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WolfQuest Returns to Yellowstone: Slough Creek


So we’ve come back to Slough Creek for
more on the ground investigation and research for the new map– the new
expanded map – of the Slough Creek area for WolfQuest: Anniversary Edition.
Behind me, you can see Little Butte which is where you spawn in the old game…
and we’re not going up there today. We went up there last time –spectacular
views of the whole meadow! But this time we’re going to be heading up to valley,
up Slough Creek watershed and looking for some new stuff. That’s going to be …not in
the old game …but in the new expanded map in the new game. The whole place is much
greener than it was when we were here before. Last time our visit was in late
September when everything is really browned up. Now it’s late August and it’s
been a very wet summer so this is actually a much greener environment than
it would normally be at this time of year. But that’s helpful for us because
it looks closer to what looks like in the springtime when wolves are raising
their pups. I’m not too happy about this grass! It is so dense and so tall. Tall
grass like this is tough for computers to render and even if your computer can
render it it’s pretty annoying to have to run through as a wolf. One of the new
animals that you’ll see in Slough Creek is beavers. And here is a beaver lodge. This is fresh mud. The
beavers bring up mud in their little hands and pat it down and stuff… And so this is
still damp… so I think they’re still living here. And if you look down in
there you can actually see the underwater entrance that they’ve built
to get into their lodge. As we hike back at the end of the day we saw several
beaver swimming around just outside their lodge. Beavers are going to be a fun addition to Slough Creek and Anniversary Edition.
They’re not a big food source for wolves in Yellowstone. In fact, it is not even
really positively known that wolves even eat beavers in Yellowstone but they do
in northern Minnesota – that’s very well documented – so it is plausible …and they won’t be a big food source but it’ll be a different hunting
challenge. We’re here to see the place again with our own eyes to take hundreds
of photographs that we can use as reference as we’re working on the 3d
environment of Slough Creek. We’re also meeting with one of our science advisor
is Dr. Dan Stahler who’s a wolf biologist here in Yellowstone
and is going to answer lots and lots of our questions about wolves and
especially a wolf pups. So we’re heading up into Aspen Heights. We did place a
den there in the game but today I’m more interested in what’s just on the other
side of that ridge there …so let’s go see. And here it is! It’s a lake! Who knew there was a lake
back here just over the slope from Aspen Heights den? So this is McBride Lake. A
little jewel here…set amongst the granite rocks above and around Slough Creek. It’s also coincidentally at about
2,000 meters elevation. Which I can tell on my little uh… altimeter app, on
my phone. And what’s interesting about that is that wolves, when they’re looking
for a place to make their den in the winter, they look for sites that are
between about 2,000 meters and 2300 meters elevation. so we’re going to head
up into the hills here above McBride Lake and see if we can find any good den
sites. So right here on the shores of McBride Lake, we have this big old rock
and a little crevice underneath. Not a lot of room right there now but it’s a dirt
floor and a wolf could easily dig it out and use this as a starting point for a
nice cozy den. Another thing that makes a good den location is access to water. So
Lake McBride is an appealing location but there are a lot of little creeks
flowing down the slopes into Slough Creek in the springtime. So, plenty of
opportunities! What else do wolves look for it in a den
site? For one thing, they want a nice, sunny. south-facing slope. When the pups are born,
in mid April, it’s really still winter up here in Yellowstone so they want to
catch as much of that warm spring sunshine as they can, to melt the snow
and give the pups a warm place to hang out in the first weeks of life. On slopes
like, this wolves often look for old dens abandoned by other animals like foxes
and coyotes . They use these as a starting point and dig them ou –enlarge them– to
make them big enough for their own pups. And, of course, if they’ve already got a
nice cozy den established on a nice south-facing slope, they’ll often return
to that, year after year. Some people wonder why the logs in the game aren’t
obstacles. You can just go right through them. But do you really want to be doing
this when you’re chasing an elk at 30 miles an hour? Another popular den site is under the
spreading roots of an old tree. This one is not a den yet… but you can see
the potential. If you’re wolf, you might look for a nice den site here under a jumble
of rock somewhere. This is pretty rough! But uh…there might be a good spot up here ,if you look hard. So we’re
putting on all these types of dens in the Slough Creek map.Though some digging may be required. Of course everyone also wants to go inside their den. That gets
a little tricky but… but we’ll see. So there’s many different kinds of
places that a wolf might find or make for a den site. But the important thing
to remember is that they only live in their den for about two months, while the
pups are very young, and then they head out! They abandon the den and might journey to a rendezvous site up in the highlands. They might just slowly expand their
territory. But they’re basically, at that point, following the elk herds. They don’t
need the den anymore because as Dave Mech says, the wolf’s body is its
shelter. And, after two months, the pups are big enough and strong enough to move with the pack as it searches for prey. And now we come to the creek again…Slough Creek again.. and all new creek crossings. So there’ll be lots of new places to check
out but the wise wolf crosses first, without their pups, to make sure it’s not
too deep. Okay! Bring the pups! There’s an old bison
bull dozing there across the creek… and we have to get that-away to get back to
the main trail …to head back to the trailhead. And you’re supposed to keep
your distance from bison bulls because they’ve got an Attitude. So, we’re gonna
have to sneak around, keep our distance, keep as far away as we can. If we disturb him… if we piss him off… I don’t know… the mobile version of WolfQuest may
never be finished… I don’t think he cares about us. Dude,
have some dignity! And we’ve made it to Second Meadow! A few miles upstream from First Meadow (the part of Slough Creek that we all know and love from the game). You
know, I love the Amethyst map …and the Lamar Valley, but there’s just
something about Slough Creek! It’s ..it’s still got that feeling of Yellowstone
vastness but because the creek cuts through the whole long valley, it just
gives it this intimacy that is really special. And we’re really excited to
bring a bigger and better version of Slough Creek to the game. So today we’ve
returned to Slough Creek, hiked across First Meadow up to Lake McBride, looked
around the hills above that for possible wolf den sites. Crossed the creek again…and we’ve got the Second Meadow of Slough Creek. So, we’ve had a fabulous day
hiking here and learned a lot about what the place looks like. But we still – even
after this full day here– we’ve only seen… maybe… not even a quarter of the map – of the new Slough Creek map in WolfQuest: Anniversary Edition. So there’s lots more that will be in the game that we haven’t even seen here. And now we have
to head back to the trailhead, head back to work. and make that map as close as we can to be as beautiful as the real place. All right, well that hike was two months
ago now. So do you want to see how the Slough Creek map has come along? Still a work in progress but it’s coming along!

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