Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Yellowstone - October 2, 2007

We woke up to about 1/2 inch of snow on the ground in Silver Gate which made for a pretty drive into the Lamar Valley:



Except for the usual Bison and a quick glimpse of a grouse, there wasn't much action in the valley. So, we headed to Slough creek and saw that the wolf watchers were there in force.

Through the scope we could see 9 members of the Slough Creek pack. One had a bone in his mouth at one point so it was obvious they were on a kill. There was also a bald eagle sitting in a nearby tree waiting for scraps. This was our first wolf pack viewing and it was incredible. The Slough Creek pack appears to have about 7 or 8 black wolves and they are striking. Renting a scope sure was a good decision and one I will make again.

After spending sufficient time watching the wolves we headed toward Mammoth intent on hiking the Hoodoos trail for the first time. Right before the YS Picnic Area we spotted a nice herd of pronghorn.


Around Hellroaring, this mule deer stop just long enough for one click:

We also took a quick detour to hike to Wraith falls. There sure were some large burrows on the trail that we hoped might be from a badger but nothing turned up on our hike.

The weather turned bad at Mammoth with a combination of light snow and sleet so we decided to skip the hike and head down to Sheepeaters to look for critters. No luck there, so on to Norris. We did spot a coyote out in a snowy meadow, but that was about it. Unfortunately, icey conditions had closed the road from Norris to Canyon which was our next destination.

So, back to Mammoth for lunch and on to Tower/Dunraven to look for bears. Well, Tower was a bust and the Dunraven pass was closed. We did manage to pull off for a scenary picture:


We decided to take the Lost Lake hike since the rain stopped. It was really windy but that is still a nice hike. However, we only spotted a few ducks for the effort.

Back towards the Lamar Valley now and just past Specimen Ridge the wolf watchers were out. The scope came out again and we saw 2 wolves from the Oxbow pack hanging out around multiple herds of Elk which were understandably nervous. A few hundred yards away, a Grizzly meandered up and over a ridge. It was quite the sight to see all this action in such a small area. Eventually, more wolves joined the two and headed down into a valley and out of site.

So, we packed up the scope and headed pack to Slough Creek to see the wolves there since not much other wildlife had made an appearance that day. The Slough Creek pack had bedded down up the hill a bit and only a head or two and some ears were visible. As we were packing up, someone stopped and said the Oxbow pack had bedded down in a meadow in plain site.

So, back to see them. We counted 10 in all. The Oxbow pack has two black wolves and the rest are grayish in color but still pretty. That makes this a 19 wolf day for us between the two packs. We never dreamed we would see that many our whole trip let alone in one day :)

Heading back through the Lamar we saw a coyote in the distance and we ran into a frisky little bison that loved showing off his running skills:

On the way back to Silver Gate we decided to stop to look for Mountain Goats. Unfortunately, with snow still 2/3 of the way down the peaks, looking for a white Mountain Goat just amounts to a hopeless game of Where's Waldo.

On the way out of the park more elk made an appearance as well as a startled grouse.

Another great day in the park. Less pictures since most of the action was via the scope, but the pictures in our heads will last forever.

Today's tally:
19 wolves, 2 coyotes, 2 grouse, 1 bear and of course bison, pronghorn, mule deer and elk

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