Not everyday in Yellowstone is meant for photography, because there is so much more about the park than clicking a shutter.
One of the most important decisions I made last year was to enhance my Yellowstone experience by getting out hiking into the back country, some times without a camera, and to spend more time just watching the wildlife, or sitting on a rock and letting the world pass me by. Today was planned for some great photography but it quickly became apparent that maybe those plans wouldn’t pan out and it might be fun to take things as they came.
First thing this morning, this elk cow was wading in the Yellowstone River, looking freaked out. I never could figure out what was bothering the cow and she did turn and go back to the other side, so probably nothing.
Several miles south on the Yellowstone River, grizzly boar 791, a 6 year old reject from Bridger Teton National Forest that was relocated to Shoshone in 2014 and made his way into Hayden Valley last year, had himself an elk calf right next to the water and close to the road. He was the star of the day, which he didn’t seem to mind one bit.
Did see Raspberry and Snow but they were busy hunting up high and so I left and decided to go up to Lamar and see the Lamar Canyons.
The Lamar Canyons have a bison meal very near their den area in Soda Butte Valley but they weren’t around when I arrived. So, I took a nap while waiting but they still did not show up. I left for a couple of hours to take two hikes, one at Slough and the other at Specimen Ridge, before returning to check on the wolves. Still all quiet and so I decided to drive to Trout Lake and then head in early, rather than sit around and wait. Except, that I had not seen these wolves in a long time – so long that everyone was being very kind and letting me know what was going on. Rick told me that T’s and Dark Black’s coats were looking really good, that 965 seemed to be feeling well but still looked rough and that 926 looked shaggy. I was anxious to seem them for myself.
Well, went down to Trout Lake and turned back. That was when I spotted some movement on the hillside about a mile away. Turned out to be an elk and I figured it was alone, because more often than not, even if they had been bothered by wolves, we don’t see them. But, not this time! There were two blacks and 926 was being chased by a mad mama elk! She nearly got clobbered – it was quite close.
But, 926, agile and frisky as ever, made a clean getaway. T and Dark Black were also visible but I did not see 965. I kind of figured that the wolves had found the elk calf and were in the trees eating. But, no, they snuck off and went west to their bison carcass.
And the elk mama went and retrieved her youngster from the sagebrush. This calf was so new, it was wobbly on those hooves.
Back at the carcass, the wolves were there getting a good meal. For some reason T was standing above and seemed hesitant to go eat. Later, when she approached the others, 926 pinned T and so I think that there is trouble between the two. This is unfortunate because T will be forced to disperse and the pack really needs her.
Dark Black looks really good now that he is alpha. His coat looks entirely recovered and he has gained weight. This has happened quickly as he did not look good the last time I saw him.
926 looks as fit and heavy as I have ever seen her. If not for her lack of fur, she would look really good right now. It is not clear whether 926 is growing fur back in the dark bald spots or not – perhaps some but not enough. She is turning silver like her daddy, 755.
I thought that T look a little rougher than usual but not bad. As for 965, he definitely looks better but is still suffering from the mange and doing a lot of scratching. This is not good.
The very cute, heart warming thing, is watching 926 act like a teenager in love with 965. She always loved him and it is clear that she can not get enough of him now. Not sure how DB feels about that but we always knew that 926 preferred 965 over Twin. If they survive until next February, we will see how this plays out. The wolves did not return to the den area this morning and this evening they lingered quite a while before heading out. When they left, they went to the right of the den area, which could mean that they did move the pups. I am assuming that they would not be hanging so close to home if the pups were gone. So, fingers still crossed. I never give up hope on the Lamar Canyons.
On the way home, this sow and yearling were out near the Tower Ranger station. I have never photographed these bears before because the jams are always so crazy so it was good to get a chance to finally see them.
And, then it was time to head home.