Regaled With Wildlife at Our Western Montana Lodge

Today was an incredible day! Not that every day doesn't provide opportunities to enjoy and relish the "WILDNESS" of where we live, but today - well, today was unique. I think it was just the unique aspects of the 'encounters' which made the difference. Whatever, it was a day to remember.

It started out normal - a warm early summer day with a hint of high clouds suggesting an afternoon thunderstorm. The birds were singing, the wind tickling the aspen leaves and making them dance, the breeze whistling through the pines - it all made for an incredibly beautiful, but normal summer day.

It wasn't until afternoon that the fun set in. The thunderstorms started first. This time of year a passing thunderstorm is the way of life, but yesterday we experienced a serious of storms. One would pass by, rumbling, followed by brief spirts of rain, and the sun would return. Half and hour later, or so, another would growl by, flashes of light followed by large heavy drops, pregnant with life-giving moisture.

After a particularly wet storm passed over, an incredible full rainbow lit the sky with jewel tones - the most colorful of bows which brings that hopeful reminder of life's continuation. But, before the rainbow, the birds did an aerial display up to National Geographic Standards.

As I stood near a tableful of guests, my gaze was drawn out the window in front of me. Much to my delight - and theirs - we were just in time to watch a Bald Eagle in pursuit of an Osprey. They were close enough to see the fish dangling from the Osprey's talon - obviously a prize the Eagle had set his eye upon. For several rapt moments we watched as the Osprey, no small bird in its own right but, in this case, dwarfed by his larger foe, dove and twisted.

Although the smaller bird could obviously outmanuever his pursuer, the Bald Eagle hung on with tenacity. Unfortunately I do not know the outcome of the conflict as they flew over the lodge and out of my sight. Nonetheless, even with Osprey and Eagle sightings being a regular event here at Elk Lake Resort, the opportunity to observe them in such 'real life' action, and so close, was a definite delight.

This event, however, was eclipsed later that evening. It is my practice, as long as the outside temperatures make it feasible, to end the day sitting in bed, reading, with the nearby door open to listen to the birds and animals as they settle into their nighttime routines. It is usual to hear the call of a Sandhill, or the sounds of the waterfowl, or the twittering of a Robin or Tree Swallow as they perch in the trees outside my door. However, last night - well, I heard something which sent tingles up my spine - and, quite frankly, made me glad to be alive to hear it.

At first, the noise jarred on my ear. What was that sound? It sounded familiar, and yet not. I jumped from the bed and hurried to the door. Pressing my ear against the screen I listened. Yes, definitely, this was not a sound I usually heard. I listened another moment and determined it was coming from far enough away I could dare to open the screen door without fear of scaring away the source. "Craig, come here," I called quietly. "Hurry!"

Together, like two little children peering through the key latch to catch a glimpse of their Christmas presents, we stood, enraptured, as from up Narrows Creek Canyon, the sound of at least two wolves, howling, drifted on the breeze to our ears. I must say, it was unlike anything I'd ever heard - and yet, strangly similar to that of a dog.

I'd always wondered if I'd be able to tell the 'yip-yip-howl' of a coyote from that of the wolf - should I ever have the opportunity to hear them. No doubt! They are as different as white and dark chocolate!

When the wolves grew quiet, Craig howled back at them. "You sound sick," I whispered with a grin.

"So do they," was his quick reply.

And, in a sense, he was right. Their voices were deep, maybe a hint hoarse, and not really at all similar to the "Disney" wolves we hear on T.V. And - DEFINITELY - much more wild.

Now, I'm not saying I love wolves. I do, and I don't. I love the wildness they represent. And, I obviously love the opportunity to see and hear them. I also believe they have a role in the total eco-system. However, I realize they are top-of-the-chain predators which, left uncontrolled, can do an incredible amount of damage in a very short time. So, although I will relish this experience for the rest of my life, I am also aware there are times, and places, where the wolf - like other top-of-the-chain predators, must be controlled.

Nonetheless, this will definitely go down in my book as one of those life experiences I would not have wanted to miss. And, living here, I didn't have to - that's the beautiful part!

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