Now, knowing where the den is, and with our newly constructed ATV pass through the canyon, we were on track for some more efficient den watching.
We began our watch from the same long distance as yesterday, and right away Dan spotted an adult lying flat-out on a mound that seems to be the den mound. As we watched, pups popped up out of the den and swarmed over and around the adult, which we then thought might be their mother.
"There's a fifth pup!" Dan suddenly announced.
Gradually we moved closer to the den, and when about 250 meters away, we settled in to further observe. About 10:20 p.m. an adult wolf appeared off to our left on a hill 30 meters above us, heading back to the den. Was this the breeding male returning with a load of meat in his stomach? If so, the flat-out wolf (the presumed female) and the pups would rush him, lick up to his mouth, and he would regurgitate to them.
That is all what happened, although we are not sure that the returning wolf did regurgitate. However, we were surprised to then see the returning wolf stand over the pups and begin to nurse them. This was the pups's mother, so the other wolf must have been an older sibling. We knew it was not the breeding male because it begged from the female, and no one has reported a breeding male begging from other wolves.
This was all interesting to us as we began now to try to figure out the composition of the pack that had the pups at this new den. A burning question was still where is the breeding male, who is he, and how does this little group relate to Brutus? Hopefully a few more days of observation would help us answer these and other questions.