Friday, May 20, 2016

Yellowstone Day 3 - May 2016

Today we had a stakeout planned.  There was a Bison carcass pretty close to the road near Yellowstone Picnic Area and we were hoping something interesting would happen.  So, we got there relatively early but not early enough to see the wolves at dawn apparently...oh well.

There was a black bear on the carcass but it had already fed and was snoozing.   But, some action did start once a coyote showed up:
Coyote Approaching Carcass

The bear woke up darn quick and proceeded to chase the coyote off:
Black Bear Defending Carcass

Once that threat had been neutralized, the bear decided to nap a little closer to its prize:
Nap Time

A short time later, a Bison showed up and visibly upset the bear.  In fact, it wandered close to the protection of a nearby tree and stared at the Bison:
Bison Approaching Bear

The Bison appeared to give the bear the "Ole Stink Eye":
Bison Eyeing Bear

Then it did a bluff charge and took off which caused the bear to just about climb the tree:
Scared Bear

With the Bison now farther away, the bear seemed to relax a little and came down from its "ready to climb" pose:
Danger Reduced

So, it was nap time again:
Back to Nap Time

Meanwhile, the Bison came over to the carcass and checked it out.  There have been many documented accounts of Bison seemingly mourning dead ones and this sure seemed to be the case here:
Mourning Bison

A short while later, the coyote came back and the bear jumped into action to protect its meal:
The Pesky Coyote is Back

The coyote wasn't so easily deterred this time and trotting around the bear to an apparent "napping stash" the bear had:
Threat Subsided?

Bear Stash Found

Always an opportunist, the coyote wasted no time in making off with the Bear's stash:
Bear Stash Raided

Even though the coyote was now gone, the Bison lingered in the area so the bear stayed alert:
Keeping an Eye on the Bison

Finally, with all the threats gone, the bear was able to really get a good nap going:
All Threats Gone, Major Nap Time

With the bear napping, I focused on other subjects like this Mountain Bluebird:
Mountain Bluebird

Eventually, the bear woke up, stretched and decided it was time to get a drink:
Nap Time is Over

Time for a Drink

The only problem was the road AND a line of photographers were in the way.  The bear carefully made its way across the road and with the help of a Ranger the photographers backed away allowing the bear to get a drink and return to the carcass:
Coast is Clear

Back to the Carcass

It was at this point that the Ranger permanently relocated people farther from the carcass and we took this opportunity to move on.  But, it was a really good 2 hours spent with the bear and carcass.

We decided to drive to Tower next.  After seeing a coyote at the Tower Junction we made our way up the road to Tower and were just in time for another bear sighting:
Mama Black Bear

Where are those Cubs?

We knew there were a couple Black Bears with cubs in this area so we scanned the meadow but saw nothing.  Then we looked up...Up here!

Cubs!  How cool!  Plus, we were in a pretty good position and the crowd wasn't too bad.  So, we stuck around for about an hour to enjoy the show...

Mom?....Where's Mom?

I don't see her either!
Where is Everyone?

There she is, let's go!

Wanna Play?

Hey, that branch looked at me wrong:
This Branch Looked at me Wrong

Time to attack!

Take that!


Fun with Branches:
Fun with Branches

The chase:
Gonna Get You!

I'm King of the Hill!
I'm King of the Hill

No you're not...
A Challenger

Challenge Rebuffed

Yes, I am!...
King of the Hill Once Again

As you can imagine, this was all great fun to watch.  It's hard to beat the entertainment provided by young bear cubs.  As the crowd grew and the bears moved farther away, we took our last few looks and decided to move on:

Proud Mama

Mama's Watching

Wow! How do you top that morning?  We likely weren't so we just enjoyed what Yellowstone threw at us next.  We learned long ago that you can't force Yellowstone, you have to let Yellowstone come to you.  This means, don't make plans because if you do they will change.  So, what did Yellowstone throw at us next?

How about with a Uinta Ground Squirrel:
Uinta Ground Squirrel

More Bighorn Sheep:
Bighorn Ewe

And, a REALLY pregnant Pronghorn:
Pregnant Pronghorn

We went to Cooke City for lunch to grab some sandwiches at Buns and Beds, then it was back to the park.  Between Cooke City and Silvergate we saw the same pair of moose that we had seen yesterday.
Once in the park, we stopped at Slough Creek to scope the wolf den and saw 1 adult gray wolf and 1 black pup.  We turned around and scanned all the nearby hills and mountain tops looking for Grizzly since we hadn't seen one yet.  Instead, we saw a group of 25+ Bighorn Sheep high up Specimen Ridge.  All appeared to be female and there were obviously a different group than the 12+ that were hanging around Yellowstone Picnic Area.

In Little America there was a mini jam so we stopped and followed the binoculars.  At the tree line was a mother Grizzly and two cubs.  There were too far for pictures but we enjoyed watching them for a time through the scope.  Hopefully, we will get closer looks at Grizzlies in the future (spoiler alert...we will!)

At Petrified Tree was another Black Bear munching on the green grass exactly where the Bighorn Sheep had been the day before.

At Elk Creek was yet another Black Bear.  This one was cinnamon and quite stunning, so we stopped for a few pictures:

Cinnamon Black Bear

Grazing Cinnamon Black Bear

This was also one lazy bear.  Its preferred eating method was to lay down and chomp up all the grass around it minimizing effort while maximizing reward.  That's my kind of bear:
Lazy Cinnamon Black Bear

With the light dwindling now, we made our way back home. Besides seeing a coyote just past Slough Creek, this Western Meadowlark was the last good sighting of the day:

Western Meadowlark

Today's Critter Tally was not too shabby:
- 28+ Bighorn Sheep
- 7 Black Bears
- 3 Grizzly Bears
- 3 Coyote
- 2 Moose
- 2 Wolves

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