July 11, 2008

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Day 7

DAVE: Another day of finding where the wolves are not. We headed several miles up Remus Creek to an area where the wolves denned in 1989. It was very tough driving with the ATV’s, plus it was hot, and there were many mosquitoes. We howled in several places and scanned wide valleys and high hills with binoculars again, but no wolves.

Then we headed back toward camp and tried a new spot. We drove the ATV’s as high as possible and then began climbing to the crest of the hill, only to find that each time we crested the hill, a new crest appeared farther up. After 7 such false crests, I called it quits, and we howled from there. The climb down was almost as grueling as the climb up. Then began our lookout in the area around camp where the wolves tend to come in most nights. Sure enough, about 9:00 p.m., Dean radioed me that he had 3 wolves in view. I zoomed over to him, a 5-minute drive, and we began following the wolves. Eventually they headed into a deep valley north of the airstrip where the planes land to bring supplies to the weather station, and out across the wide valley to the northeast. Suddenly they jumped an arctic fox pup, chased it, and it got away. But then we noticed one of the wolves beginning to eat something around the same den area. We believe it had caught a second pup that we had not seen.

The wolves included the breeding female, the breeding male and probably a yearling, and they had come in from the northeast, whereas the female had come in from the east before and had left to the east/northeast. Thus the directions roughly jibed, but not precisely. Nevertheless, we will be searching a quadrant from the northeast to the east tomorrow.

DEAN: We still haven’t found the den, but not for lack of trying. Today we went up Remus Creek into some fairly hummocky terrain. Sure got our innards shaken up on the ATV’s! We howled in a bunch of places but no success. Once evening rolled around, we drove back to the airstrip area. Dave and I split up to watch different areas. We really need to see that nursing female again and get another clue on the direction she travels.

I started watching around 8:30 p.m., and 45 minutes later, I saw something white move on the tundra. It seemed small, and I was expecting it to be an arctic hare. When I viewed it though my binoculars, it clearly was a wolf coming head on. As I reached for the radio to inform Dave, I saw a second wolf appear near the first. I radioed Dave to say that I saw two wolves coming toward me. While I waited for Dave to reply, a third wolf came into view with the other two. When Dave replied, he asked me to confirm that I saw 2 wolves. Somewhat chuckling, I said, “Well, Dave, I now have THREE wolves in sight, and they’re heading in my direction!” Of course, that got Dave all excited, and he said he was coming over to join me. It turned out the wolves were the dominant male (RLU’s galore, and he scratched at the ground) and the lactating female. We suspect the third wolf is that other young wolf, like a female, we saw on the first day.

The three wolves soon left the area together and presumably continued hunting. We saw one wolf run a bit in one direction, and it appeared to catch something. I thought it might be a chick, but I saw no birds flying above the wolf. Just then, Dave and I saw a small animal dash to a small rock outcrop. We suspect it was an arctic fox pup, and that site must be a fox den. Perhaps that wolf killed a fox pup that didn’t make it back to the den in time. The wolf was at that spot for several minutes and looked like he was eating something. Soon after, the three wolves moved west and went out of view.

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