EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of stories about watching wildlife in Yellowstone National Park with Belton resident Waldo Montgomery.
By JERRY PRICKETT
TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — If there is a wolfman of Bell County, his name would be Waldo Montgomery.
The Belton resident probably rings familiar to regular readers of the Telegram letters to the editor, where he displays his passion for wolves. His letters are only a small part of his story, however.
To understand Montgomery, it helps to get to the heart of his interest. His love for the animals leads him back to Yellowstone National Park twice a year with the main intent to see wolves.
He doesn’t hide the fact he’s wild about seeing them, either.
During a spring trip to Yellowstone this year he described the mountainous ranges, filled with geysers and other geological phenomena, as where he feels the closest to God’s creation.
Together with his faithful companion Dawson, a miniature American Eskimo dog, Waldo is well known to park visitors and Facebook fans all around.
“It’s a good conversation starter,” he said.
“Is that Dawson?” a woman wolf watcher asked during their trip this spring. When given the affirmative, she said, “So that must be Waldo.”
Montgomery notes that even the animals of Yellowstone often give Dawson an extra looking over. “Antelopes and cranes have checked him out intently,” he noted.
It doesn’t appear to bother Montgomery in the slightest that his dog is a celebrity often recognized before him. For one thing, he’s usually behind the camera, posting photos and videos of nature that draw almost universal praise.
And he’s a sharing person too — “my posts are always public, for everyone to enjoy.”
The joy is shared often in Facebook comments, as the videos Waldo shares often get more than 1,000 views each. (See related videos at www.tdtnews.com.)
Another wolf watcher came up to personally express her appreciation while waiting in hopes of seeing wildlife near Slough Creek in Yellowstone.
That was also the scene of perhaps the most poignant moment of his latest trip to Yellowstone. For several years, packs had dens in the area, meaning that in spring the pups would emerge. It provided rare access for people with long-range spotting scopes and cameras to see wolf activity as all of the pack’s adults — designated by numbers and F for female and M for males — chipped in to take care of the pups.
In his Facebook post on May 8, which started with a blinding “spring” snowfall that delayed his arrival, Montgomery reported, “Unfortunately, as time went on, it became painfully obvious that all was not well for some of the pups. 969F was seen leaving the den on three occasions carrying a pup each time some distance away and burying it. A total of six pups were seen being carried from the den but the status of the other three remains undetermined. The exact number of pups remaining inside the den is also unknown.”
It later was thought that all the Junction Butte pack pups had died. Montgomery provided a “very long video of over six minutes” that shows 969F leaving the den with a pup in her mouth.
“I need not comment further. The video says it all in heart-wrenching detail. For a family of wolves, the most important and exciting event in their lives is the arrival of pups. The Junction Buttes are grieving over the loss of so many little ones and I grieve with them …,” he said.
Vicky Trumbly responded later on Facebook: “Oh this is heartbreaking. These Junctions have had a time now two years in a row with pups. Very sad seeing 969 taking each one out of the den.”
Despite the disappointment, the wolf watchers, like the animals they love, carried on.
There were better days ahead. Later comments indicate some of the pups may have survived.
In his report on May 9 activities, Montgomery saw some rare cooperation between the park’s top predators, a grizzly bear and wolves.
“I immediately discovered why so many visitors were at the pullout,” he wrote. “There was a grizzly feeding on the bison carcass! ‘This just gets better and better,’ I thought as I set up my spotting scope and camera and sat on a comfortable log to watch the grizzly and await the wolves that I suspected would show up in a few minutes.”
Three wolves headed straight for the bison carcass, he wrote, but were disappointed to discover a grizzly had already claimed it. “After a few minutes they decided to bed down and wait for the grizzly to leave. Usually, grizzlies don’t share a carcass with wolves but this grizzly was a bit more accommodating. Twice I saw him leave the carcass and wait a short distance away and allow the wolves a chance to feed on it too. I spent the entire morning watching this extremely fascinating interaction of wolves and bears.”
There were more inspiring interactions to come.
As wolf watcher John Daniels posted on Facebook: “The Adventures of Waldo and his fearless sidekick, Dawson. To be continued.”
Next: A Miraculous Monday.