POLEBRIDGE - A clinging mist quieted the morning meadow, the icy hem of its robes brushing silent against autumn's crackling knee-high grass.
In the darkest shadows, the cold crunch of snow remained, criss-crossed with wolf tracks, bear tracks, elk and deer tracks. Scat and bone and hair and hide. These were the morning news reports written in muddied prints, each with a thin film of ice.
Cristina Eisenberg scanned the headlines, then waded into the meadow to read the particulars.
"It's all here," the researcher said. "You just have to know the language."
To the west, ranging grasslands rose gently to an aspen knoll, the trees all tall white ghosts trembling in the dull gloom of fog. A low row of leafy 10-footers skirted the meadow, backed by a towering canopy now a week or more past fall's golden height.
There were small young trees, and tall old trees, but no middle-aged aspens and that, combined with the frozen tracks, told Eisenberg something very important about this place.
Until about 1920, wolves patrolled these meadows, which have long been an important wintering ground for elk. Then humans hunted the predators into extinction here, and for 60 years or more the elk grazed in peace. By the mid-1980s, however, wolves were recolonizing the landscape, straying south from Canada to reclaim this western fringe of Glacier National Park.
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