By JERRY PRICKETT

TELEGRAM STAFF WRITER

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — The story of the Junction Butte pack pups was a heart-wrenching one for Belton’s Waldo Montgomery.

A May 31 Facebook posting tells much of the story:

“For the past four years Dawson (his miniature American Eskimo dog) and I have made the pilgrimage to Yellowstone every May in hopes of seeing wolf pups,” Montgomery wrote. “We have yet to be disappointed, although Dawson usually prefers sleeping in the backseat on those cold early morning hours when the pups are often seen outside their den.

“Regardless, the pups are too far away for him to see anyway, so he’s a good sport and enjoys keeping me company.”

He tells how on May 8 at about 6:15 a.m., “I got my first glimpse of this year’s Junction Butte litter at the Sage Den in Slough Creek. Four pups, (three black and one gray) appeared outside the den’s entrance! There may have been others still inside the den. The actual litter size has never been determined.”

When the four pups appeared, there was insufficient light to take closeup photos or videos, he said. “I had to be content videoing them at a distance rather than risk blurred images by zooming in too close.”

He was counting on getting more videos later, but it wasn’t to be. “I think that brief glimpse was all that anyone who was there that morning ever got to see of them. Minutes later, some tragic occurrence, perhaps a cave-in (no one knows for sure what happened), snuffed out the lives of some of the pups. One of the adult females (969F) was seen carrying two pups from the den and burying them some distance away.

Other pups, possibly alive, were carried from the den into a depression below the den.”

“It was so sad to see them burying the pups!” Facebook follower Lori Consaga wrote, as did many others.

A Facebook video Montgomery posted June 4 shows a pack member carrying a black pup out of the den. It is “what I base my hopes on that at least one of the pups survived the apparent tragedy that befell its litter mates,” he said. “This pup appears to be alive and squirming as 969F or 907F suddenly bursts from the den and rushes past 1047M, the pack’s alpha male, and the two black and gray yearlings. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that this pup and possibly others show up at the pack’s rendezvous site later this summer.”

On June 11, a Facebook posting from Legend of Lamar Valley brought good news: Reports of six or seven Junction Butte pups.

“That is wonderful news! Makes my day!” Montgomery responded, later noting that he hoped to get official confirmation from some of the other wolf-watching sites.

A lot of wolf fans felt the same way.

Then on July 21, Russ Kehler’s Old Wolf Photography’s Facebook posting noted that 969F has pups to the north and based on the behavior of 1048M, 1109F seems to have pups to the south. “At some point it’s likely they will bring the pups together to one location, which may have already happened.”