We were crushed. In our 7 previous trips to Yellowstone we had never seen any wolves except as small dots in our binoculars and spotting scope. The only wolves that we had ever seen close up were in Denali National Park, when we went to Alaska. On that occasion we were on a tour and could only shoot from the bus windows and the wolves walked right along the side of the bus where it was impossible to get a shot. So we had never been able to take any wild wolf pics and now we had missed out on a good chance, from what we were told the wolves were on the carcass until around 11am and typically we made it out to Lamar before that time each day.
We shot around tower for a while, photographing Rosie and cubs helped to take away some of the sting from our missed opportunity, and then headed out to Lamar. Before we got to Lamar we saw a lot of cars parked on the side of the road and a lot of photographers with long lenses standing on the side of the road. This was between the area that we had seen big horned sheep and a grizzly bear on the day before so we decided to stop and check out what everyone was looking at. It turned out that this was the location of the carcass that the wolves had been feeding on and that everyone was waiting, hoping that the wolves would return. Since both Michelle and I really wanted to see the wolves and get our first descent wolf pics we decided to wait. Michelle decided to stay in the car and read a book while she waited while I went up and kept watch with all of the other photographers. Since I guessed that we might be there a while, I brought out a lawn chair and a soda to make waiting more comfortable. This became a big joke to everyone around where I was sitting particularly to the guys who were sitting on very uncomfortable looking rocks.
After a couple of hours a lone grey wolf came cautiously down the hill towards the carcass. We could hardly believe it, Michelle joined us when she saw the commotion of all the photographers focusing on the wolf. Unfortunately the wolf was leery and after sniffing the air a few times and looking at all the people lined up, it stopped about half way down the hill and then turned and went back the way that it had come. We were disappointed that it had not come all the way down to the kill but stoked that we had our first real wolf pics. Since I was having a lot of fun talking with many of the other people around I asked Michelle if we could stay a while longer, which she was OK with. After a couple more hours with out any wolves I was contemplating leaving, it was getting close to dusk and we had to drive back to our hotel on the other end of the park, when the lone grey wolf showed up at the top of the hill again. This time though the wolf came cautiously all the way down the hill.
It kept a careful eye on all of the people and when no one made any aggressive moves it decided to go back to the kill to try and get a part that was a little bit more substantial.
The carcase was difficult to see in the sage, but from where I was standing I could see that it had been a pretty good sized elk.
The wolf continued to try and pull away pieces of meat from the neck and should area of the dead animal. Even though it appeared to be very hungry it also seemed distracted. A few minutes later we found out why when a coyote appeared coming down the hillside
The wolf moved over to claim the intestines and ignored the smaller animal as it gobbled the meat down. The coyote moved with in a few feet of the eating wolf, which surprised many of us. The wolf continued to ignore the coyote until the coyote made the mistake of snarling at the wolf. The wolf then made a half hearted attempt to chase the coyote away. The smaller agile coyote easily out maneuvered the now well fed wolf and kept out of harms way. The chase did not last long, with both animals finding a spot to lay and face down the other. After a while the coyote decided that it was not going to be able to get a share of the meal and it made its way back up the hill. The wolf was hunkered down in the sage and with the sun setting and 16gb worth of wolf pics we decided to head back to the hotel. The sun set before we got too far and we ended up driving most of the way back in the dark. We were exhausted when we arrived at around 10:30 PM but it certainly was worth it to get some great wolf pics.