A raven flew over with a single, long call.
I am announced, I thought, pausing in the woods.
A second raven glided above, silent and low, watching me. Something was happening; this behavior was much like the ravens I observed at the carcass last winter. I walked on at a slower pace, watchful, stepping from forest to meadow, where great eagle wings appeared just above the tall grass of autumn, the bird moving but not taking flight, flapping over to the adjacent trees. A bird with a full belly? Another eagle lifted up from the ground, flying high into a tree, to alight with its eyes on me.
Something was happening. Something was dead in the trail. There was no sign of any large animals, so I slipped along the far edge of the meadow, watchful. The eagle in the tree held his wings out and dropped in a glide, the rush of air through long feathers filling the still meadow with a sound like a windstorm. The raptor came just overhead, piercing yellow eyes fixed on this intruding human, than swoosh, gone.
Moving forward, bear spray in hand, I edged to a point where the carcass came in sight: an elk, freshly killed. Her gut pile lay intact by the empty cavity of her body, ribs crushed, half her torso gone, eaten, her throat mangled. Wolves had found a meal. I did not approach too closely, did not want to give the impression that I was interested in this carcass… for the possibility a bear was close. I moved on, noting the abundant wolf scat in the trail.
I came home a different way, to avoid any bruin confrontations. Humans are not the dominant creature in this wild backcountry.