The Narrow Escape

The Survivor
The Survivor

Wow, what a morning it was in Yellowstone!  Still no photo ops for me but the action was non-stop from the minute that I entered the park through the NE gate.

You know that rule that if you see one deer cross the road, stop and make sure none are to follow?  Well, I forgot the rule in my sleepy, hazy fog this morning and didn’t think anything of it when the doe crossed.  But, boy did I wake up in a hurry when the twins crossed!  What a lousy day and rest of my life it would have been, had I hit those two.

There was a grizzly, just going into the thick brush when I got to Round Prairie and about 1000 bison just down the road, on the road, in Soda Butte Valley.  And it wasn’t even daylight yet!

I traveled on and soon heard the wolf watchers talking about seeing something in Little America.  Actually, I had stopped to check on the ospreys and found them to be doing fine this morning, when I heard that there was a sighting just down the road.

Four wolves trying to take a brand new bison calf!  Mom still had the afterbirth hanging from her though all of it was barely visible at about 1200 yards away, against the morning sun when it came up a short time later.

I heard things like, “Two of them tore it apart,” and grabbed my scope to watch.  Except that I have never seen a kill, except the coyote taking down the lamb when I first arrived, and was not anxious to see a bison calf torn in two.

Yes, I love the wolves for the balance they bring to the eco-system and I believe that they are beautiful and intelligent beings with strong family values but don’t care for the killing.  I don’t care for anything killing anything, even though I know that is the way the world was designed to work.  Doesn’t mean that I have to watch.

It was quite stunning, though, to see three and then later, four (911 was bedded and not participating for some reason that no one could fathom – oh this was 911, the black female, the gray male JB yearling and one of the female yearlings.  Just FYI, they believe that three of the JB yearlings are female and only one was male.)  One would get the cow to chase it and another would swoop in and grab the calf but for some reason could not make the kill before mom turned to chase.

Time after time I saw the calf grabbed by a wolf – that black female is very aggressive! – and saw it get away.  One time the calf looked like it was injured but after a moment was walking normally again.  And, then I even saw the calf chase the wolves!  Barely born and already defending itself against a wolf that is the same size!  I always say that the bison babies come out knowing everything – all wise and funny right from the beginning and this one sure proved me right.  Here the wolves are trying to kill it, have had the calf in their mouth several times and the calf starts chasing.

But, it did not look good for the calf and I hated to watch it having this life struggle right after being born and when it was supposed to be kicking up its heels and saying, “I am free!”  And poor mom, trying to defend her new child that she had just carried for all of those months and then endured pain to give birth and she had not even had a chance to nurse yet.  Yep, I am not cut out for the killing.

I put the scope away and went to the New Bridge, where the wolves might cross when going back to Slough and where I could not see what was going on.  I was convinced that the deed would be over with quickly and that they would move on.

But, I waited and waited.  A crowd formed on the hill above me and I’ll be that at one time there were more than 150 people watching.

Watching the wolf bison calf confrontation
Watching the wolf bison calf confrontation – taken with iPad

But, the ordeal went on and the action moved quite a ways from where it began.  Mom and the calf would move and somehow the wolves were not able to get the calf.  I am thinking that they are not good hunters.

They found a location and the calf bedded down while mom got rid of the afterbirth, finally, about 3 hours into our watching – well, I was not watching except for brief glimpses.  I saw the wolf come in and grab the afterbirth immediately but could not figure out if the the calf was okay.  Guess I was thinking that it could be down from injuries but, after awhile, the calf was up again.  And immediately the wolves swooped in to try and grab it.  One time mom ran off quite a ways and I thought that it would be over with but 911 was a little slow on moving in and missed his chance.  The calf evidently figured out that they left it alone better while lying down and so went back down, even though mom was trying to lead it away.

Honestly, I could not believe that the calf was still able to stand, after all of those grabs and it seemed to me like the wolves were not going to let up.  I watched mom pace around, charging at the wolves and trying to get her calf to follow and it just seemed like she would wear out eventually.  She had to be worn out from giving birth and the long battle she and the calf had already endured.

I am not sure what happened next because my gas tank was empty and so I went to Roosevelt to fuel up before returning.  But, the wolves had vanished and mom and the calf were making their way towards the Lamar River, which is when I captured that not so good image of the two of them.  I waited for them to come out in the open and closer, for a better shot of their survival – and hoped that the wolves were not lurking somewhere, but mom found a place for them to bed down and rest.  It was over, they had survived and the calf seemed to be fine.

What a miracle!

Meanwhile, down the road, numerous folks were standing way out in the sage for a long time while watching what looked to be a black bear.  Once again I saw the bear for a second before it disappeared but it did look to be black.

And, way up on the hill, near skyline, was LA Sow and her very healthy and happy looking coy!  I was overjoyed to see the two and to see the coy playing and running.

So, this is day 5 with no photos!  Geez!  But, the day is not over with yet and my laundry will be done soon – so that I can go back out.

And, overheard but not seen:  Apparently Bob L. had some of the Canyons crossing the Chittenden bridge this morning but they disappeared into heavy fog.  And, some wolves were seen on the Blacktail this morning.  And, I heard a rumor about a black adult seen in the L area last night.  Boy has that girl been elusive.  I’ll bet that she is taking good care of her pups.  Oh, and Scarface is still hanging out around Antelope and the carcass in that area had 5 grizzlies on it yesterday.  So, the bears are still out and being seen, but mostly at a distance.



5 thoughts on “The Narrow Escape

  1. Wow. That’s an amazing story. The little one was probably thinking it should have waited a little longer to be born. Not a very nice introduction to the world. I love the part about the calf chasing the wolf. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Wow amazing!! Will say a prayer for this little fellow tonight, for he is a fighter. May their night be peaceful night. Nice story even though it was tough to read. So very happy for this little family. May the wolves find other sustenance tonight.

  3. I am glad the calf survived. We were there 5 years ago and saw wolves taking down an elk, we chose to leave before they killed her but were pretty sure it was going to happen, she had a huge gash on her hind leg.

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