-up-and-carry maneuver. But the pup is too big and too squirmy, so the big wolves resort to nosing the wanderer along to safety.
Dave decides to conduct an experiment with the walkie-talkie radios. Across the swale is a low ridge topped with rocks and boulders. It is not far – maybe 100 yards as the crow flies – or as the raven flies in our case. After hiding one of the radios under a pile of rocks, Nancy begins talking. Four wolves instantly go on full red alert. They leap to their feet and trot across the meadow and up to the ridge top where they spend a few minutes diligently searching for the disembodied voice. It doesn’t take long for them to figure out where the radio lies hidden. One wolf (we think it is Mother) seizes the radio and heads down the hill with it clamped firmly in her powerful jaws. The three other wolves follow eagerly, trying to get a look at the new toy with the little rubber-covered antenna that looks like a wiggling tail. Since the wolves are clearly enjoying themselves with this diversion, Dave decides to have a little fun. “Say ‘Boo!’” he instructs Nancy. “Boo!” she says into the transmitting radio in her hand. The wolf carrying the radio reacts like it has been stuck with a cattle prod. It drops the radio, and all 4 wolves gather in a circle to stare intently. Then the daring wolf that carried the radio down the hill grabs it again. “Boo!” says Nancy. Once again the wolf drops the radio like the proverbial hot potato. The shock of the fall kills the radio, or somehow the wolf has turned it off. In any case, the radio is now a toss-and-catch form of amusement. Then the wolf who has taken possession settles down to gnaw on its prize. On our way home, we retrieve the radio where the wolves abandonened their game, and lo and behold, even though it is mangled beyond recognition, it still works! Sort of.